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The Utterly Delicious BMW 430i GranCoupe
The 430i highlights the confusing nomenclatures the Germans have inflicted on buyers over the last decade. The “even” numbers signified 2 door coupes, so when the 2, 4 and 6 series came out, they only had too doors. However, that shipped has sailed. There is now 4 and 6 series GranCoupes with 4 doors, and a 2 series mini people mover. While the latter is a hideous aberration, the 4 and 6 series are divine in every way.
The 430i has a coupe profile, so the low roofline swooping rearward means the headroom in the back is a bit snug. Getting in and out of the front seats requires a little extra effort too, the reward is worth it.
The 330i Sedan is a lovely thing indeed, but the exterior is a trifle conservative. It is light and nippy and incredibly comfortable to drive, but its looks feel a little bit done-before. Enter, the 430i. There is a 10 grand premium over the “sedan” bodied 330i. Both the 2 and 4 door 430i’s are the same price, $87,664 drive away in NSW. Auto makers know that 2 door cars have a limited appeal even in the jet-setting-singles-set. You and I might think “who cares what the people in the back think”, but most do, apparently.
In this case, even I might be tempted to put my tick next to the 4 door model.
Engines are the same across the 3 and 4 series range, as are the fuel figures and performance times.
Our 430i has a twin turbo 2.0l 185kw/350Nm 4-cylinder engine. It uses premium petrol, of course, at the rate of 5.8L/100k unless you’re doing the 0-100 of 5.9 seconds at every set of traffic lights. As you approach the 430i you notice it sits a bit lower than the sedan, and looks longer than the coupe. Somehow, BMW has taken the best bits of every car they ever made, and bunged it into a single model. It has the light feel of the i8, and the practicality of the 3 series, as well as the economy of a diesel (even though it runs on petrol).
The doors have frameless windows and feel as light as a feather when you open or close them. There are clever technologies sitting beneath the skin to improve the fuel consumption, performance, and longevity. It goes without saying that the electronics nannies try to stop you hitting things at low speed, and protect you in a cocoon of airbags if you hit things at high speed.
The Driving Experience Mode changes various settings between eco, normal and sporty. The throttle and steering alter to suit different moods. Sadly, the Radar Cruise control is only standard on the top model, the 430i. The same is true for semi-automated parking, connected drive, and the Harmon Kardon stereo. They have been fitted as optional extras to the test car.
There is keyless entry and start system is an option too, and is one worth getting. Your key need never leave your pocket. That’s a boon in wet weather believe me. You just run up to the car and grab the handle without fumbling about in your pocket.
The cabin has the premium look and feel of the rest of the BMW range. One or two of my passengers didn’t think much of it. They thought the centre console looked busy, but believe me, any of these functions consigned to menus will quickly become the bane of your life. There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, more annoying then switching between endless menus to change: the air conditioning speed or temperature, or radio stations. If you think you can do it with steering wheel buttons? Nope, think again. They have menus too. I’m swiftly moving to the opinion that building a cathedral would be easier than negotiating menus constantly.
The tablet style infotainment system with centre mounted console input is easy to use. You can use the mouse pad on the top of the centre knob between the front seats. Inputs such as Satnav can be done by drawing letters on the pad, but it is laborious in the extreme. It took about 3 times as long as typing the same address into google maps on an iphone. Most car systems have not yet caught up with the smartphones using the internet. Car systems must have all the smart stuff onboard, whereas smart phones use the collective wisdom of remote processing. Surely the car knows you’ve got internet access on your phone and can use the same thing?
There is no Apple Carplay, which is awkward when even entry level Holden Sparks have it. Actually, entry level Commodores have it too, and have automated parking thrown in for good measure. If cheap cars can do it, luxury brands should find it a doddle.
The radio has physical buttons for presets which gets big extra marks. Hoorah!
In recent years, the German brands have begun to include more and more features as standard, and BMW is no exception. Things like lane departure and rear cameras are now standard, and so they should be for the price. The camera also has a top-down 360 degree view function. That comes on very handy for parking, and spying on nephews trying to surprise you.
Despite 19” alloys with Run-Flat tyres, the ride is excellent. The handling might have suffered from compliant ride, but not in the 430i.
In tight corners, the BMW grips like a racecar, but without the awful harshness. If you encounter a rutty situation, you feel it but are not be catapulted into the shrubbery. I found myself programming the
“driving experience” system with the lightest steering possible. I know most of you are going to want the weighting you used to get with hydraulic steering, but you can’t have it. It is all fake. Any new car with electric power steering will try to simulate road feel. Many come close, including the 430i, but none feels quite the same. Before you say “Porsche does”, it doesn’t, it just doesn’t. As long as the handling doesn’t feel vague and disconnected, I am happy. There is nothing worse than dead, wooden steering.
The highway is thoroughly enjoyable. Most of the tarmac feels smooth, and although you can feel it through the seat of your pants, it is rarely intrusive. Only the most atrocious roads disturb the cabin atmosphere.
We did a country drive too. There are truly gorgeous parts of the country once you get off the mind numbing sameness of the highways. A trip to Brisbane or Melbourne is fabulous, but every single object of interest has been excised from the drive. Most of the rolling hills are now flatter than my shower ballads, and the pretty green fields may as well be on TV.
