Day 1 and Background
Hello all! As I promised everyone I am doing my full write up on the 4 Series Drive that I had with Autoweek and BMW. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in my life.. and I am still coming down from the great time I had!
Note: I am not a profesional writer by any means, and I am bad at attaching pics. I also am a recent BMW enthusiast. I have owned my E92 since March of 2009, so I only have 4 years of BMW driving under my belt.
My day started with a 359 mile drive from York, PA to Alton, VA to Virginia International Raceay. It took me about 6 hours to get there, plus or minus a few pit stops. (In my '09 E92 335) Upon arriving the scrolling neon sign said 'Welcome Autoweek Advisors' and I could barely even sign the waiver to drive on the track I was either so tired from driving or just plain excited to be there!
I went straight to my room to find a bag of goodies on my bed that included a fleece jacket, a $50 gift card, name tag; and an iPad Mini charging on my night stand!!!!! (yes I got a free ipad Mini; it made the long drive worth it) I then got ready and made it to the Oak Tree Inn for Dinner and got to meet 3 of the cars in person! One thing I have to say is no picture I post or you will see online will do any of these cars justice. They just look SO good in person. The Mineral grey was amazing, and the Melbourne red blew all the advisors away.. We loved it! We were then all interviewed about our background on cars and what our first impressions of the 4 were.
The one thing that amazed me the most was how many people were working in the background. There must have been 20 plus people at all times following us around, taking pictures, interviewing us, ect. On the road drive we had 5 cars leading and following us.. Crazy. So much work was really put into this event. There was even a remote controlled drone flying over the track with a go pro attached to it. Crazy stuff!! The last thing I will say about it before I get into the cars is: The whole event was set up by BMW. They asked Autoweek to pick the drivers. I was one of 8 out of 600 that were sent emails asking us to apply. BMW Media reps told us that the track was paid for by BMW because they wanted the average person to drive the car and get feedback if the '4 series' name change would be accepted in the states with the years and years of the 3 series coupe 10 best awards.
OK. Day 2! Let's talk about cars! I drive a 335 E92. You can see the specs in my signature. I love my car and I have driven a F30 loaner for 2 weeks. I did feel the steering was light, and not the same as my E9x. It felt bloated to me also. I still loved the car but it felt different, so I was excited to see if the 4 felt better. After getting some track driving tips by 3 BMW professional drivers, we were then taken outside to see all 5 cars! We then were introduced to all 5 of them by the BMW product specialist from Germany. There were 2, 428 sports, 1, 428 xDrive, and 1, 435 Sport, and 1, 428 Msport. I was surprised we only had 1 435, but I wasn't complaining. I was still in shock.
The Product Specialist began to explain the 4 series to us. How it is only 1 inch longer than the current E92 and how it is lower and has the lowest center of gravity any current BMW on the market. He also said it does not share one body panel from the F30. He also said the steering has been changed from the 3 to the 4. He said it has more of a sporty feel and when it sport mode it turns quicker off the bat, but then gets tighter; which I definitely noticed!! I did get a chance to ask the product specialist about the M Sport Brakes. He wasn't sure about if they were a separate package or they came with the M Sport automatically; as they were on the black M Sport 428. He was going to send me a follow up email, but I forgot to grab his email address. I did ask him about the N54 vs. N55 debate as I drive an N54. I promise you I am not making this up: He proceeded to tell me N54 can make more power than the N55. BMW switched to the N55 for fuel savings, emissions, and for valvetronic; but it still makes almost as much power at the N54 with a larger power band. (I promise he did say this!!!!)
We then were partnered up and took the cars out on the road with a train of media cars in front and back of us. We stopped several times and swapped cars, and drivers as we had 4 cars, and 8 of us. Plus the lead 4 series was driven by the BMW driver. On the road I only drove the 428. First impressions were: The car felt lighter than mine (yes I did drive both the xdrive and the Sport 428) One thing about the xDrive 428 is that the revs kind of just hung there and wouldn't up or downshift as the Sport 428's did. Both my partner and I complained about that, however the xDrive did handle great and felt lighter and way more nimble than my 335 xdrive E92.
The N20 was louder than the one in my F30 loaner and it had more of a 'grunt' to it. It sounded almost like a 6 cylinder to me, and my partner who drove a supercharged Camaro SS to the event (LOL) agreed. I was impressed. Then I realized the steering felt like my E92.. After all the complaints on the F30 it had a great road feel to it. It was even tighter when you put it in sport and sport plus mode. They made us even drive over a rough patch of road to get the feel of the car's steering. Also get a feel of how the suspension changed from Comfort to Sport and Sport plus. Comfort felt tight, but took the bumps in a great fashion. Sport seemed to almost lower the car and plant in to the road and you could just feel everything on the road. I did forget he also mentioned the 4 is only 1 inch longer with a wider track. I can say on the road it felt the same size as my E92, and it felt lower and way more stable. I am still impressed by it. We had it on back roads and out on the highway. The whole time with camera crews buzzing past us making me feel like a celebrity. I only drove the 428 on the road courses, and the 428 felt very quick. The N20 is an amazing engine and I will take it any day over the N52. Sorry for you N52 lovers, but so much more power and response.
