- Post is under moderationAn updated version of BMW’s excellent turbocharged ’six keeps the 4 Series Coupé fresh, even before its #2017 MY updates. Words: Shane O’ Donoghue. Photography: Nick Maher. The Definition of a BMW Behind the Wheel. The 4 Series might be about to be face-lifted but we couldn’t resist the charms of the 440i.
While I know I’m preaching to the converted on these pages when advocating the advantages of rear-wheel-drive, we must remember that there are many drivers, a very many, that see it as a negative. One such person is part of my extended family and he describes BMWs as ‘skittish’ – tarring them all with the same broad brush. The less charitable among you might suggest he gets some driving lessons, but the sad truth is that the majority of motorists have zero interest in which axle is driven. That’s probably why we’re seeing a slow but sure move away from focus on the layout from BMW. The 2 Series Active Tourer kicked things off and there’s more than a slight rumour that the next generation 1 Series will adopt a front-wheel drive set-up. On top of all that, xDrive four-wheel drive is being made more prevalent across the #BMW line-up, as evidenced by the focus on it at the launch of the G30 5 Series.
So it was a pleasure to return home from that event to an awaiting car that, in reality, should be considered old-school-BMW. The model in question was a 440i Coupé, pre-LCI, in M Sport specification, which (if you know your BMW-flavoured onions), you’ll know is only offered in rear-wheel-drive guise. Ah bliss. None of your diesel or namby-pamby four-wheel-drive here thanks, just the latest iteration of BMW’s creamy smooth turbocharged straight-six, a hike in power to 326hp coinciding with the name change from 435i to 440i, accompanied by a solid 332lb ft of torque from just 1380rpm. It warms my heart that there’s still a manual version of this car on the BMW UK price list, but most will pay the one-and-a-half grand more it takes to upgrade to the eight-speed ‘Sport’ automatic for future resale value. It also drops the carbon dioxide emissions considerably, reducing VED tax and, if you’re fortunate enough to be buying a car such as this through a business, Benefit-in-kind taxation – the latter by a significant four percent. Theoretically the auto is more economical too, though we suspect there’s little in it in the real world.
Although the 4 Series is undergoing its midlife nip and tuck soon, and this car’s analogue instruments and non-touch iDrive screen appear old-fashioned next to its newer big brothers, it’s still a remarkably good cabin. It’s simple to use, well laid out, tactile to the touch and, perhaps still of some surprise to many, quite spacious inside. Sure, the rear seats aren’t as capacious as those up front, but the boot is large by any measure and the generously glazed areas make the whole car feel airy in any case.
Oddly, the ‘old’ 4 Series cabin has, in my book, one preferred item over the new 5 Series, and that’s the indicator stalk. The new G30 reverts to a simple ‘stays on in position’ stalk, while the 4 Series has what I consider to be a more modern design and operation. Strange.
And while I love a manual gearbox as much as the next petrolhead, BMW’s eight-speed auto is, as I may have mentioned once or thrice on these pages, an absolute gem. The characteristics change brought about by selecting the various driving modes is very well-judged. By default, the transmission is smooth, comfortable and quick to use the higher gears in a bid to improve economy. Choose the Sport mode, however, and it helps the car come alive. Leave it to its own devices and the shifts are snappier and precise, while the engine is allowed to rev for longer before the next change up. It’s still silky-smooth, mind, even if there is a gratuitous flare of revs accompanying each down-shift. We approve.
Now go for Sport Plus and take control for yourself via the deliciously metallic gearchange paddles; that’s the 440i at its best. The upshifts are more assertive and response to the paddles is instantaneous. At the same time, the engine becomes more audible, though, I confess, I’d like it to be considerably louder again when in this setting. Response to the throttle is sharpened, the power steering assistance is reduced (shame the good-looking steering wheel is so large though) and by default the stability and traction control systems are switched into a mid-setting. This is wonderfully useful for within-the-law public road driving on interesting roads, especially when it’s a little damp underfoot. It’s possible on tighter corners, exiting in second, to provoke a momentary rear slide that the electronics then allow you to gather up intuitively for yourself, or, if your brain was otherwise occupied, intervening to prevent embarrassment. At higher speeds, this leeway translates into a lovely rear-led stance out of curves as you unwind the steering and let the rear axle do part of the work. You don’t need to be on track or at licence-shredding speeds to enjoy the delicacy of this chassis in a highly rewarding fashion.
