(MCT) - Deciphering BMWs used to be an easy proposition: There was the compact 3-Series and midsize 5-Series sedans, the 6-Series coupe and full-size 7-Series sedan. SUVs get an X before their name.
But a recent avalanche of new products has forced BMW to change its naming conventions. And so, henceforth, all coupes and sedans with coupe-like styling will have names that start with even numbers, while all sedans and station wagons will have odd numbers.
This explains why BMW's all-new replacement for the 3 Series Coupe is known as the 435i Coupe.
No matter what its name, the 435i's tastefully sporty appearance remains true to its predecessors. It looks fast but distinguished. There are doses of aggressive styling on the car, such as the air intakes under the front bumper, but they never overwhelm the design.
The interior feels roomier than the 3-Series Coupe, and backseat legroom seems improved. As you'd expect, the seats are firm and supportive. The driving position is perfect.
Quality inside is impeccable. The 435i uses the same instrument panel as the 3-Series. If I were to fault the 435i, it would be because, despite the leather interior, there are no seat warmers. Also, there are motorized arms that present the seat belts to front seat passengers every time the car starts. It's a bit tacky and seems sure to break.
But such quibbles fade away once you fire up the turbocharged, 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine. It's rated at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. BMW says that's enough power to reach 60 mph in 5.3 seconds with the six-speed manual transmission, and only 5 seconds with the eight-speed automatic.
Base 428i Coupes get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. As a result, this coupe is slightly slower, reaching 60 mph in 5.7 seconds with both the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. Top speed is limited to 155 mph.
Both rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive models are offered.
In an effort to be fuel-efficient, the 435i has an automatic start-stop function, which shuts down the engine when you come to a stop. The engine instantly restarts when you lift your foot from the brake. It may save fuel, but it's very annoying in stop-and-go driving. Thankfully, there's a button to shut off the feature, but you must remember to shut it off every time you start the car.
That can be a very easy thing to live with once you experience how beautifully this car performs.
The 435i's responsiveness will make you wonder whether the car has somehow connected to your synapses. Its steering is perfectly weighted and is very responsive. It gets progressively heavier as speed builds, making it easy to plant this car exactly where you want it. There's little body lean in corners, and massive amounts of grip.
To an experienced driver, driving the 435i is not unlike a trained musician playing a Stradivarius. Its impeccable manners will satisfy your soul like a beautifully played sonata.
Enhancing that experience is the Driving Dynamics Control switch, which changes the car's personality depending on your whim. The modes include Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. The first mode is hardly worth mentioning, as it makes this car lethargic. The Comfort mode is surprisingly soft but well-suited for stretches of trashed tarmac. Sport firms up the ride nicely. There's even a Sport-Plus mode for track work.
Some of this car's natural athletic ability comes from the options list. The test car was heavily equipped with goodies, including the M Sport Package, Dynamic Handling Package, Premium Package and Technology Package.
As expected, all of this goodness comes at a price. Even for a BMW, the 435i's $60,625 MSRP was breathtaking. Keep in mind that this is a compact car without seat heaters or all-wheel drive.
But few cars come close to matching its many abilities, not to mention its handsome form.
So no matter what the name on the trunk lid of this coupe, you'll call the 2014 BMW 435i amazingly fun.
2014 BMW 435I:
-Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder
-Wheelbase: 110.6 inches
-Length: 182.6 inches
-Weight: 3,610 pounds
-Cargo space: 15.7 cubic feet
-EPA rating (city/highway): 22/32 mpg
-Fuel consumption: 24 mpg
-Fuel type: Premium
-NHTSA safety rating: Not rated
-Base price, base model: $40,500
-Base price, test model: $46,000
-Price as tested, including destination charge: $60,625
ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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