- Post is under moderationIf you’re looking for the ultimate everyday machine that’s also capable of embarrassing junior supercars then you should check out Birds’ wonderful 435d. Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Gus Gregory.
/ #BMW-435d-xDrive-F32 / #BMW-435d-F32 / #BMW-435d-xDrive / #BMW-435d / #BMW-F32 / #BMW / #BMW-4-Series / #BMW-4-Series-F32 / #BMW-4-Series-Coupe / #BMW-4-Series-Coupe-F32 / #2017 / #Birds-B4 / #Birds-B4-F32 / #Birds-F32 / #BMW-435d-xDrive-Birds-B4 / #BMW-435d-xDrive-Birds-B4-F32 / #BMW-435d-Birds-B4-F32 / #BMW-F32-Birds
Birds’ stunning #BMW-435d-xDrive . Everyday Weapon Birds’ 435d can be either a mild-mannered pussycat or a ripsnorting road warrior.
Depending on which order you’ve read the features in this month’s issue you might have spotted a recurring theme, that of traction. The M235i we drove suffered from a lack of it to a certain extent and the two big power M6’s pace was really hampered by an inability to transmit their prodigious thrust to the greasy Tarmac. Put simply, none of these three cars would have seen which way #Birds ’ innocuous-looking 435d went had we driven them back-to-back on typically slick UK winter roads. Not only is this car devastatingly quick, it also has the ability to be so no matter what the conditions.
I must admit that I’m not normally a huge fan of the ‘Luxury’ trim level that BMW’s foisted on us for the past few years, and it would seem that I’m not alone – the new G30 Five won’t be available as a Luxury model in the UK and neither will the face-lifted 4 Series Coupé that you can read about in our News pages. The bottom line is that hardly anyone was buying the Luxury trim models. Maybe I’m a marketing man’s dream, but I’m a succour for the chunky M Sport styling and now I’m in a position that I’ll be looking to buy my own wheels again I’m drawn to the M Sport kitted used examples like a moth to a candle despite knowing that the equivalent SE will be cheaper to buy and will ride better too! Having said all this I’m also secretly drawn to this Birds car – yes, I know it’s a Luxury, but look at it, it’s just so innocuous – no one would expect it to be a candidate for the ultimate everyday weapon, and in the right conditions a supercar humbler.
We’ve always been impressed with machinery that’s been fully-fettled by Birds as MD Kevin Bird doesn’t do things by halves. While he could simply fit a range of off the shelf tuning products he’d be the first to admit that would be selling his customers short. Sure, there are some parts that can be simply fitted to make an improvement, but to do things properly Kevin always buys a demonstrator to which he can experiment with until he’s happy with the outcome and can then pass on that knowledge to his customers in a series of suitable upgrades safe in the knowledge that the car will be right straight from the word go.
The F3x generation of 3 and 4 Series have been with us for a while now so Kevin’s had quite a while to perfect his upgrades for the car, and without a doubt he’s spent the most amount of time on the car’s suspension as he feels that BMW has lost the plot to a certain degree with its most recent F-prefix cars. He’s not a fan of the adaptive dampers as they never seem to offer the right reactions when extracting the performance from the car – they may be fine for providing a comfortable ride when you’re in cruise mode, but so can a passive set up if it’s properly designed and set up.
After having looked at just about everything the aftermarket had to offer Kevin embarked on the process of having a suspension set up designed to his specifications. While Kevin knows how he wants his cars to perform he’s happy to admit that he doesn’t have the knowledge required to draw out a damper curve for a suspension specialist to work with so he’s enrolled the help of chassis engineers to assist him in the quest for the perfect set up. We’ve had a chance to sample this work on a couple of cars and have always come away impressed, and it was no different on this 435d. Springs and dampers have been attended to and the result is a machine that resists understeer far more effectively than before and one which engenders a real feeling of confidence in what the car’s response is going to be to any given input.
