2021 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe — Exceeds Expectations

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So despite being the entry-level 4 Series, the BMW 430i has more than enough power to be a proper GT car and get you to your holiday destination in good time. More importantly, should a twisty road appear along your travels, it has the punch to entertain.

That said, the rest of the car would prefer long, sweeping curves rather than tight, sharp corners. As with many modern BMWs, the 430i’s steering is sharp and accurate but entirely lifeless. We’ve all come to accept the fact that modern sports cars lack communicative steering. Electric power steering and an increasing customer demand for refinement have all but ruined the steering feel in any sports car without a “Porsche” badge on the back. That’s not the problem with modern BMW steering. The problem is the lack of any noticeable weight change off-center.

Turn the wheel in the BMW 430i and the front end responds quickly enough but there’s no indication through your hand that anything is happening. The weight of the steering either stays the same or doesn’t change enough until you’re at at 90-degrees of steering lock and even after that there’s little wheel resistance to signal what the front wheels are doing, so it feels very video game-like. That’s fine for a GT car, where long, sweeping curves and highway blasts reward a more comfortable, relaxed steering setup. But during sporty driving, that sort of steering is disconcerting and, because of that, I never felt the need to push it hard.

Don’t mistake that for thinking I didn’t like driving the 4 Series because I did. Just in a different way than I’d drive a sports car. It’s a pleasant car to drive, one that I preferred to just cruise down the highway in at high speed. There’s nothing wrong with a grand touring car and that’s what the 4 Series is, even the entry-level 430i.

Powertrain Wizardry

BMW might be the best in the world at calibrating engines to the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic. While I would have preferred a manual in the 430i, the ZF eight-speed is perfectly matched to the scrappy B48 engine.

Left to its own devices, there was never a situation where I felt it was in the wrong gear or it did something I wouldn’t have done myself. It’s pure telepathy. If it weren’t some sort of magic — powertrain calibration wizardry — other brands would be able to benchmark BMW and match it. So far, I’ve yet to drive another car with the ZF8 that can match any BMW for not only perfect tuning but also for silky smoothness.

Sure, you can use the paddles and shift gears yourself but I rarely did. It’s so good at picking the right gear, in any situation, that I never felt the need to take over and shift myself. Admittedly, that’s sort of a bummer, as it takes some of the fun away, but that doesn’t take away from how impressive it is.

Sports Car Looks, Luxury Car Comfort

My test car had an M Sport package equipped — it’s the only way to get the stunning Portimao Blue paint — and 18″ wheels with performance tires. Yet, it rode like a 5 Series. BMW nailed the suspension tuning for the entire 4 Series lineup, as it rides well over even the sharpest of bumps and yet it always feels composed and snug to the road. BMW may not have steering like the good old days but its suspension tuning is still bang-on.

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