This tight little track was used for Formula One before the cars outgrew it, and it’s still used for MotoGP races. It’s a neat circuit that’s easy to learn while still including a few long straights and a good variety of corners—from long and fast to ultra-tight—that each makes its own demands on a car’s performance.
The 4 Series acquits itself well in all of them. As Fröhlich promised, the car is exceptionally well balanced, its attitude easy to adjust with the throttle. Handling is fairly neutral, with a slight bias toward understeer that only makes itself felt if a corner is entered too fast; similarly, oversteer is encountered only when getting on the gas too soon coming out of a turn. In other words, you’ve got to do something wrong to get anything other than easy, neutral handling, but even then the 4 Series’ attitude responds perfectly to a steering correction or throttle adjustment.
Steering response and driving dynamics play a big role in all of that, but so do creature comforts and ergonomics. The 4 Series isn’t drastically different to the 3 Series in either regard, but its cockpit is an even more splendid place to work when you want to cut a fast lap. We drove a Sport Line 435i whose seats offered perfect support and plenty of bolstering without intruding on elbow movement, and whose steering wheel felt utterly perfect in our hands. Small in diameter and fairly fat, it might be BMW’s best-ever steering wheel, even without Alcantara. To top it all off, the interior is beautifully finished, with high-quality leather nicely stitched throughout. It’s not on the level of a 6 Series, of course, but it surpasses the standard 3 by a good margin.
More importantly to enthusiasts, the new 4 handles better than the 3, as well. The familiar N55 six-cylinder’s 302 hp and 295 lb-ft allow both sedan and coupe to generate considerable speed, especially with the rapid-fire eight-speed automatic, but that greater velocity is easier to control in the more stiffly-sprung 4 than the softer 3. At Estoril, selecting Sport or Sport+ provided well-controlled damping for smooth weight transfer under braking and acceleration and very little body roll in corners—far less than a 3 Series in the same setting.
As the basis for the forthcoming M version, this is probably the best platform they’ve ever gotten at Garching—as good as the 435i Coupe is, we can’t help but imagine how much better it’s going to be as an M4.
For now, though, we’re perfectly content to enjoy it as a 435i. It’s quick, it handles, it’s comfortable, it’s sexy…it’s everything you could want from a BMW coupe. Most of all, it’s easy to go fast and have fun without feeling frantic in this new 435i, and that makes us happy.
It makes Klaus Fröhlich happy, too.
“Mission accomplished!” he laughs.