We’ll look at this a little more in a minute but for the time being let’s have a quick look at what else has been installed on Birds’ B4-35d demonstrator. It’s perhaps a sign of the times that diesels are able to develop pretty high power outputs to go with their prodigious torque capabilities and perhaps because of this BMW to a certain extent holds back the outputs of its twin-turbo diesel motors. Straight out of the box the 435d develops 313hp and 465lb ft of torque but after its been treated to the Birds engine management software upgrade we’re looking at an altogether healthier 380hp and a monstrous 575lb ft of torque. Kevin has looked at the various tuning boxes on the market and has concluded that he prefers to have the software reprogrammed as it gives you more control on what changes are being made. Additionally some tuning boxes only really deliver once you’ve applied at least 70 percent throttle, and with these turbo diesel lumps offering so much low down the rev range it’s nice to be able to access the additional performance on part throttle.
From the power and torque figures you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to glean that this is going to be one very rapid 4 Series so Birds has taken the sensible step of offering a brake upgrade on the car too. Birds recommends a 19-inch wheel on the 4 Series and this allows the fitment of its #Alcon 365x32mm discs, gripped by six-piston callipers. This set up features grooved discs, low weight alloy hubs and lightweight callipers and Birds reckon they allow excellent retardation from cold all the way up to the highest temperatures they can generate. On the subject of wheels and tyres it’s worth noting that the first thing Birds would recommend is ditching the runflats if your car is so equipped as the benefits of any suspension work will be negated if these are retained.
The kit we’ve so far discussed – springs and dampers, a set of 19-inch non-run flats, the performance upgrade and the Alcon brakes – are packaged together by Birds as what it terms its complete conversion for the 435d and while it might look a lot at a smidgen over £8000 (including all parts, labour and VAT) it offers to transform the performance of your 3 Series or 4 Series. Quality components don’t come cheap and it’s also worth remembering Birds offers a 24-month warranty on complete conversions so obviously has complete confidence in the products it offers. For those wishing to add additional items – such as anti-roll bars or a Quaife limited slip differential – these can again be bundled together as part of a package or added individually as the customer wishes. One of the joys in visiting Birds is that the company accepts that each of its customers may have slightly differing requirements and is happy to tailor its products and advice accordingly.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating though so we set forth from Birds HQ to cruise up the M40 to our photoshoot location where some challenging roads await. Obviously we’re expecting it to perform well when the going gets tough, but in order for the Birds car to fulfil its duality of purpose it first needs to be able to demonstrate that it’s a usable everyday machine in cut and thrust traffic. Initial impressions are favourable with the eight-speed auto quietly and unobtrusively doing its thing in the background while tickling the throttle every now and then is accompanied by a meaningful shove in the back, even on part throttle loads. Having just stepped out of a car sitting on much smaller wheels and with no pretensions to being a sporting machine the ride does, at first, seem to be a little on the hard side but as the miles pass under the 435d’s wheels we become accustomed to the slightly firmer than standard set up and end up not being able to fault the car’s behaviour on the motorway. It rides the crests and troughs very well, always seeming to be able to complete its movement before hitting the next bump or road imperfection whereas sometimes in a normal BMW you’re left with the feeling that the underpinnings are still trying to deal with one road imperfection when it hits the next which can have an unsettling effect.
Pulling off the motorway and onto some more demanding roads and the 435d demonstrates what a devastatingly quick cross-country machine this can be.
There’s power and torque seemingly everywhere in the rev range and you can have the choice of using delicate and measured inputs to ride the wave of torque or being a bit more brutal in which case the eight-speed auto drops cogs with alacrity and flies you up the road, slurring one ratio into the next as only that #ZF ‘box can do. And it’s at this point that you realise you haven’t dialled in Sport mode and once you do there seems to be a whole new level of performance to dip into.
At which point one is invariably really travelling so it’s reassuring that those Alcon brakes can wash off speed without breaking into a sweat – the pedal feels is very reassuring and even on the slippery sections of road we encounter it resists the temptation to trigger the ABS very well. Invariably though once one has knocked a chunk of speed off the dial when tackling the corner that one wanted to slow for it becomes apparent that you’ve actually washed off too much speed and that the 435d could corner much quicker. In fast sweepers the chassis inspires real confidence, gripping hard and resisting understeer very effectively while it’s a similar story amongst the tighter stuff, too. The front end clings on for dear life and the only thing you really have to do is to remember to get onto the throttle earlier than you would in an equivalent rear-wheel drive BMW so you can bring the front axle’s drive capabilities into play, and when you do you can feel the front end pulling you through just as the rear tyres start to scrabble for grip. It’s deeply satisfying and we can’t really imagine that there are all that many machines that would show this 435d a clean set of exhaust pipes, especially on these tight roads where a bigger machine would struggle somewhat.
