WEAPON XDRIVE 440hp 4WD 435i
To look at Craig Zhang’s hardcore 435i is to wonder why he didn’t start off with an M4 in the first place considering just how much work has gone into it over the couple of years that he’s owned the car, but there are a number of very good reasons why he’s built himself a 435i and not an M4. First of all there’s the simple fact that Craig really had no idea that he was going to build a machine as extreme as the one he has ended up with – there were some plans of course, there always are, but they didn’t involve creating a track/road hybrid monster. And secondly Craig wanted a car that he could really enjoy driving all year round. Craig happens to live in Victoria, British Columbia in Canada and while Victoria rarely sees serious snow it doesn’t take a covering of the white stuff to spoil your BMW enjoyment. When it’s cold and wet BMs, especially modern turbo ones pushing some serious power, aren’t so happy; ramp up the boost on your turbo BM and you’ll easily overwhelm the rear wheels with all that monster low-end torque and Craig didn’t want that. You see, this is in fact a 435i xDrive, which means it has four-wheel drive. While that does make it very capable on wet and greasy roads, it also means Craig has immense traction, allowing him to deploy all the power that he has on tap without a care in the world, making this 435i absolutely ballistic as well as granting it godlike all-weather capabilities, and that means it’s one of the fastest things on four wheels imaginable, whatever the conditions might be.
Impressive as this build is – and it is very impressive – there are a few things that help make it that little bit more impressive still; first of all there’s the fact that Craig is just 22, so to build a car of this calibre at such a young age is no mean feat. He’s a student, at which point you might be wondering how he is funding his modified lifestyle, but that’s when you find out that he also happens to be a partner in a car modification shop, that being KZ Auto Group, which explains a lot. And while this isn’t his first car – that honour went to a 2008 Mitsubishi Evo X – it is his first BM and it’s epic, so we can only begin to imagine what he might end up building next. “I haven’t been interested in BMWs for very long,” he admits, “it’s just since I bought this 435i xDrive that I fell in love with the marque. The 435i fitted in my budget and it’s all-wheel-drive and I want my car to work perfectly in all four seasons. It has enough power and, most important, it looks fantastic,” he grins and he’s not wrong, although it looks rather more fantastic now and a hell of a lot of work has gone into this build.
“I didn’t have any plan when I bought the car; I knew I was going to do something cool with it but I didn’t have a specific plan,” says Craig and things started off slowly enough with some styling mods and everything he fitted back then is still on the car, the rest of the build having evolved around these early mods. “At first, I just wanted to make the car look better and cooler than other 435s but the styling I have right now is more like a daily-drivable track toy,” Craig explains and we’re with him on that one. He kicked things off by adding a BMW M Performance boot lip spoiler, diffuser and black grilles along with IND’s body-coloured reflector covers. Of course, things have come rather a long way since then and this 435i now wears some serious battle armour. Up front sits a seriously meaty Vorsteiner carbon fibre VRS full-width spoiler, the flanks have been enhanced with a set of BMW M Performance side skirts and now at the back, in addition to that boot lid spoiler, you will find the massive APR carbon fibre GT-250 wing and while it would look wildly out of proportion on a lesser car, with all the other mods that Craig has carried out here it fits perfectly with the whole track aesthetic.
Following his foray into styling, Craig turned his attention to the chassis, fitting a set of H&R lowering springs to give his 435 a bit of a drop and tucked a set of BBS CI-Rs under the arches. These were followed by another set of wheels, 18s that are now reserved for use on track, before he got hold of the wheels the car currently wears. “I like the simple design of the HRE FF15s, they have received a lot compliments,” he says and it’s easy to see why as the all-black 19s suit the 435 perfectly, bringing with them a bit of an old-school touring car vibe and a strong motorsport flavour. The suspension, meanwhile, has received a significant upgrade from those early lowering springs and this 435 now sits on coilovers; “Currently I only have the KW V2s on the car. I will get all the control arms upgraded later for sure,” says Craig. “The V2 kit works fairly well; for road use the V2 is more than enough and I only go on track days a couple of times a year so the V3 or CS is little bit overkill for what I need,” he reasons. KW’s V2 offering gives him plenty of adjustment and the ride height he’s got dialled-in is awesome, with a seriously hefty drop going on that has basically banished all of the arch gap. Peer behind the spokes of the HREs and you will see that Craig has not forgotten about braking performance as evidenced by the vast yellow calipers of the Sparta Evolution Saturn BBK that’s been fitted on both axles. Up front you’ll find six-pot calipers clamping onto 355mm two-piece discs and at the rear are four-pot calipers joined by 345mm two-piece discs, and they combine to deliver immense stopping power whenever Craig demands it.
