The BMW 435i M Sport is the most driver-focused 4 Series you can buy - at least until the BMW M4 comes along - and we were first to get behind the wheel.
British buyers are famously fond of the M Sport package - the UK is easily the biggest M Sport market in the world percentage-wise, with around 80 per cent of the old 3 Series Coupes ordered in this top-spec trim. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but assuming they are in line with the 3 Series saloon, expect to pay an extra £1,500 over a Sport model.
That buys you quite a significant makeover to the exterior, including 18-inch ‘Doublespoke’ alloys (19-inch wheels are available as an option), more muscular side sills and a far more striking front bumper, with larger intakes that hint at how the M4 will look.
There are plenty of more subtle detail changes too, such as a front grille and window trims in gloss black, a small ‘M’ badge above the ‘air breather’ behind the front wheel and chrome-tipped exhausts.
The interior, meanwhile, has been treated to fantastic sports seats covered in Alcantara and hexagon-stitched cloth, the same three-spoke steering wheel you’ll find in the facelifted M5 and strips of trim finished in aluminium and Estoril Blue to match the paintwork.
It’s a more garish look than the standard car’s, but considering the sporty driving position and look of the interior, it’s a perfect match. The sports seats are actually mounted 9mm lower than in the 3 Series and the M Sport sits 10mm lower than the 3 Series Saloon. Unlike its predecessors it doesn't sit any lower than the rest of the 4 Series range - it does get M Sport suspension, though, with stiffer springs and dampers to tighten up the handling.
We only had the chance to test the car on a smooth race circuit – so can’t be sure how the suspension tweaks effect the ride on UK roads – but considering how well cushioned the standard car is, the changes shouldn’t be drastic. What we can report, though, is that the M Sport model acquits itself extremely well when driven hard.
While the steering feels strangely light and artificial at low speeds and in Comfort mode, it comes alive when you toggle up into Sport+ , offering just the right amount of resistance and pin-point accuracy. There’s still a hint of body roll in fast turns, but once it’s settled on its springs it feels perfectly stable. Plus, like in all good BMWs, you can adjust your line using the throttle.
The six-cylinder engine is unchanged, so provides the same linear responses, smooth acceleration and muted growl from the exhausts. The eight-speed auto is also excellent in a huge variety of situations, but can be reluctant to shift down under heavy braking for a tight corner.