Once we’ve finished playing and got a set of pictures in the bag it’s time to head home and sample the car’s cruising abilities once again. Snapper Gus gets behind the wheel and once we emerge back at Birds HQ he’s got a big smile on his face and concludes “That’s quite a weapon isn’t it.” Quite so. Swapping back into my everyday car I couldn’t help but feel how sloppy and stodgy it felt, it had felt fine in the morning!
This 435d is currently up for sale at Birds so if you fancy a stunning everyday supercar slayer that will pass quietly under the radar we’d very much urge you to get in touch. We can’t imagine it’ll hang around for long…
CONTACT: #BMW-F30-Birds / Tel: 01753 657444 / Web: www.birdsauto.com
There’s power and torque seemingly everywhere in the rev range
Birds-B4 component prices
ENGINE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE 380HP: £2106
B4 XDRIVE ANTI-ROLL BAR KIT: £914
QUAIFE BMW LSD CONVERSION: £1605
B4 SPORT SUSPENSION: From £1723
EXCHANGE QUAIFE BMW FINAL DRIVE: £1710
SPORT SUSPENSION SPRINGS: £679
ALCON AE BRAKE KIT FRONT, 365X32: £2862
ALCON AE BRAKE KIT REAR, 343X28: £2377
OZ WHEEL & TYRES SET: POA
Please note: All prices quoted within this panel refer to components fitted individually not as part of a B4 Dynamic Package. Prices include parts and labour but not VAT.
/ #Birds-B4-Package prices
B4-3.5d 380HP COMPLETE CONVERSION: £6803
Engine management software, Alcon 365mm front brakes, B4 Sport suspension, 19-inch non-run flat tyres
B4 DYNAMICS PACKAGE 1 £2312
B4 anti-roll bar kit, Quaife LSD
B4 DYNAMICS PACKAGE 2: £3096
B4 anti-roll bar kit, Sport suspension springs, #Quaife LSD
B4 DYNAMICS PACKAGE 3: £4039
B4 anti-roll bar kit, B4 Sport suspension, #Quaife-LSD
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- Post is under moderationReal World Performer. We try out. Birds’ divine #BMW-335d-xDrive-F30 with an engine upgrade, thoroughly revised suspension and a big brake kit. The M Cars might grab all the headlines but Birds’ tweaked 335d offers a stunning blend of performance and control to give it an unbeatable edge when the going gets tough. Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith. #2016 / #BMW-335d-xDrive-Birds-F30 / #BMW-335d-Birds / #BMW-335d-F30 / #BMW-335d / #BMW-F30 / #BMW / #BMW-F30-Birds
If you’re experiencing a mild case of déjà vu you needn’t worry as this Alpine white F30 saloon has indeed appeared with these pages relatively recently and while it was in its early stages of development last time we drove it this is now the finished article. Those with good memories will remember that it’s a 335d xDrive and that it’s been fettled by Birds. What you won’t know, though, is that this is, without a doubt, the best diesel BMW I’ve ever driven. I was going to leave the word diesel out of that last sentence which should give you an idea of quite how good it is…
As luck would have it, on the day we’ve reserved for our photoshoot the weather forecast is for a typically British summer’s day – rain in Biblical quantities is expected – and I’m tempted to call it off until we have a better day in prospect. It does dawn on me, though, that as this is the 335d it has the benefit of four-wheel drive so it wouldn’t actually be a bad idea to sample it in the sort of conditions where a big power rear-wheel drive machine will inevitably suffer. Armed with enough wet weather gear to clothe a battalion, snapper Smithy and I elect to head north west from Birds’ Iver HQ as the rain is coming in from the south east and there’s a vague possibility we might not get completely soaked to the skin if we get a move on.
