NEW YORK — She said I had become a child — “worse than a 9-year-old boy.” I could not argue with her assessment.
A smile fixed my face the entire 200 miles I was behind the wheel of the 2014 BMW 435i coupe. I was giddy with expletive-laden exclamation every time I felt the thrust of the car’s 300-horsepower six-cylinder engine and heard the deep, authoritative baritone of its exhaust note. Like a child, I wanted more.
But we were in radical role reversal on this trip. An adult daughter, who will be known only as “Little Lillian” in this space, because she is too embarrassed to be identified by her real name, had serious business to attend to. I volunteered as her chauffeur, because I wanted to give the 435i a long run along the highways of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Little Lillian, so named because she is a facial and attitudinal replica of my late mother, Lillian Brown, was all about business. So was I — just a different sort.
“Must you keep making that noise?” she asked, as what I considered a gentle push on the accelerator brought forth another robust exhaust note.
“I’m doing nothing,” I protested. “I’m barely touching the pedal,” which was true, and also very pleasing and exciting to the touch.
“Behave!” she shouted. “You are going 67 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone. Behave! You’re acting worse than a 9-year-old boy with a new toy car. Stop it, Dad!” she ordered.
I tried to comply, but I found it difficult. The 435i is such a wonderful piece of functional motorized art — outfitted with a direct-injection straight six-cylinder gasoline engine (300 horsepower, 300 pound-feet of torque); overall lightweight body construction, including carbon-ceramic brakes that improve handling; and an electronically adaptable suspension that serves well on the severely potholed post-winter roads of the New York-Connecticut region.
Let me not forget the 435i driver’s seat. It is perfectly sculpted for long, fast highway runs — for maintaining firm and comfortable control of the driver’s body and, thus, enhancing the driver’s control of the car over long runs. Little Lillian, my front passenger on this trip, praised the seats, too. “I don’t feel thrown around in this one,” she said.
Being in the 435i almost made me forgive BMW for its financially irritating practice of loading its automobiles with extras that, I think, should be offered as standard equipment — considering the usually higher-than-average prices charged for BMW automobiles. But I think I can see how BMW’s management manages to wriggle out of that argument: In terms of driving competence and fun, the company routinely offers extraordinary cars that tend to have better driving technology, such as carbon-ceramic brakes, than many rivals.
The irritant is that BMW uses that advantage to load up on everything else — onboard navigation, seat heat, backup cameras, the works. The pricing of this week’s subject vehicle, the 2014 435i is instructive.
To wit, it starts as the quite likable BMW 4-Series (base 428i with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine — 241 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque) for what seems like a reasonable offer at $40,500. But that quickly rises to $46,000 for the more powerful 435i. Add the Sport trim package and its accoutrements — onboard navigation, Dakota leather seats, blind-spot warning and other “driver assistance” items — and you wind up paying nearly $60,000.
I have no problems with companies charging extra for options ordered. I just think there are way too many options at BMW. At the very least, the company should consider reducing the complexity and confusion of its option lists. Doing so could make the return to childhood behind the wheel of something such as the BMW 435i a lot more pleasurable.