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North by northwest

Driving from Vancouver to Seattle in BMW’s new 4 Series

Author John Scott Lewinski Illustration Brett Affrunti


Starting price: $46,925


The 2014 BMW 435i faces no small task: replacing the luxury 3 Series, which debuted its first boxy sport coupé in 1975. Recently, the German automaker made several of the first 4 Series models available in downtown Vancouver, B.C. We drove one due south to bohemian Seattle.

The new chassis is 60 percent more rigid than the one on the 3 series, with 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution. Also, the car’s center of gravity has dropped one inch from that of its predecessor, offering improved aerodynamics and stability, which were great for mountain passes.

The route through northern Washington offered the perfect opportunity to tap into the 4 Series’ sport-tuned, adaptive damper-aided suspension. We felt planted to the asphalt and confident we wouldn’t fall into Puget Sound while zipping along the twisty roads.

auto4Sound System
When entering Seattle, we made sure to have Nirvana’s Nevermind blasting from the 435i’s Harman Kardon surround-sound system. It features a powerful 600 W amplifier and 16 speakers, including a tweeter in the instrument panel and two woofers under the front seats.

The 3 Series was never the showiest ride, with elegant lines but few flourishes. This new Bimmer honors the automaker’s sportier past with air scoops and dual door-panel grooves, which fit in nicely among the yachts and seaplanes of Vancouver Harbour.

The roads leading to the U.S. border traverse remote pine forests, which is where we tested the 300-horsepower, turbocharged six-cylinder engine. As soon as we reached a patch of highway free of stop signs, one pedal-stomp brought us from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds.

The luxurious interior doesn’t quite fit in the birthplace of grunge, but dot-com billionaires will approve. And the folks at Boeing will appreciate the cockpit-inspired design. Another feature tailor-made to the Northwest: a windshield misting sensor.

The analog speedometer and tachometer may be throwbacks, but the touchscreen kept us grounded in the present and connected to the Internet. BMW Apps let us send a message to Facebook friends. “Hey, FB hive: Any Seattle restaurant recommendations?” Isla Manila it is.

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