Negotiating the back roads towards the M40 we’re both struck by the car’s ride – it’s definitely on the firm side of the spectrum. Having said that it doesn’t crash its way over potholes or feel particularly unpleasant, it’s just significantly stiffer than the VW Passat we’ve arrived in. Once onto the motorway, though, and moving at higher speeds the low speed firmness feels like its been dialled out and we get on with the business of munching miles quickly and serenely – one of the 335d’s fortes. Economy on the run up towards Birmingham hovers around the 45mpg mark, although on the slower trip back south that edges ever-closer to 50mpg, which is seriously impressive given the F30’s performance potential.
Smithy’s eager to know what’s been done to the car so that he can compose a mental short list of what he needs to snapped before the rain inevitably arrives, so I run him through what we’re sitting in. First up is the performance boost, which is the only upgrade the car had when we drove it a few months back. In a nutshell this offers 380hp and 575lb ft of torque – hugely impressive gains of 67hp and 110lb ft. To this Birds, and its tuning partner Quantum Tuning, have added a larger intercooler to ensure that these gains can be replicated in all temperatures and conditions, and you can just spot this through the central front air intake in the lower front bumper, but it’s subtle stuff.
Kevin Bird is a strong believer in properly fettling a car and in many cases he’d definitely recommend that other areas of the car be upgraded before you start looking for more power and he’s particularly keen on fettling suspension, expending a huge amount of energy in finding the optimum setup. In recent years he’s become increasingly disillusioned with off-the-shelf components, often finding that a one-size-fit-all solution just doesn’t reap the sort of dividends he’s looking for. In the end he realised that there was nothing available in the aftermarket that would fully satisfy his needs so he now develops a bespoke suspension setup for each new model range if there’s a demand from customers. Working in conjunction with spring and damper manufacturers and suspension guru Rhoddy Harvey-Bailey, Kevin’s setups have impressed us every time we’ve driven a car that’s been upgraded, so we’re keen to discover if this is the case with the 335d.
Interestingly, even though we drove #Birds 435i quite some time ago Kevin was somewhat troubled to find that what necessarily worked on the 4 Series didn’t translate to the 335d and it quickly became apparent that the four-wheel drive machine’s setup was actually quite different to that of the rear-drive Coupé. We won’t delve too far into it here (partially as Kevin doesn’t want to give away all his secrets!) but there’s lots of talk about how what used to be called bump stops are now acting as secondary dampers and that the anti-roll bar setup that works perfectly on the 435i seemed to unsettle the 335d. The bottom line is that this car now wears bespoke springs and dampers to Kevin and Rhoddy’s specification but its anti-roll bar setup is currently as per the standard machine. Lastly on the suspension front are a set of non-run-flat tyres – this upgrade would be the first thing Kevin would recommend to anyone not happy with their car’s setup.
The exhaust on the car is a twin outlet item that’s been modified from a 435i and it does give a better look than the standard 335d’s pair of pipes that emerge from the rear valance next to each other on the left-hand side of the car. Quite why BMW has changed the design from the E9x generation of 335d is unknown – there certainly doesn’t seem to be any technical reason as far as we can tell. Kevin was originally going to design a new exhaust, but in the final analysis he reckons that as every customer is looking for something slightly different the development cost simply wasn’t justified and he thinks that BMW’s own M Performance items are probably the best way to go as he couldn’t design a better setup for the same sort of outlay.
The last item on the upgrade list is a set of serious stoppers. This is something that will no doubt be needed if you’re planning to use the car’s improved performance. For this application Kevin has optioned a set of Alcon discs and callipers, with the discs measuring a meaty 365x32mm, which certainly look the part nestling behind the 19-inch M Sport alloys. For cars equipped with 18-inch wheels there’s a slightly smaller 343x32mm kit, while for those customers who really want the ultimate in stopping power there’s also an optional 343x28mm setup for the rear.
