Every now and again, we get invites to quick test-drive events, and for the most part we simply ignore them. But when BMW invited us to test out the new 435i M Sport along with its nearest competitor, the 2014 Audi S5 , I would have been nuts to say "no." In one corner is the newest Bimmer with 300 horses coming from its TwinPower Turbo I-6 and all the cool little M Sport bits — brakes, wheels, suspension, etc. In the other corner is the tried-and-true Audi S5 with 333 horses and 325 pound-feet of torque.
This battle of German midsize coupes also includes a battle of power-generating philosophies. From Bimmer you have the new-age twin-scroll turbocharging system and from Audi you have the old, faithful supercharger. Many years ago there was no contest between the two, because the supercharger had no lag, while older turbos had serious lag issues, resulting in slower initial launches while the exhaust gases get the turbo spooling. The introduction of twin-scroll turbocharging and BMW’s perfection of the technology has rendered this a non-issue.
Both the 435i and the S5 are outstanding rigs and do the job of combining performance and luxury well without pushing the bounds of comfort like the wild RS5 and M4 . But which one is the victor in this quick, five-mile-long test in city traffic?
Click past the jump to find out.
2014 435i M Sport
Oh, and let's not forget that awesome Sport+ mode that totally thrashed the relatively child-like "Sport" mode in the S5
The 435i M Sport is the cheaper of the two by a good bit — about $5k — giving it a head start on the Audi. The BMW 435i M Sport also feels sportier, thanks to sport seats, lower ride height and stiffer suspension. Oh, and let’s not forget that awesome Sport+ mode that totally thrashed the relatively child-like "Sport" mode in the S5 and slammed me into my seat on each shift. The 435i also gave a nice growl on downshifts, and the response going into turns felt much better than the S5, thanks to the near 50-50 weight split.
The sport seats felt rather stiff after only a few miles and made me wonder how they might feel after a few hours on the road. Additionally, the black Sensatec upholstery with the black, high-gloss accents made the Bimmer’s cabin really boring. Basically, it was just a sea-of-black with a few small silver highlights that bordered on cheap-feeling for a $47,000 car. Also, that large display in the center of the dash was great, but the backlighting was very dim.
2014 Audi S5
The Alcantara felt nice on my back, and helped keep me cool in the hot, Florida sun
The S5 felt a lot faster, though Audi rates it at just 0.1 seconds faster to 60 mph than the 435i. It’s surprising just how much more pull the S5 had, despite being nearly 250 pounds heavier than the 435i. Additionally, sitting in the S5’s cabin I felt more coddled and comfy. The Alcantara felt nice on my back, and helped keep me cool in the hot, Florida sun, plus that flat-bottom steering wheel felt much nicer in my hands than the BMW’s plain-Jane wheel. Finally, the display screen was bright and easy to read, despite being much smaller than the BMW’s screen.
BMW's Steptronic eight-speed actually felt better, as shocking as it may sound.
Price!!! I was shocked to see how much more the S5 was than the 435i M Sport. A few thousand bucks is one thing, but $5k... phew. Then again, there was that sweet Alcantara and a far more luxurious-looking cabin, but not five grand worth of luxury. Also, not to say the S tronic dual-clutch transmission is bad, but the BMW’s Steptronic eight-speed actually felt better, as shocking as it may sound. Finally, the S5 had some serious understeer heading into corners with any speed. Much like Mark said in the Podcast, that pushed-forward engine to make room for the quattro AWD really lets the nose drag the rest of the car wide through the turns.
And the Winner is...
My drive was only a few miles long and I didn’t get any track time to really push these two, but in city driving, I would prefer to have the S5. It is more comfortable, you feel like you are in a higher-end car from the inside, and that quattro AWD is a thing of beauty. The BMW ’s cheaper-feeling cabin, ho-hum steering wheel and prodding lumbar support were just too much for the sportier feel to overcome. I want sporty, but I also want to feel comfortable in the city, and the S5 seems the better combination.
435i M Sport Still has a Place
I am not saying not to buy the 435i M Sport, because it certainly has its own little place in the market. And that is in the garage of a 20-something executive who drives a curvy mountain road each and every day and is willing to sacrifice a lot of comfort for added performance.