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Sport Plus, Indeed

2014 BMW 435i xDrive

Those of you who’ve been around awhile may remember the BMW slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” That tagline has come and gone more than once over the years, but its meaning has never left. I got to rekindle my own ultimate driving experience one day last week at Towne BMW, where I spent some time behind the wheel of the new 435i xDrive coupe.

APurists will be happy to know that this coupe actually has only two doors, contrary to the many new luxury “coupes” on the market which are in reality four-door sedans with swoopy two-door rooflines. Luckily this design doesn’t hamper rear seat entry too much, and those who end up back there are assisted by a power switch on the top of the seat back which moves it out of the way. The seat/shoulder belt mechanism moves with it, and that, too moves forward electronically to make grabbing it easier for the front seat passengers. As you can see, I’m fascinated by the small things.

But the 435i is more about the big things. Like the handling. As cars, and drivers, get more complicated, the gadgets multiply. One of the neatest is a small switch on the console for the driving mode. As usual, there’s an Eco mode, as well as Comfort and Sport—which just about any sport/luxury car worth its salt has these days. The 435i goes it one further with a “Sport +” mode, which stiffens up the suspension to the point where you’re looking for curves to go around…just because. The Eco mode, while it does change acceleration rates and shift points for better fuel economy, is still a sportier ride than many cars out there.

My test car was a higher-end 435i xDrive w/M Sport. Not that there’s any such thing as a base 4 Series car in the true sense of the word. But if there’s a high-end car, somewhere there must also be lower-end cars. The series starts with the 428i coupe and 428i xDrive (xDrive being all-wheel drive), and then the 435i and 435i xDrive. And then there are Sport Line, Luxury Line, and M Line versions. Trying to figure out the difference between 428 and 435? Or for that matter, the series numbers? The 4 Series number indicates the car’s size (between the—are you ready for it?—3 Series and 5 Series). In BMW’s new naming system, even numbers are supposed to indicate two-doors (2,4, and 6 Series) while the odds are four-doors (1,3, and 5 Series). Look for exceptions down the road, however. For the 428, the “2” indicates a two-liter in-line four engine while the “3” in the 435 is a three-liter in-line six, rated at 300 horsepower. The test car’s engine was a “wow” engine for me. Its eight-speed automatic transmission came equipped with paddle shifters which, when I asked Towne’s sales manager Chuck Skillin “Why would anybody want these things?” I got the reply “To quicken shift times.” Well, I used them but you know, the transmission is so responsive in its actions I can’t imagine how I could improve on it by shifting it myself. And in the Sport + mode, not only is the engine/transmission responsive, but the sound is so sweet you might just switch off that Harmon Kardon Surround System, open the window, and enjoy the sound of the car.

The interior, as you’d expect in an ultimate driving machine, is very inviting. The seats hold you firmly, but comfortably, in place. Plenty of leg room; head room’s okay, but the sunroof cuts in a bit on headroom in the back. Controls are right where they need to be, and I thoroughly enjoyed the miles per gallon readout on the dash. (Again, it’s the simple things…)

Pricing for the test car rounded-out at $60,100. The basest 428i starts at $41,425 which includes the destination charge. And for that, you’ll still do a lot of ultimate driving.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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