Track Evaluation and Professional Driver Ride-Alongs
OK, now into track driving. (I had the 435 during this time. The 435 felt amazing with the 19 inch rims and was loaded to the brim with the upfront camera's and touch pad iDrive. All the cars actually had the touch pad iDrive. I won't bore you with the iDrive, but it is amazing)
Disclaimer: This was the first time I have ever driven on a track.. so I had no idea what to expect. We first had lunch then went right into a quick track lesson. Once onto the track we had 3 different sections with challenges to get to learn the car: Track A 0-65 then 65-0 stop. The car stops on a dime. I kept stopping short every time not realizing how well it handled. We then had a 65 to 0 hard stop and turn. Again I wouldn't let the car do the work as it just handeled so well. (the 428's all had the sport brakes minus the xDrive, so they had the same brake package as the 435) We then also had a quick slalom; and we ran the car in Sport + mode for all events. The sport plus would let us wag the tail in all cars; even the xDrive. Sport + would always let you get away with just enough fun, but save you from killing yourself.
The next and most fun part of the day was us following the Priofesional driver around VIR. (Please to go my Instagram: 'Michaelvamp' with some quick 13 second videos. I will post some here if I can, but they are all too long.) They drivers taught us how to 'hit the apex' on turns and follow them. I had trouble learning this at first but caught on. We were driving around VIR doing 115-120 on the straight stretches and burying the corners. It was AMAZING. Better than any roller coaster ride I have ever been on. I drove both the 428 sport, the 435 sport, and the 428 xDrive around the track. I can tell you now the 428 xDrive suspension would out handle my 335 xDrive suspension all day. The xDrive suspension felt lower and 3 times better. You could get the xDrive drifting all 4 wheels in the corners, and this might have had to do with the all season tires on the car. All other 4 cars had run flat summer tires. I guess I forgot to mention that the run flats felt great too. Nothing like the summer run flats that came with my E92 that felt like cement..
One amazing thing was how the professional driver would pull away from me in the 435 while he was driving the Melbourne Red 428 sport. A professional driver in a 428 will murder an average driver like me in a 435 all day.. On the track the difference in power was so negligible between the 5 cars. From the 0 to 65 stop/start exercise all drivers complained of initial turbo lag on the 428's compared to the N55's power. Plus the N55 sounded like sex.. Even the pro drivers were like 'wow' that engine is so sexy. Not to take anything away from the 428 which also sounded great which you'll hear in any videos on my Instagram, and I will also update the thread with AutoWeek's videos when they are emailed to me first.
My final impression of the 4series compared the E92: The Steering is perfect. BMW did something that corrected whatever they messed up. The suspension is 3 times as good as my E92's. The car just feels so planted, and lowered; while not making you feel like you're sitting on the road. The engines all around were great. The N20 is an amazing engine. From the F30 loaner I had for 2 weeks (when my dealer backed an X5 into my E92) sounded like a different motor. It was louder, didn't have that 'ticking' sound, and it seemed to just pull harder. The N55 in the 435 felt so balanced and great. Like I said before the motor has NO lag, but I would need the PPK on the engine. I did post a week ago about the PPK going up to 335hp. This is incorrect accoring to the BMW Product Specialst from Germany. He said to power bump got lost in translation from from Europe, and It is still 320hp for the PPK.
At the end of the track day we had a quick slalom challenge which I came in 4th or 5th probably out of 5. We had an exit interview, then we were alolwed time to freshen up and head to a very nice dinner a few miles away from VIR. All dinner and drinks paid for by AutoWeek. At dinner I had time to speak to the BMW media specialists. They swore they knew nothing about the current M4. I did ask the product specialst and he just smiled at me, so I think he knew a lot more. They did say the cars literally got off the boat Friday night before the event, and they had to drive them from BMWUSA in NJ to VIR. They said the whole way people were attacking them on the highway and cutting between the train of 4 series driving on the highway to the event. Kind of neat.
Please feel free to PM or ask me questions on here. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, and we were treated like rock stars for 48 hours. BMW and AutoWeek really cared about our feedback on the cars. I will be buying a Mineral Grey 435 M Sport PPK xDrive with Coral Leather in about 12 months.