All that might seem a little overkill were Craig still running his 435’s N55 motor in its stock state of tune but he’s obviously not because, as we all know, that’s basically impossible. Even here, though, Craig didn’t have any grand designs for the engine and started off down the road to more power with just some very mild mods. “The first thing I did to the engine was the Dinan intake,” he tells us. “I did it in my own garage and it literally only took me about 20 minutes to fit. When I started to mod the engine, the intake was probably the only thing I wanted to do, but after I did more and more exterior mods I felt the power I had didn’t match the look of the car,” and we totally agree because a machine like this really has to have the bite to match its substantial bark. “After a while, I fitted the Eisenmann muffler and Evolution Racewerks downpipe and did the tuning first time. Then I caught the ER intercooler in a Black Friday sale, waited for two weeks, bolted it on and then did the tuning update to stage 2+,” he says.
Dinan’s carbon intake is a great choice and is potent enough to unleash a little more power just on its own, 10hp and 15lb ft of torque according to Dinan themselves, and the rest of the mods really tap into the N55’s true potential. The cat-less ER downpipe removes the major restriction in the exhaust system, allowing the turbo to breathe more freely while the MHD Stage 2+ software really ramps up power. That combined with the raft of supporting mods that Craig has fitted means his 435 has got to be pushing over 440hp and somewhere in the region of 480lb ft of torque, and that fed through the car’s 4WD setup is nothing short of awesome.
Finally we come to the interior and while Craig hasn’t gone mad with the mods, what he has done has really taken the cabin to another level. “My plan for the interior style was to keep it simple, just bucket seats and roll-cage, nothing else has been done to the interior,” he says but, really, that’s enough. Up front you will find a Sparco Grid seat for the driver while the passenger gets to enjoy a Sparco Fighter seat and both front occupants get Sparco four-point harnesses. The rear seats have been removed, meanwhile, and in their place sits the Studio RSR bolt-in roll-cage finished in white; the finishing touches are lashings of carbon trim and a blue centre stripe for the steering wheel.
For a 22-year-old student building his first BMW project, Craig has knocked this one out of the park and his two years of investment in his 435 have resulted in a full-on monster of a machine with some seriously nice mods on board. “My favourite two mods on my car must be the big brake kit and the roll-cage,” he grins. “As a fully-black build, the yellow calipers are just like the finishing touch on the car and make the colour a little less boring. The roll-cage, meanwhile, makes the whole car feel more professional, people know you are serious about the things you did on the car and it makes the car tighter when we drive on the track,” he says.
Of course, this build is far from finished, as Craig is eager to tell us; “I’m still going, the build will never end,” he laughs. “The custom chassis-mount rear diffuser is on the way, I want to do all the control arm bushes and tower brace for sure, I may also get a carbon hood later,” he muses. “My money-no-object mod must be the full carbon wide-body kit from the M4 DTM race car, that’s my dream set up,” he says with a longing look in his eyes and while that might be a big dream to have, going by what Craig has achieved at such a young age and in such a short space of time, we certainly wouldn’t rule anything out. The M4 might be the top dog when it comes to the 4 Series family, but with 4WD, some serious power on board and all that ultra-aggressive aero, Craig’s 435 can go toe-to- toe with its big brother any day of the week and, if that day happens to be wet or snowy, an M4 wouldn’t see which way he went, which truly makes this the ultimate all-weather weapon.
“KW’s V2 offering gives him plenty of adjustment and the ride height he’s got dialled-in is awesome, with a seriously hefty drop going on that has basically banished all of the arch gap”
DATA FILE BMW 2018 BMW 435i xDrive F32
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six turbo N55B30, Dinan carbon intake, Evolution Racewerks cat-less downpipe and Competition FMIC, Eisenmann Race exhaust, MHD Stage 2+ software. ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox
CHASSIS 8.5×19” (front) and 9×19” (rear) HRE FF15 flowformed wheels in black with 225/40 (front) and 255/35 (rear) Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres, KW V2 coilovers, Sparta Evolution Saturn BBK with six-piston calipers and 355mm two-piece discs (front) and four-piston calipers and 345mm two-piece discs (rear)
EXTERIOR Vorsteiner Carbon Fibre VRS Aero add-on front spoiler, IND body-colour front reflectors, BMW M Performance black grilles, side skirts, boot lip spoiler and rear diffuser, APR Carbon Fibre GT-250 Wing
INTERIOR Sparco Grid Competition driver’s seat, Sparco Street Fighter passenger seat, Sparco Racing four-point harnesses, Studio RSR bolt-in rollcage, carbon fibre trim, blue steering wheel centre stripe
THANKS Thanks to KZ Auto Group and my family for supporting me
“The cat-less ER downpipe removes the major restriction in the exhaust system, allowing the turbo to breathe more freely while the MHD Stage 2+ software really ramps up power”
Lashings of carbon and blue steering wheel centre stripe. Sparco Grid Competition driver’s seat and Street Fighter passenger seat. N55 has received a raft of mods and is now pushing some serious power. Dinan carbon intake. Massive APR GT-250 carbon wing. Monster Sparta BBK sits behind HRE FF15s.