With the #DSC and #DTC system full engaged, it’s a completely different sensation. In the dry there’s so much grip and traction available that the electronics have little to do unless you’re being a complete hooligan, but in the wet they are simply brilliant, cutting power almost presciently before loss of traction at the rear wheels translates into even the slightest of ‘moments’. It’s virtually fool-proof, and I reckon even my aforementioned ‘skittish’ family member could be talked into giving it a go. The best news of course is that you, the converted, don’t lose out on what makes a #BMW coupé like this special in a bid to make it safe and sanitised for the masses. Hallelujah to that.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-F32 / #BMW-440i-Coupe / #BMW-440i-Coupe-F32 / #BMW-440i-F32 / #BMW / #BMW-4-Series / #BMW-4-Series-F32 / #BMW-4-Series-Coupe / #BMW-4-Series-Coupe-F32
Engine: Turbocharged straight-six, 24-valve
Max Power: 326hp @ 5500rpm
Max Torque: 32lb ft @ 1380-5000rpm
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy : 42.8mpg emissions (CO²): 154g/km
Weight (EU): 1630kg
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- 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 moderationA couple of years ago I found an all too tempting PCH-deal on a #BMW-4-Series and I’ve enjoyed two great years of motoring in my #BMW-420d auto Gran Coupé. Unfortunately, the time is coming to hand it back, and with a few thousand sunk and (soon) nothing to show for it, I’m wondering if I should buy something instead this time. I have always fancied a six-cylinder #BMW-E92 Coupé. Having driven numerous ‘high end’ cars that have been ruined by indecisive, slow-witted automatic gearboxes (an E350 Coupé being the most notable) my fear is that stepping backwards from BMWs latest eight-speed auto to a more old-school auto may leave me disappointed, especially knowing how proactive and decisive the latest machinery is when pulling off from a rolling start when coasting up to roundabouts etc. Should I be concerned? Love the magazine, keep up the good work. / #BMW-420d-F32 / #BMW-F32 / #BMW / #BMW-F36
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- Ultimately Matthew the only way to really judge this will be to take an E92 Coupé for a spin yourself but, having sampled the latest ZF eight-speeder,Ultimately Matthew the only way to really judge this will be to take an E92 Coupé for a spin yourself but, having sampled the latest ZF eight-speeder, we fear you’ll be disappointed with the E92. In its day the six-speed auto in machinery such as the 330i was an excellent piece of kit but now you’ve tasted the forbidden fruit in the guise of the eight-speed the sixspeed may feel a little clunky by way of comparison. More ...
- Post is under moderation/ #2016 / New engines for the #BMW-4-Series / #BMW-F32 / #BMW
The 3 Series received its LCI changes towards the tail end of 2015 and with it came a series of engine upgrades so it was only a matter of time before these same engines made their debut in the 4 Series Coupé, Convertible and Gran Coupé.
The flagship of the 4 Series range will now be the BMW-440i that uses the new generation of six-cylinder TwinPower turbo units rated at 326hp and 332lb ft of torque endowing the automatic 440i Coupé with a blisteringly quick 0-62mph time of just 5.0 seconds while at the same time economy and emissions are said to both be improved by up to 12 per cent compared to the outgoing 435i.
Like the 3 Series the #BMW-428i has now been replaced by a 430i which uses the most powerful incarnation of the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, rated at 252hp and 258lb ft or torque. It’s no slouch either with a sub-six second 0-62mph time for the Coupé yet it still has the ability of returning over 50mpg according to the combined cycle for an eight-speed auto #BMW-430i-Coupé . The entry-level four-cylinder petrol hasn’t been forgotten about either as it also receives the new modular engine but in a reduced state of tune at 184hp.
