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I can’t believe the BMW M4 is based on this 430i Coupe

The BMW 430i xDrive Coupe might be a BMW, but it's lacking a lot of things basic BMWs used to have, like a fun-to-drive feeling.

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Something has happened. I’ll bet you’ve noticed too. Things. They have become expensive. Interest rates – up, a lot. Amid all this financial strife sits the average car. You know, the one that you rely on every day to do everything, including making you feel some type of way behind the wheel. Well, this BMW 430i xDrive Coupe fails in that mission.

Has the basic BMW become just…basic?

BMW 430i Coupe

2023 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe Quick Take

Get one:

Uh, it’s not bad-looking. Good gas mileage. Whack of torque off the line. Maybe get it with an M Sport Package and fool your neighbors.

Don’t get one:

Mediocre BMW engine. Poorly-sorted driving dynamics. Numb steering. Seats built for sliding your rear, not sliding the rear.

Soul Score: 4

Hard to believe they Optimus-Primed the M4 from this.

The 2023 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe overview

BMW 430i Coupe

Cars that go Mach Jesus are fun. But the long-established problem is that on a public road, Mach Jesus isn’t legal. Or cheap.

And sometimes, I really do just want to run an errand, so going supersonic is not something I’m interested in. In the same way I don’t always feel the urge to put on my fancy pants to go out all the time, I don’t always need a car that will draw eyeballs or melt my face. Just like, please get me there in peace.

But that doesn’t mean putting on sweat pants should make me look frumpy. No offense to a Nissan Rogue, but nothing says “I’ve given up” quite like a mid-size crossover under $30,000. That means you may end up in a car like this BMW 430i xDrive Coupe, thinking you’re getting a sports coupe.

BMW 430i Coupe

Spend more on a 4 Series, and you’ll start to enter that supersonic territory. But a base BMW such as this, with almost no options, still rings up at just over $55,000. That means the B48 turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 18-inch wheels with all-season tires, and no sport suspension. But if you think this is going to feel like a 530i, with similar running gear, guess again.

Maybe a Rogue is the way to go…

Performance: 4. The way you make me feel

Totally fine that this 430i won’t induce nose bleeds – that’s not what the average score is for. Instead, it’s how sloppy the driving experience is. I’ve put a ton of miles on “basic” BMWs and enjoyed them, so what’s missing here?

Engine

BMW 430i Coupe
Roar! *Laughs out loud*

To make a 2.0 liter B48 engine, BMW essentially lops off two cylinders from a B58. It’s a good motor – much better than the N20 it replaced. It’s just not a good motor in the 430i.

Press the start button and bring the B to life with its typical meeeeeeh cold start. Once underway, it’s a buzzy, noisy thing that never encourages you to rev it. 255 horsepower is available by 5,000 RPM, while 295 lb-ft of torque (exactly matching an E9X M3) is there almost off idle. That peppiness off the line falls away as you climb up the tach, so you really don’t want to push it hard. Ever. Even at idle, the car uncharacteristically shakes – not a smooth idler like an inline-six.

BMW 430i Coupe
The tach climbs lazily to redline. You never want to rev it.

The sound a four-cylinder makes is usually less inspiring, and in the 4 it’s downright raucous. The differences from a 5 Series is obvious, be it in sound deadening, engine damping or power delivery. And oh, by the way, this engine is much more powerful in the 4. Doesn’t make a difference.

Transmission

BMW 430i Coupe
I don’t know what to tell you – be glad it’s not back on the steering column yet.

It’s pretty hard to screw up the ZF transmission, and it’s once again up to par on the 430i. Here, it mostly stays out of the way, with a focus more on efficiency than offering snappy up-shifts.

On the steering wheel are the same paddle shifters you get whether you’re in this 4 Series or an M8 – plastic and uninspiring to touch. I doubt you’ll be using them much. That’s a shame, because BMW has yet again taken more real controls away in the form of the shifter. You get an indented switch that works like the old auto shifter – push forward for reverse, tug back for drive, now press P for park (right next to a blank button so you can get mixed up easily).

I’m ok with this, I guess. On one hand, it opens up the center console all the way, great if you like to hold your beau’s hand while driving. But if, like me, you enjoyed resting your hand on that knob, well, tough shift.

Steering and chassis

BMW 430i Coupe
Provides slow reactions, with no feedback.

We’ve had some modern BMWs with great steering, but the 430i takes us backwards. It’s dead on center without much feel, which is typical of BMW, but the looseness present here is new. The precise feeling you get elsewhere in the lineup is nowhere to be found. Turn the wheel a few degrees, wait…wait…ah, then the change in direction happens.

Is it a result of the 18-inch P225/45 all-season tires? They probably don’t help, but it’s hard to put it all on them (45 is, after all, a low-profile tire). It could be the 3,700-lb curb weight, which is just about 100 pounds less than my M3. But mainly, I blame the suspension.

BMW 430i Coupe

Nothing different here from any other BMW, with struts up front and a multi-link in the rear, but it’s not calibrated correctly. This car is stiffer than a 330e, despite the absence of a sport suspension. It also lacks the refinement of the 530i, because every impact is felt, and every road zit causes the chassis to become unsettled. Despite the harshness, this thing leans over in turns and dare I say offers a squishy driving experience.

This is easily the worst part of the car, and whatever they’ve changed from the 3 Series should be reverted back post haste.

Brakes

BMW 430i Coupe
Vented discs all around, but nothing fancy.

I can’t just write “they’re fine” here and leave you alone with your thoughts, as tempting as it is. Though they are simply fine – usually if I don’t write anything in my test drive notes, they drew no attention to themselves. Pedal feel it typical Beemer – a bit soft, but dig deeper and they will work just fine.

