Executive wheels: BMW does the coupe

2014 BMW 435i Coupe  

2014 BMW M235i Coupe

Things get a little confusing with BMW these days. The basic gist of what’s going on, as near as I can tell, is that the venerable old-line models – the 3 Series, the 5 Series and the 7 Series – will now all be various manifestations of sedans, and the newer 4 Series and 6 Series will be the coupe and convertible models. In other words, the 4 is a 3 coupe or convertible, and the 6 is a 5 series coupe and convertible. This would all make sense if it made sense.

In any case, for the last couple of weeks I have been on a coupe run, driving first the 2014 BMW 435i xDrive Coupe (essentially the 3 Series in a coupe) and then the 2014 BMW m235i Coupe.

I am not a coupe man; I prefer a sedan’s four doors. A coupe’s doors are larger and heavier, and getting in and out of the back seat is a struggle. The coupe’s sleeker lines also tend to mean a tad less visibility. Having said that, these two BMW models, while suffering from the normal coupe drawbacks, are quite handsome vehicles, instantly recognizable as BMWs.

But the truth is, I disliked one of them and loved the other.

BMWs are like Cheetahs – they like to run. Put the hammer down and get the RPMs at the high end, and a BMW blows the doors off of anything in its peer group. They have horsepower ratings that seem to be jokes – a 300 hp BMW compared with just about any other car with similar power always seems like it was mis-rated and understated.

I found that true with both of these test-drive models. Getting out on the highway in either one is a pleasant experience, even an amazing one, as they can go from the entrance ramp to the fastest vehicle in any lane in about a nanosecond. And both never feel as though they would get away from you – they call BMW the Ultimate Driving Machine, and these two models live up to the reputation, at least out in the speed lanes.

The 435i xDrive Coupe, however, was a disappointment. The hood is long, and the feel of the car from behind the wheel is a bit unwieldy. The maneuvering of the 435i seems to be off kilter; it kind of lumbers. Turning corners on city streets in particular bothered me, as you really have to go wider than you think and really, really pay attention.

The M235i, on the other hand, is one of the finest driving vehicles I have ever been in. It seems to have the perfect center of gravity, and it seemed as if the car were connected th me, knew my thoughts, anticipated my desires. It is a small pocket-rocket. It was kind of a problem because this car came with Melbourne Red Metallic paint – the very color those of us in the car reviewing business call “arrest-me red.” While I felt very comfortable – even thrilled – to be behind the wheel, I had to watch myself and my speed for fear of a ticket.

I won’t bore you with all of the luxury equipment and technology. Suffice to say that the 4 Series Coupe is loaded with everything you can think of and more. Plus it is all-wheel-drive (the xDrive) and while I didn’t have it in snow and ice conditions, I have driven xDrive BMWs before and the AWD system is very, very good – if you don’t pair it with ridiculous low-profile racing tires that would slip and slide in winter weather if they had six-wheel-drive.

My biggest complaint in the 435i Coupe is that the trunk is too small to easily get golf clubs in there (you have to take out the longer drivers and 3-metals and place them separately), and there is no pass-through folding seat. Actually, the same is true for the m235i, only the trunk is even smaller in this smaller car.

In the M235i there is no xDrive and, oddly, no rear-view camera. This rear-drive vehicle does have traction control, but my experience with non-AWD BMWs is that they are suspect in snowy conditions.

For the record: the 435i xDrive Coupe comes with a 300 hp 3.0-liter i6 engine, turbocharged, and it has great brakes, and comes nicely equipped as a base model at $48,000. Here they added on a bunch of packages – M Sport (19” wheels, M brakes), Cold Weather, Driver Assistance, Dynamic Handling, Lighting, Premium Pack, and Technology – that drove the bottom line up to $64,275. That’s a lot of coin for essentially a 3 Series BMW, but I get that the company has taken its cars into the above-luxury arena. You can get it with a four-banger, as the 428i, with 240 hp for somewhat less.

The M235i, with a 320 hp i6 engine, carries a base price of $43,100 and also has a nice list of standards. In fact, the only thing they added on here is $500 for the red paint job, $1,450 for excellent leather seating, and $925 in destination charges, bringing the bottom line to $46,025. There is also a 240-hp four-banger in the 228i model for a little less money.

These cars are all BMW and pretty much what you’d expect. However, I wasn’t really taken with the 435i Coupe. The M235i, on the other hand, is awesome.