Last, but by no means least, for the 4 Series is a new version of the #BMW-425d that features a new 2.0- litre TwinPower turbo engine developing 224hp and 332lb ft of torque, enough to endow the Coupé version with a 0-62mph time of just 6.1 seconds when mated to the automatic transmission yet again sees economy and emissions improve by around eight per cent.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationDynamic Additions #BMW-F32
We take a drive in the #BMW-F32-Birds modified #BMW-435i-F32 to see how small changes can make a big difference. While the #BMW-435i-F32-Birds makes a good looking junior GT, Birds thought that it needed some additional driver appeal. We sample its demonstrator to find out if it’s been successful Words: Bob Harper Photography: Max Earey
Ensuring there’s enough differentiation between models must be one of the most delicate of tightropes that a car manufacturer has to walk especially as each new model is expected to be more powerful, faster, more economical and demonstrably better than the machine it replaces. Logic must dictate that there will come a point when cars simply can’t get any quicker but we’ll have to wait for a few more years before that eventuality.
No, for the time being what we need to look at is the way that #BMW has to ensure that its new XYZ is better than the old generation XYZ but isn’t so much better that it treads on the toes of the inevitable M XYZ. A case in point is the F32 435i. New name aside this is obviously effectively a 335i Coupé and its onpaper stats are pretty impressive: 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six developing 306hp and 295lb ft of torque. Good enough for a 5.4-second 0-62mph time with the six-speed manual (5.1secs if you opt for the eight-speed auto), and there’s no doubt that the vast majority of machines will be thus equipped.
These stats really aren’t very far off previous generation M3 figures and there’s no doubt that with its wide spread of torque the 435i will be more or less as fast as an E92 M3 in most driving situations. Or until the road becomes a little bit more demanding, requiring a little bit more finesse than the 435i seems to possess. While the Four is great piece of kit it’s perhaps gone a little too far in the direction of being a junior GT rather than a sports coupé – a little bit too soft in its reactions for the really keen driver. For the vast majority of us we’d be more than happy with a 435i straight-out-of-the-box but for those looking for a little bit more involvement, a little bit more feedback and drama, then there’s certainly room for some improvement. And who better to supply that than Birds? Kevin Bird has been fettling BMWs for probably more years than he cares to remember and in recent times we’ve been hugely impressed with the changes he’s wrought to a diverse range of machines – his 130i was a revelation on just how devastatingly good the hot hatch could be and the transformation he managed on the E89 Z4 had to be experienced to be believed.
Naturally enough he had plenty to say about the 435i he purchased as his company’s new demonstrator: “The 435i seems to have had a character bypass. Granted, it’s quite a pretty car with plenty of new visual signatures but the driving dynamics, which we are primarily interested in, are buried under a layer of electronic management systems. Keep an eye on the speedo, and it’s obviously a fast car, but the seat of your pants and the other driver interfaces – steering, pedals and the like – seem to be disguised under a layer of, err, can’t really say for sure.
“It feels like an excessively mature version of the previous 335i, but maturity seems to mean bigger, fatter, heavier, and boring in this case. Testing of the standard car went like this. Drive, foot to the floor, and it seemed there were immense levels of mechanical grip. Unable to get anywhere near the limits on the road. Okay. Let’s switch some of the gadgets off. Traction control first. Nope, no wheelspin or loss of grip found. Try harder, even in the wet, and no real signs of big traction loss. Maybe, by accident, BMW has bunged the M-Performance diff in as a free-ofcharge favour? After a few miles, the truth becomes clear. There is some traction management in here. The first three gears don’t appear to be authorised to accept the full power of the engine. Big brother is at work, managing the whole show.
“Now you can tell the throttle is blunted, but there is a Sport button, which sharpens the throttle response, so we’d better try that. Much better, now you feel like control over the engine is yours. Bad news, you can’t have throttle response and traction control off. It’s a struggle to find how to enjoy this car. Best solution is to switch the DSC fully off and give it everything and see what happens? Whoa! It gets massively untidy when you do find the limit. Don’t try that again. There seems to be no finesse, or the ability to hold the slide on power, or anything pleasurable like that.” We think it’s safe to say he wasn’t particularly impressed.