Was a 2001 325Ci this bad? Absolutely not – they aren’t even on the same planet in terms of driving engagement. It’s pretty sexist to call the 430i a “hairdresser’s car”, but what  I can call it is an appliance for the road camouflaged in a somewhat swoopy body. Whom it’s supposed to please, I am not sure.

Utility Score: 7. Three plus one is 4

BMW 430i Coupe
The trunk is average in size, better than the 8 Series Coupe.

Having recently driven the M8 Coupe, this 4 Series actually feels more useful, despite its smaller size. There’s more room in the back, the trunk isn’t as shallow, and the roof line isn’t quite so low. There’s also the helpful seat belt butlers so you don’t have to reach back all the way, something BMW oddly omitted on the 8 Series Coupe.

BMW 430i Coupe
I missed this!
BMW 430i Coupe
A sloped rear makes the back less inviting than an old E92 was.

Some weird things are also here. Pull on the handle to release the seatback and allow access to the rear, and wait while the front seat motors. Slowly. Out. Of. The. Way. This isn’t a car you want to hop into the back of often. If it’s just you and a buddy up front, you’ll find easily the worst seats BMW currently makes – even the 2 Series felt more supportive. BMW makes lumbar support an option now, and they don’t hold you in place at all during the admittedly limited maneuvers the 430i can pull off.

BMW 430i Coupe
Some of the worst seats BMW makes.

Yes, this might be a base model, but it’s a $55k one, and there are some things BMW should be including as standard.

Fuel Economy: 8. Read the fine M print

BMW 430i Coupe
The M3 is at 279 miles of range full.

Every car has at least one redeeming feature, and in the 430i, it’s fuel economy. The EPA tells us 27 combined and up to 33 on the highway, and I can confirm the needle hardly moved in the 50 miles I drove the car.

All this with the same amount of torque that an S65 V-8 produced. Of course, you get good mileage because you don’t need (or want) to rev it. Was it worth it BMW?

Ah but, hold your 255 horses. An M440i, with a much better B58, will get a combined 25 MPG, just two less than this engine. There’s no comparison between the driving experience the two engines offer, so if you can squeeze $12,000 more for the 440i, please do it. You get a lot of stuff in the M, so optioning up the 430i will quickly equal things out.

Features and Comfort: 6. A little for a lot

BMW 430i Coupe

You can option out a BMW 430i xDrive Coupe to $65,000, and I can think of so many cars I’d rather point you to at that price. But go too far the other way, and you don’t have Comfort Access, Lumbar Support…heated seats?

Michael D and the sorcerer’s interface

BMW 430i Coupe
What in tarnation…

It’s hard to fault the overall fit and finish of this 4 Series – you know by now what you’re getting with a BMW. But this is an entry-level luxury car, so you really can’t buy one for the base price of $51,900. Once you pick a few packages, you’ll feel better – literally, since you’ll get some heated seats and a steering wheel, the aforementioned lumbar support, and the ability to leave your key in your pocket.

BMW 430i Coupe
Mocha Sensatec on Alpine is meh.
BMW 430i Coupe
The seat belt butler returns!
BMW 430i Coupe
I believe Sensatec works better than leather, and looks just as good

Also here is our good friend iDrive 8, and I’ll admit that it’s slightly better without the M interface I had in the M2. But that’s not saying much – it’s still haphazard, slow to learn, and hilariously bricked (froze) during my time with the car. The only way to fix it was to pull over and cycle through the power. Petrificus Totalus!

Skips leg day

BMW 430i Coupe
The grille looks a bit out of place here.

I’m cool with the big face on the M3 and M4 by now, and I think everyone else is too. But on a regular 4 Series that’s not as wide or bulked up, it gives the impression of a dude that skips leg day. “Babes only care about jacked arms.”

BMW 430i Coupe
The M4 gets the same headlights as the standard option.
BMW 430i Coupe
BMW has taken to adding a lot of these fake vents throughout.

It’s not a bad-looking car, and Alpine White fits everything, even if it’s on everything. But there’s no Shadowline trim, carbon fiber, spoilers or diffusers anywhere, giving this coupe the road presence of a can of tuna. I’d be more ok with this if the driving experience was at least somewhat elevated.

The BMW 430i xDrive Coupe is dangerously close to a soulless rental car

BMW 430i Coupe

A long time ago Nissan gave berth to the 350Z, and in that car, they decided that every level of trim gets the same engine and suspension. You didn’t need to add options and packages to feel like you were driving a Z.

I’m not asking for the S58 to be installed in a 430i, that would be missing the point. But what do you get for your still sizeable investment? A buzzy four-cylinder engine that isn’t even on par with other base BMW models? Generic looks that feel out of place? An interior with seats that don’t hold you in place during even the mildest maneuvers?  I’d rather BMW raise the base price by $5,000 and include some things that make you feel like you’ve actually purchased a BMW.

BMW 430i Coupe

The $50s is sort of an odd price point – do you go lower and grab a WRX? Can you go higher and sneak in an M440i? Either choice would be better.

This isn’t a bad car by any means. But for what you expect with that badge on the back, it doesn’t deliver, and sometimes that can be a bigger sin.

BMW 430i Coupe

2023 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe

Specifications

Vehicle Type: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, two-door, four-passenger coupe.

PRICE

Base: $51,900
As tested: $55,695

POWERTRAIN

2.0 liter turbocharged inline-four
255 @ 5,000 RPM
295 @ 1,550 RPM
Eight-speed automatic transmission

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Length: 187.9 in
Width: 72.9 in
Height: 54.8 in
Curb Weight: 3,708 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 27 / 23 / 33 MPG

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