While we’ve delved briefly into the performance on the run up towards the Midlands neither Smithy or I are desperately keen on getting a thorough soaking so we peel off the motorway and head to our intended photo location. I get busy with the cleaning gear while the cameras are set up and by the time we’ve shot the statics and the detail images there’s a very faint dusting of drizzle starting, which is fine by me as I’ll be able to sit in a nice warm interior for the rest of the shoot. Smithy looks less pleased as he’ll be standing in a field taking action shots as I fly past. And it’s perhaps for this reason that he deems a short stretch of road with corn fields in the foreground and background as being suitable for some moving sideon shots. He then proceeds to tell me I need to be going as fast as possible so it looks dramatic which will be tricky given it’s a short piece of road…
Fortunately we’re in the middle of nowhere and there’s no one else on the road to witness the bonkers acceleration this 335d is capable of. It’s an absurdly simple process: turn the car round, plant size 10 on throttle, leave it welded to the bulkhead while the tyres find traction on the now slick Tarmac and hold onto the steering wheel for dear life for the fear that were it not for the driver’s seat backrest you’d now be sitting in the rear seat. Kevin’s timed this thing at 4.1 seconds from rest to 60mph, and if anything that seems conservative from where I’m sitting. The absurdly rapid acceleration does bring into focus the hope that those Alcon stoppers are up to the job as at the end of the short straight is a tight 90-degree left hander but I shouldn’t have worried as time after time they wash off the excess speed without breaking into a sweat and this is backed up by a very reassuring pedal feel, too.
Once Smithy’s happy he’s got some suitable panning shots in the bag we move onto the cornering and while the rain has eased a little and the roads are just a little damp, the way the 335d xDrive goes about its business is deeply impressive and very entertaining, too. You need to do a little bit of recalibration work within your brain to get the best out of the car because if you approach the corner in a typical rear-wheel drive manner you’re simply not allowing the chassis and drivetrain to shine. Flooring the throttle in a rear-wheel drive machine too early in the cornering phase will lead to either a dollop of understeer or a tendency for the car to want to swap ends, especially in the wet, but with the four-wheel drive chassis in the 335d you need to feed the power in early and the front axle digs in and pulls you round the corner. Once you’ve got the hang of the correct technique the 335d makes ridiculously short work of corners and the way it’s happy to change its course through a series of right-left-right direction changes is even more impressive than the way it handles individual corners. Perhaps the icing on the cake is that it’s not an entirely sterile experience as you still get a decent amount of feedback through the seat of your pants about what the chassis is doing and there’s enough of a rear-drive bias to get a modicum of movement from the tail as you exit corners. The fact it can do all this in increasingly inclement conditions must mean that this has to be one of the fastest ways of crossing the countryside once the weather’s closed in. And the very damp Smithy, who I pick up after the last run for the camera, shows that the weather has now really caught up with us.
With no more prospects for photography other than an in-car driving shot we head back to Iver and consider Birds conversion for the 335d. The complete kit as we’ve tested here will cost a smidgen over £8500 (including parts, labour and VAT), and while that’s a sizeable chunk of cash it does elevate the 335d xDrive from being a very good car into a truly exceptional one. If you’re in the market for an upgraded 3 Series we’d urge you to try this car as we reckon that once you’ve sampled its delights you’ll be as smitten as we were.
CONTACT: Birds Tel: 01753 657444 Web: www.birdsauto.com / #Birdsauto
The 335d makes ridiculously short work of corners.
TECH DATA #Birds-B3-3.5x / #Birds-B3-F30
ENGINE: Straight-six, turbodiesel / #N57
MAX POWER: 380hp
MAX TORQUE: 575lb ft
COMPLETE CONVERSION: £8515
ENGINE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE 380HP: £2496
B3X SPORT SUSPENSION: £1682
ALCON AE BRAKE KIT FRONT, 365X32: £3380
19-INCH TYRE SET, CONTI SPORT CONTACT 5: £1460
ALCON AE BRAKE KIT REAR, 343X28: £2810
ALCON AE BRAKE KIT FRONT, 343X32 (FOR CARS WITH 18” WHEELS: £3110)
B3X ANTI-ROLL BAR KIT: £1037
EXCHANGE QUAIFE BMW FINAL DRIVE: £2016 (All prices include parts labour and VAT)
Reworked 335d xDrive offers stunning ability in the corners with astonishing grip and plenty of poise; ride is firm, but not unduly so; twin exhausts look much better than the production version.
The way the 335d xDrive goes about its business is deeply impressive and very entertaining too.
Right: Q Sport intercooler can be seen nestling behind front air intake Below: engine looks entirely standard; Alcon brakes sit behind standard 19-inch M Sport alloys equipped with non-run-flat tyres.
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