So, what were Kevin’s solutions to what he sees as the car’s dynamic shortcomings? “The lack of a limited-slip differential is an obvious shortcoming but given the levels of hidden traction management, we want to understand the handling balance of the car before giving it more traction. Anti-roll bars first, then. Changing the roll stiffness bias toward the rear increases the overall roll stiffness, allowing the front end to grip more in turns and quelling understeer. The front end feels immediately more responsive and accurate but, as expected, there is a loss of traction at the rear but not enough to worry about at this stage. The car seems to have gained a chunk of character and poise, and can be more accurately steered,” Kevin told us.
Birds has worked wonders with the suspension on other models we’ve sampled so it should come as no surprise that the setup on the 435i has come in for some attention. After Kevin’s own impressions and then some input from chassis guru Rhoddy Harvey- Bailey prototype springs were duly ordered. According to Kevin: “The spring rate changes make the car feel supple and balanced, and compliment the significant rear roll bar increase.”
Naturally enough damper changes were also required, and as Kevin’s not a fan of the OEM adjustable setup he spec’d the fixed dampers on his demo knowing they were going to be changed anyway. Kevin takes up the story once more: “Tuning the dampers is a matter for experts only. Having been involved in BMW chassis tuning for 30 years, mostly relying on other people’s work, the process is still completely alien. Watching the experts assess a damper dyno curve, draw lines on it, and then hand it back to the renowned Bilstein engineers is impossible to follow. But the results aren’t. As soon as you start driving the car, the differences are immediately tangible, in a positive way, of course. Several road tests later, and after a few calls to major tyre manufacturers’ engineers, we know we have a result. What’s more, we have arrived at a setting that can be used with 20-inch wheels and tyres – something that eluded us with the E92 development.”
With the suspension sorted Kevin was able to slot a Quaife limited-slip diff in to the car and start to enjoy its new-found abilities. “The car is starting to feel like a driving machine. The reactions of the chassis to inputs, both from the driver and the road, are measurable and repeatable. The car doesn’t misbehave on the limit and you can control the car on the throttle and the steering. Isn’t this the way it should be?” he argues.
The extent of Birds’ work on the 435i doesn’t stop there but what’s been discussed so far gives us more than enough to get our teeth into to start with and as we depart Birds’ Iver HQ we have two days of varied driving to put the car through its paces. We could just take it for a good blast along one of our favourite stretches of back road but that would only really show up one side of its character – if it’s to be a thoroughly convincing conversion it must also cope with commuting and a bit of motorway jogging, too. It doesn’t take too long to realise that there’s real depth to the suspension upgrade – it feels pretty supple on the motorway, absorbing dips and crests and expansion joints without breaking into a sweat.
Compared to our M235i longtermer we’d say it’s firmer than the Comfort setting yet much better damped than when in Sport. Around town it also works very well and after a while behind the wheel we really don’t notice the suspension – sure-fire proof that it’s comfortable enough for everyday use. Bigger potholes will send a shudder through the car but, overall, for a machine of this size to be able to run 20-inch wheels without ruining the ride is quite an achievement.
The following day we have a rendezvous with snapper Earey in the wilds of Northamptonshire to put the 435i through its paces on some proper roads and the run up there once again demonstrates how Birds’ work hasn’t detracted from the car’s mile-munching abilities. As well as the suspension upgrades there’s also a new exhaust system and while Kevin reckons this is the quieter of the two prototype systems he has test fitted it can be a little loud here and there. It’s not a drone per se and when on a constant throttle at 70-80mph you don’t notice it but it does become significantly louder when you put your foot down at those speeds. On the back roads it sounds superb so it would probably come down to personal preference as to whether this upgrade would suit you.
While we’re yet to give the car a through pasting it’s become obvious from the motorway and town stints that Birds has also given some thought to the gear change on the car. Kevin elucidates: “The clutch and gear change on the standard car are frankly appalling. The clutch pedal operation can be likened to stepping into a blancmange, with zero pedal reaction, no indication whatsoever as to whether the clutch is engaged and disengaged. It makes you drive like a learner, crunching gears both on up and downshifts. Ably assisted by a gear lever mechanism that is long in throw, and changes into even gears have your elbow in contact with the central armrest. Both of these items receive attention, and considerable improvement. Small issues like these are what really make a properly tuned car.”