Turning off the Hume Highway onto some of the side roads is incredibly rewarding. The road down to the coast from Bowral travels through some of the most picturesque vistas in the country. There is the bucolic bliss of Sothern Highlands farms, the demented Macquarie Pass, and the salty goodness that is the Southern NSW coast. This car is built for this kind of Sunday excursion. In fact, it was so joyous, that a single trip through the pass only whetted an appetite for more twisty fun. The temptation is to go as fast as you possibly can, and on a dry road with no one else on it, perhaps you could do it. But, and it is a huge but, it isn’t just the road you have to worry about. The trees and boulders have a habit of throwing themselves into the path of the innocent. The slower corners are almost as much fun as the faster ones. As you switch direction one way then the other, the BMW responds almost as if being guided by magnets.
In time, a sense of invincibility overcomes you and you need to remind yourself that a drop of hundreds of metres awaits the careless and distracted. Many of the corners don’t even have guard rails. The pass runs through deep rain forest, and to add to the 100% immersive experience, there is slimy water at often inconvenient times. It streams across the road after even the lightest of showers. The speed limits are low, and on some corners, is no faster than walking pace. On this road, and in these conditions, the 430i was in complete control.
The automatic has steering wheel mounted paddle controls ,and it is tempting to use them while climbing mountains. If you slip the joystick sideways, you find a very satisfying Sport Mode for the auto. It does a brilliant job of anticipating the needs of the most demanding of drivers. It changes down as corners loom into view, and holds gear as you slingshot out the other side. Unlike gearboxes of the past, it holds the gear if you backoff in corners that are close together. The longer you drive it, the better it gets. Importantly, it doesn’t often get caught in the wrong gear. If it does, kickdown is as fast as one of those new-fangled double-clutch jobbies.
The lightness of the steering and the precise feel of the brakes is a perfect match for the firm feeling through the chassis. It wills you on, and you have to work hard to stay calm. It would be very easy to take it by the throat to drive on the raggedy edge.
For those of you who know Sydney, there was the tiniest hiccup, and you’ll know where we mean. We were heading up on to the ANZAC bridge, and had stopped at the lights just near the fish markets. We were at the front in the left-hand lane and took off as expected. A moment later, we began to round the curve on to the entrance ramp. We were still accelerating, but the BMW mistook the cars in the lane next to us as threats. It is the first time I’ve experienced emergency-autonomous-braking in a real-life situation. Read lights flashed on the HUD, the acceleration evaporated, and braking commenced. In a split second, the 430i had a big rethink. “No”, it thought, “no, on second thoughts those nasty old cars are in the right lane after all. WHOOPSIES”. Full control was returned to me, but only after making some brown stains come.
The 330i Sedan is fun. It is a brilliant drive. But, the 430i GranCoupe has the kudos of the Sedan. It dials up the sex appeal with a curvaceous low roof slung over a beautiful set of frameless windows. Big 19” wheels make the 430i look like one of those car drawings we used to do on our school books. Concept drawings rarely make it to fruition, but this one did.
Normally, I’d pooh-pooh a 4-cylinder car with sporting pretentions, but much has changed since the turn of the millennium. Big capacity normally aspirated engines are on the way out. V8’s and their hairy-chesty, masculine roar, are almost gone. Likewise, big 6’s and their throaty raspiness are being relegated to the dustbin of history. 4-cylinder turbos get upwards of 150 kw while using much less fuel, I suppose it’s not a bad thing. The 430i puts a decent 185kw through an incredibly smooth 8 speed automatic that would be very comfortable cruising cross country. It is just a bonus that it is even better in bends.
My concern with the interior is that shiny surfacing might look shabby after a few years. The test car had some nasty scratches on the centre console’s wood trim. The same goes for piano-black, and even for metal-look finishes: once scratched, they look tatty. Matte finishes still show wear, but it is much less pronounced. You’ll also notice the fine “holographic” effect in the photos. This is the result of normal use. Someone has put a bag on the console and dragged it to the other seat, and it will only get worse. It is also on the doors and dash. I knew of an elderly Boxster whose interior had lived with a clueless owner. She would shriek at a chipped nail, but thought nothing of dragging all manner of flotsam around in the car. She complained that the trim didn’t look as fresh as when she bought it, as if it was a complete surprise.
None of that matters to a careful owner.
Apart from a blemish which is in no way its fault, the 430i is brilliant and I would have one tomorrow. It is good on fuel, good in the bends, and good on the open road. The cabin is cosy without being cramped, and it is achingly beautiful in a way the Sedan can’t match.
Would I buy one? Yes.
MRLP without options added*
Options fitted to this vehicle:
19” BMW M light alloy wheels, Star-spoke 403M
Innovations Package (incl. Seat heating for driver and front passenger, Active Cruise Control, Parking Assistant and harman/kardon Surround Sound System)
Interior trim Fine-wood trim ‘Fineline’ Anthracite
M Sport Package:
BMW Individual High-Gloss Shadow Line
BMW Individual roofliner Anthracite
M Aerodynamics package
M leather steering wheel
Leather ‘Dakota’ upholstery
MRLP with options added*
*PLUS ONROAD COSTS
Engine: twin turbo 2.0l, 4-cylinder, 185kw/350Nm
Performance: 0-100 of 5.9