The BMW 435d xDrive seems to be in the midst of an identity crisis: is it a sports car, or a just a punchier diesel for intrepid travellers who clock up miles upon miles? We drive the flagship diesel 4-series to work out what it’s really capable of.
So what exactly is this car?
It’s a diesel-powered 4-series packing 309bhp and all-wheel drive. The 435d is offered exclusively with xDrive and with an auto ’box, the only choice being the ‘Luxury’ spec or the ‘M Sport’ version that we’re driving here.
While the whole idea of a diesel sports coupe seems like a complete contradiction, here’s where it starts to make sense: the 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel has a mammoth-pulling 465lb ft of torque from a low, low 1500rpm. Then there’s the all-wheel drive system that we tasted in the 330d xDrive as well as our BMW vs Winter tests. It’s predominantly rear-biased, so on that pretense, the 435d has all the makings of a drivable, tractable coupe that’s both elegant and economical.
So is it the flagship?
In terms of 4-series diesels, yes, and at £45,040 it’s accordingly priced. That’s a substantial £5k more than the 430d, and a life-changing £13k more than the 420d long-termer parked at <CAR> HQ. In fact, until the £55k M4 arrives later this year, the 435d xDrive is the most expensive 4-series you can buy.
Would you stick with rear-wheel drive, or is this car more fun on a windy road?
It’s a close call. Of course, our test car is wearing winter tyres as well, so it holds on like an outgoing dictator. With its rear bias, on ice and snow-covered roads, you can push the nose into a turn; feel the rear start to pivot before the front grabs that bit harder to keep the coupe powering through. In the dry, it’s so well planted you’ll likely run out of courage before you meet its limits.
So is it fast or frugal?
Both. Try 0-62mph in a cracking 4.7sec: that’s quicker than the old V8 M3 with a manual gearbox. Blimey. That’s the 435d xDrive’s other key strength: it has a seriously solid punch. The throttle response is sharp in Sport mode, and you can plant your right foot early to make the most of the traction and road holding. The eight-speed is smooth, and the gears are well chosen, but you can grab them yourself with the superb paddles behind the steering wheel for faster answers.
The best part is that the different driving modes actually feel different in this BMW – they’re further apart than in the 330d, for instance. So the accurate, if a little soggy and isolated steering goes to downright numb in Comfort, and the throttle becomes a flaccid piece of plastic instead of the rudder for the rear axle.
All of this is accompanied by a warm, burbly exhaust note when you’re on it, but it settles down to a quiet hush if dawdling along the motorway or around town.
What’s the economy?
BMW claims 50.4mpg, compared to the petrol 435i’s 38.2mpg. And, while you won’t achieve this in the real world, it’s presents an admirable combo of pace and pragmatism from the one car.
So is this car the king of diesel coupes?
Price notwithstanding, yes. Back in the real world, though, it’s an expensive way to get your kicks. It’s a great performer, but the petrol version is a better drivers’ car, and the 420d annihilates it for fuel consumption. There’s also the bland styling, the quickly dating interior and the fact that this car can be beaten on all fronts by something else. It’s still a compelling combination of pace, livability and quality, but there are better ways to spend £45k.