Upgrades here include a short-shift kit that virtually halves the throw on the gear lever and a clever modification to the clutch pedal that removes the over-servoed effect. In our M235i it can be difficult to be smooth when changing gear, especially from first to second as there’s not a lot of feel as to where the biting point is. However, changes in the Birds’ machine can be completed lurch-free, which is surely how it should be.
It should come as no surprise that this 435i has also had a power upgrade too, and while Kevin wouldn’t recommend it on a 435i without the chassis upgrades, this fettled example can now make use of some more power. It’s not as easy as it used to be, though, and Kevin says that, so far, the latest BMW engine management cannot be modified and attempts to generate significant power increases often fail with engine management warning lights the norm. As far as the 435i is concerned, 362hp is the limit. What Kevin has also done, though, is a modification to the accelerator to allow decent throttle response – equivalent to the Sport mode when still in Comfort – and this will still allow the traction to be fully switched off at the same time.
Hammering up the B660 for our rendezvous with our photographer gives us a real opportunity to feel the whole package gel together and by the time we meet up there’s a Cheshire cat-sized grin etched on our faces – this is a huge amount of fun to punt along. There’s power aplenty and while it doesn’t matter hugely which ratio you’re in – such is the spread of torque – you do find yourself swapping cogs just for the fun of it as the upgraded interfaces encourage you to do so.
It’s the chassis that really impresses though and it exhibits just about every trait that we like to see in a car. There’s enough suppleness in the setup to allow for some body roll but it’s beautifully controlled, never lurching in its transitions and even when really committed mid-corner changes in surfaces or encountering a dip halfway round a bend don’t upset its balance. The more you hoon along the more confidence you have that the car will simply follow your instructions and respond to inputs in the way it should. It transmits those 362 horses to the Tarmac so well that you slingshot from one corner to the next safe in the knowledge that the upgraded stoppers will wash off speed with no drama or fuss. We’ve not mentioned these before but it’s an Alcon setup that offers awesome retardation and a better feel to the pedal that becomes the perfect pivot for some heel and toeing.
You couldn’t really ask for more from a complete conversion but, as with all things in life, quality doesn’t come particularly cheap. Carry out all the upgrades that are fitted to this machine to a new 435i – power, anti-roll bars, springs, dampers, LSD, brakes, wheels, tyres, short-shift, clutch modification, brakes and exhaust – and you’re knocking on the door of the price of a new M3 and M4. Dynamically it doesn’t honestly feel like it’s that far away in terms of its chassis but it doesn’t feel as quick either. No, the joy of the Birds upgrades are that you can cherry-pick the ones that you want, the ones that will suit your driving style and the type of roads you drive on. What is in no doubt is that Birds has brought about a huge number of changes to this machine and all of them for the better. It really does bridge the gap between the #BMW-435i and the M4 and transforms it from a gentleman’s GT into a rip-roaring performance coupé that’s a hell of a lot of fun to drive. Mission accomplished we’d say.
CONTACT: Birds Tel: 01753 657444 Web: www. #Birdsauto .com
Birds component prices
HARTGE ENGINE ECU 362HP: £2433.39
B4 ANTI-ROLL BAR KIT: £841.75
QUAIFE BMW LSD CONVERSION: £1562.00
B4 SPORT SUSPENSION: £1528.37
SHORT GEARSHIFT: £411.13
CLUTCH PEDAL WEIGHT MODIFICATION: £81.60
EXCHANGE QUAIFE BMW FINAL DRIVE: £1667.00
SPORT SUSPENSION SPRINGS: £600.04
ALCON AE BRAKE KIT FRONT, 365X32: £2797.40
ALCON AE BRAKE KIT REAR, 343X28: £2325.83
B4 REAR SILENCER, FOUR OUTLETS: £1593.91
HARTGE 20-INCH WHEEL & TYRES SET: £3961.00
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
B4-3.5 COMPLETE CONVERSION: £6,464.65
Hartge engine ECU 362hp, B4 anti-roll bar kit, Quaife
BMW LSD conversion, B4 Sport suspension, short
gearshift, clutch pedal weight modification
B4 DYNAMICS PACKAGE 1 £2,330.64
B4 anti-roll bar kit, Exchange Quaife BMW Final Drive
B4 DYNAMICS PACKAGE 2: £2,903.31
B4 anti-roll bar kit, Sport suspension springs, Exchange
Quaife BMW Final Drive
B4 DYNAMICS PACKAGE 3: £3,859.01
Exchange Quaife BMW Final Drive, B4 Sport suspension,
B4 anti-roll bar kit
Alcon AE brake kit front, 365x32, Alcon AE brake kit rear,
B4 rear silencer, four outlets
Please note: All prices quoted with this panel include labour and a discount on parts that only applies if a Birds Dynamic Package is ordered. VAT is not included in these prices either. See the separate panel for individual costs of specific components.
