No plugs please
BMW's promise of 'Sheer Driving Pleasure' finds classic expression in the 4 Series Coupe
published : 6 Feb 2023 at 04:30
newspaper section: Life
writer: Kingsley Wijayasinha
German luxury carmaker BMW has several electric models in its line-up, ranging from mild hybrids to plug-in hybrids and EVs.
But while electrification is the most common way for carmakers to lower emissions, not all of us get a jolt from the new technology.
For example, while hybrid systems do offer good acceleration and lower fuel consumption, they also add much weight to the vehicle, which in turn affects the driving dynamics, especially while cornering or braking.
Well, for those who want a classic BMW that's non-hybrid and still stands by the marque's "Sheer Driving Pleasure" slogan, the 4 Series Coupe is for you.
The previous 3 Series Coupe (particularly the 328i with in-line-six engine) was a safe bet for anyone who wanted a good-looking car with outstanding handling and performance. But in 2014, BMW decided to remove the coupe from the official 3 Series line-up and redesigned it as the 4 Series.
So the 4 Series Coupe (codenamed G22) is basically the coupe version of the 3 Series (G20) that gets bolder styling elements to reflect its sporty character.
The second-generation 4 Series has been around for a couple of years now. In Thailand, BMW offers the 430i Coupe M Sport priced at 4,139,000 baht as well as the 430i Convertible M Sport (G23) priced at 4,539,000 baht. Unlike 4 Series models with larger engines, the 430i models are powered by turbocharged 2.0-litre engines with no 48V hybrid assistance.
Much change has been taking place at BMW's design studios in recent years, and one of the most debated topics has to be the humongous front grille of the 4 Series that doesn't serve much purpose other than styling.
Although "form follows function" was one of BMW's core design philosophies, perhaps things have changed.
The Bugs Bunny-type grille isn't a new concept though, having been taken from the vintage BMW 328 produced in 1930.
The large kidney grille treatment is also applied to other models such as the new 7 Series (including the i7 electric car) and X5 crossover, although smaller models like the 2 and 3 Series are spared from this trend.
Another piece of bad news is that the iconic Hofmeister Kink on the C-pillar has been replaced, killing off decades of BMW design tradition.
In terms of dimensions, the 430i M Sport is longer and wider than the 3 Series sedan. It has a length of 4,768mm and a width of 1,852mm, along with a wheelbase of 2,851mm, which is longer than the 3 Series saloon's 4,713mm. It also sits 57mm lower than the G20, resulting in a centre of gravity that's 21mm lower, which should translate into better roadholding.
As for weight, the 430i M Sport hit the scales at 1,545kg compared to 1,745kg for the M340i xDrive and 1,845kg for the 330e.
The exterior also features LED lighting, M Aerodynamics package, and 19in M light alloy wheels with 225/40 ZR19 tyres up front and 255/35 ZR19 tyres at the rear.
Also at the rear there's a powered tailgate, grey bumper insert and serious-looking exhaust system (good thing there are no fake exhaust tips). The size of the luggage compartment is satisfactory, holding up to 440 litres.
Meanwhile, the cockpit comes with the high level of luxury you'd expect from a BMW. There are soft-touch areas all around the cabin and even the plastics on the lower door panel are of high quality.
Behind the multifunction M Sport steering wheel is a digital display with BMW Live Cockpit Professional featuring an octagonal screen with speedometer and rev counter on each side, while the space in between is used for maps.
This is probably the worst layout ever from BMW as it's impossible to follow the speed and engine revs (unless you have heads-up display), and even in sport mode nothing changes except for the red background colour. You can select a sport display on the 10.25-inch centre screen and get readouts for g-force, turbo boost, oil temp, torque and power, but again it's not easy to look at when driving fast and so is pretty useless.
What BMW should have done is to just offer in the menu a simple classic mode with amber-lit round speedometer and rev counter.
There's wireless AppleCarplay and Android Auto which is super convenient to use, and the Harman Kardon sound system is able to dig out details from regular MP3 files pretty well.
The 430i M Sport gets sports front seats with leather upholstery that's on the firm side. The side bolsters come with electric adjustment too, but even at the outermost position you'd still feel tight. While it's not the best in terms of comfort, it does keep occupants in place nicely during hard cornering.
Rear passengers get enough legroom but not much headroom, but that's not a big deal in a coupe like the 4 Series.
The BMW Driving Assistant intelligent safety system can be easily deactivated via a small button between the centre air vents (you then select further options via the touchscreen), and the climate control buttons are still offered. There are also some hard controls for the sound system (there's no CD player but there are radio-station memory buttons).
The centre console comes in elegant Tetragon Aluminium finish and there are more control buttons for engine start/stop, driving modes, parking assistant, stability control and electronic parking brake as well as the iDrive controller. Cruise control with automatic stop and go function is provided.
Another highlight you can expect from a BMW is the build quality. It's easy to feel the solidness of the car by just closing the doors or sitting as a passenger.
The 430i Coupe M Sport is powered by a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine with dual-stage turbocharger capable of producing 258hp at 5,000-6,500rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1,550-4,400rpm.
Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the coupe is able to accelerate from 0-100kph in 5.8secs (via launch control) and reach a top speed of 250kph. Average fuel economy is claimed at 15.2kpl (according to the Eco Sticker).
While the four-pot turbo engine is brilliant, it's a pity that the silky straight-six engine is not available in Thailand (though offered in the M440i).
The automatic gearbox gets a thumbs up, delivering smooth shifts in comfort mode and crisp upshifts in sport and sport plus modes (with synthetic engine note). Automatic downshifts come often during hard deceleration, displaying how smart and eager the gearbox is.
There are shift paddles behind the steering wheel, but manual changes can also be done via the gear lever. The direction of the gear lever is nice too -- forward for downshifts and backwards for upshifts.
Those looking for comfort will not like the 4 Series and would be better off with the Audi A5 or Mercedes C-Class Coupe. Apart from the beefy and heavy steering, the M Sport suspension in the 4 Series is stiff and does not compromise much when it comes to sharp speedbumps or deep potholes.
The 430i Coupe M Sport feels more at home on winding roads and highways, providing a high level of surefootedness and excellent driving dynamics. The steering provides the precision for sharp curves while the suspension offers plenty of grip, giving the coupe a fun-to-drive character.
Large-diameter M Performance sport brakes provide powerful stopping power from high speeds with shorter distances, but the sensitive brake pedal is hard to judge at low speeds, even after a week of driving.
The 430i Coupe M Sport (4,139,000 baht), is a good example of what BMW buyers look for, whether it's for the driving dynamics or high quality. But there are other choices offering better value-for-money like the 249hp Audi A5 Coupe 45 TFSI quattro S Line Black Edition (3,699,000 baht) or the more powerful 390hp Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe 4MATIC Special Edition (4,490,000 Baht).
Pros: Great handling, excellent build quality, superb transmission
Cons: Ugly front grille, no Hofmeister Kink, not the best value