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- Post is under moderationWILD THING #BMW-F82 M4 TUNING #AC-Schnitzer-F82 #BMW-F32 based #S55 engined
AC Schnitzer’s been busy fettling the new M4 with its ACS4 Sport. The standard #BMW-M4-F82 is far from shy but AC Schntizer has proven that it doesn’t take a whole lot to turn it into a monster with its ACS4 Sport package Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Dave Smith.
When the M4 was launched last year there were plenty of critics, both inside and outside the core BMW fan club, quick to label the latest M car offering as a little soft. On paper you could kind of see their point: there was no roaring V8 engine anymore and although the styling was aggressive it was notably more refined and grown-up. Of course, those who have seen an M4 in the flesh and experienced it first-hand know full well it’s a more than worthy successor to the throne in every way. But if further proof were needed, then perhaps AC Schnitzer’s ACS4 Sport truly highlights what kind of thinly veiled beast is hiding within. The spoilers and splitters enhance the existing looks, rather than form them, and the M4’s hugely capable chassis and carbon brakes soak up the increase in power, to a monstrous 510hp no less, with ease.
All of the parts displayed on this car are available to buy individually or as a package, and there are also alternative ‘softer’ options for the suspension and aero. But as this very car was due to partake in a German track event shortly after we photographed it, it was in full race mode, with virtually everything from the AC Schnitzer catalogue fitted. There are clearly plenty of changes, both on and under the surface, so we’ll begin with the exterior modifications, as perhaps these make the single biggest difference to the car.
Upon first gaze in the flesh, the styling certainly bombards your senses. The various spoilers, wings and splitters sprouting out from around the car transform the M4’s overall look from mildly mean to entirely menacing. It all looks very purposeful, helped by the beautiful, high quality, carbon fibre finish found on many of the parts. And, of course, virtually everything is designed to have an impact on performance. The complete aerodynamic package featured here improves downforce as well as aesthetics, although Schnitzer offers the kit as individual parts or a complete package.
Starting at the front, there are three stages of aerodynamic aids. It begins with the two lower spoiler elements, which attach directly to the bottom of the front bumper. Made from carbon fibre, these contoured spoilers enhance the shape of the original bumper design. They bring the car lower to the floor for a more pronounced and aggressive front-end look, whilst still looking relatively subtle.
The next addition is the much more prominent front splitter, which sees the two lower spoilers joined along the bottom with a large, flat, single-piece design finished in gloss black. This aero aid protrudes a good few inches from the front of the car, connected with a single sculptured support in the centre. To top it off, last of all comes the four individual side wings, or canards, mounted on the outside edges of the bumper. These work in conjunction with the splitter to further improve airflow passing by the front end, optimising downforce.
To balance all of that front-end downforce there’s also plenty going on at the rear. It begins low down with a central rear diffuser section having been added to the bottom of the bumper. It’s actually relatively subtle compared to the rest of the kit and slots in neatly between the quad tailpipes. On a standard M4 this section is usually colour-coded to the car but the carbon fibre finish of the Schnitzer part helps break it up with some contrast, helped here by the bright body colour. The diffuser also incorporates subtle sculptured lines that flow down to the bottom for added style.
The rear wing, mounted directly to the boot lid, is a lot harder to miss. There are actually two versions of this wing and this one was unveiled at the Geneva Motorshow back in March, but a lower, less extreme version is also available that carries the full TüV approval required in Germany. The larger one pictured here is generally for export outside of Germany. Named the ‘Racing’ version, it sits a good few inches taller on raised mountings, although the aerofoil itself is the same carbon fibre item. The additional gurney lip mounted to the very rear of the aerofoil itself has been added only for the aforementioned track event and does not feature on the standard item. Even so, the imposing spoiler balances the large front splitter perfectly.
Working up the car, last of all comes the subtle roof spoiler mounted just above the rear window. This one is easier to miss, especially as it comes matched to the roof skin’s carbon fibre finish. It still adds to the overall effect of the rear end package, in terms of both visual and technical, as Schnitzer tells us it further improves downforce and rear end stability. The last of the exterior changes are the carbon fibre wing mirror covers which simply look good, tie into the other carbon parts and, of course, offer a small weight saving.
Inside, there have also been a couple of small changes in the form of an AC Schnitzer aluminium pedal set and footrest, keyholder, floor mats and handbrake lever. For manual transmission cars there’s also the option to add a matching gear knob that features a nifty digital display in the top to tell you what gear you’re in. The track event this car is due to attend has also meant the original seats have been replaced with lightweight Recaro items, although the original seat belts remain.
Whilst that concludes the exuberant styling and aero package, the wheels also undoubtedly add to the overall look of the ACS4 and these AC Schnitzer designed Type VIII items are the lightweight forged versions, finished in BiColour anthracite. Whilst the thin-spoke design looks great, it’s the size of them that makes the bigger impact here. At the front, they measure a wholesome 9x21 inches and are fitted with 255/30 R21 Continental CSC 5P tyres. Just like a standard car, they’re an inch wider at the rear, measuring 10x21 inches with a huge 295/25 R21 tyre. Schnitzer offers several wheel packages ranging in size and design and this is the biggest it offers.
Although it does look a tad ‘over-wheeled’, it compliments the car’s spoilers and splitters to give a 1990s Touring-car-esqué look and feel. This is further aided by the suspension changes, which see the tops of the tyres begin to disappear into the bodywork. That brings us on nicely to the mechanical changes of the car, starting with the lower ride height. This car sits on Schnitzer’s ‘racing’ suspension package, which consists of a replacement coilover setup that lowers the ride height by 30-40mm. The kit also offers adjustable compression and rebound damping for further fine tuning. Schnitzer says it is “suitable for normal road use, driving courses and track use. An ideal compromise between everyday practicality and motorsport fun”.
For those looking for a milder improvement Schnitzer is also offering a replacement spring kit designed for use with the existing #BMW dampers. This far simpler package lowers the car around 25- 30mm at the front and 10-15mm at the rear. Both suspension packages are sure to offer improved handling as they were developed and tested at the Nürburgring by Schnitzer’s own suspension team under the supervision of none other than chassis expert and Touring Car driver, Manfred Wollgarten.
Elsewhere, further modifications extend to the engine side of things. Here, #AC-Schnitzer has undertaken a performance upgrade that significantly increases power from 431hp to 510hp, which it makes higher up, from 6000-7000rpm. Likewise, torque has increased from 406lb ft to 476lb ft produced at a raised 4000rpm peak. The increase in power equates to improved performance, with 62mph arriving from rest 0.1 of a second quicker than standard at 4.0 seconds dead. But more telling is the 50-120mph time, which crumbles to just 6.2 seconds, an improvement of 1.7 seconds over a standard M4.
The Schnitzer exhaust rounds off the upgrades on offer, and the system consists of a dual sports rear silencer and sound pipe, which retains the valve control of the original BMW system. There’s also an export sound pipe option for a louder note and a choice of either Sport or Racing Evo Carbon tailpipe finishers, the latter of which is featured on this car. The ACS4 has plenty going on then, from suspension tweaks to floor mats, increased power to improved aero and, visually, it’s undoubtedly gorgeous, in a fully functional way. But the proof is in the pudding when it comes to a package like this, and I’m keen to try out the car for myself.
As soon as the photographs are done I grab the keys and nestle into the non-standard Recaro seats. They grip you reassuringly in all the right places, although it feels a little odd not using a proper harness with a bucket seat like this one. I’m warned the car is in track configuration, which means it’s been corner weighted and set to rather stiff suspension settings. Once in position, a press of the button the engine booms into life and I make my way towards the local hillside roads. Immediately it becomes clear that it’s actually the exhaust that dominates the driving experience in many ways. The soundtrack it emits has an angry undertone that snarls, cracks, pops and barks its way up and down the rev range. Its aggressive note suits the nature of the car and its sound is addictive; it’s fun gunning the throttle and then letting off just to hear the exhaust snap back like a cracked whip.
Burying the throttle also reveals the extra pulling power the car possesses. However, its character has changed slightly. You have to work the engine and gearbox a little harder to really highlight the increase, as the peak power and torque bands have risen notably. It still pulls hard and fast from low down, just like a normal M4, but it feels strongest as it approaches the limiter and clicking back the gearshift paddle to summon another cog reveals the car is only just getting into its stride in the lower gears. Even so, when stringing a couple of winding hill sections together, despite the slightly damp road, the car squirms a little before catapulting you towards the next corner with savage execution. Thankfully, the carbon ceramic brakes provide so much confidence you find yourself pushing the braking point further and harder at each corner, before turning in and straightening the wheel enough so you can feed the throttle in hard to repeat the process once again.
In this environment the suspension does feel too hard and it’s clearly out of its comfort zone as it skips and scrabbles around under power. But body roll is exceptionally controlled and the car feels absolutely rigid, making you feel utterly connected with the car. I’ve soon wasted a decent a chunk of fuel so make my way back to AC Schnitzer’s HQ whilst pondering how devastatingly effective the car must feel on a dry track where it would be able to truly flex its muscles. Despite demonstrating immense capability on these roads as a lightening-quick point-to-point car, it feels a little too focused for this environment. Of course, it would do, being in track mode, but it would be nice to really sample the full effects of the aero and suspension changes. Perhaps a back-to-back test with a standard M4 for a direct comparison is required, as I suspect the changes here are benefiting me much more than I realise.
Either way, the ACS4 is a monster of a car and the beauty of Schnitzer’s package is that the enhancements are, in fact, relatively simple. All are easy to fit, bolt-on parts and yet the car’s character, both visually and sensorially, has changed significantly. But then, it wasn’t going to take much to unleash the beast within…
AC Schnitzer UK
Tel: 01485 542000
AC Schnitzer (Germany)
Tel: +49 (0) 241 5688130
The carbon ceramic brakes provide so much confidence you find yourself pushing the braking point further and harder at each corner.
Schnitzer has undertaken a performance upgrade that significantly increases power.
Schnitzer’s forged rims are lightweight and certainly look the part; ceramic stoppers offer excellent retardation.
TECH DATA #2015 #AC-Schnitzer-ACS4-Sport F82 #BMW-M4-AC-Schnitzer
ENGINE: Twin-turbo, straight-six #S55B30 #S55B30-AC-Schnitzer
MAX POWER: 510hp
MAX TORQUE: 476lb ft
0-62MPH: 4.0 seconds
50-120MPH: 6.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
ENGINE: AC Schnitzer performance upgrade and exhaust system with valve control and Racing Evo carbon tailpipe trims.
WHEELS & TYRES: AC Schnitzer Type VIII lightweight forged in BiColour anthracite. Front: 9x21-inches with 255/30 R21 Continental CSC 5P tyres. Rear: 10x21-inches with 295/25 R21 Continental CSC 5P tyres.
SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer adjustable coilover ‘Racing’ package, lowered 30mm at the front and 40mm at the rear.
STYLING: AC Schnitzer carbon front spoiler elements, rear diffuser, upper rear spoiler, Racing front splitter, side wings, rear spoiler with higher struts, carbon fibre wing mirror covers, rear skirt protection film.
INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer aluminium pedal set and footrest, handbrake handle, key holder and floor mats.
To balance all of that front-end downforce there’s also plenty going on at the rear.
Schnitzer’s ‘Racing’ front spoiler for the M4 is a complex amalgam of parts with a carbon fibre main section to which is added a lower lip and small carbon winglets just ahead of the front wheels. It looks very purposeful and aggressive.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.