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BMW 430i Coupe M Sport (2017) review

BMW is using performance as a highlight in the new 430i Coupe to fight its renewed competition. Does it work?

What’s new?

When the 4-series Coupe first appeared in Thai showrooms three years ago, the punitive 220hp tax barrier was still in place. Hence, the modest petrol and diesel versions being sold: 420i and 420d.

But now that the power level has been removed by a new CO2-based system for engines displacing less than 3,000cc, BMW Thailand has chosen to sell its mid-size coupe in just the higher-performing 430i guise that still manages to emit less than 150g/km of that black soot for the same 30% rate as those two lesser brothers.

As a result, the 430i isn’t a four million baht-plus car. Prices start at 3.499 million baht and stretches 300k further for the M Sport trim, as tested here which also comes with the model’s mandatory mid-life facelift.

For starters, that’s quite a good effort because the Audi A5 Coupe 45 TFSI – with the same 252hp level as the 430i - costs 500k more. Forget about the similarly powered Lexus RC200t which hilariously asks for 1.7 million baht more than the Bimmer.

Punters of such luxury coupes would probably then narrow down the choice to just the two leading premium nameplates in Thailand, the other being the Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe which has starting price of 3.24 million baht in normal form and 3.59 million baht in AMG Dynamic spec. 

There are two main reasons for the Merc’s lower prices. Apart from the lower 211hp performance the C250 has, it’s the only model in its class to be assembled in Thailand. That said, can the 430i’s on-paper performance advantage justify its 200k premium spec-on-spec with the C250?

What’s cool?

The first outstanding bit of the 430i is no other than its performance. Whether you’re accelerating away from standstill or pulling over into the speed lane to overtake the vehicle in front of you, the 252hp 2.0-litre petrol-turbo feels most the potent in its class. If you really must make any comparison with the A5 45 TFSI – the newest of the car in this class in Thailand – the Audi comes closest in matching the 430i for outright grunt.

Engage the 430i’s drive selector into Sport and everything amplifies a notch up including the steering weight, engine and transmission response and exhaust note. Performance-wise, the 430i is it.

As part of the facelift comes a firmer suspension which can be felt when driving the 430i enthusiastically. It makes the handling balance in corners even tidier and road-holding grip in a straight line more assuring. Yes, the 430i is a proper rear-drive coupe.

BMW has also taken the advantage of the update by fitting the cabin with some new trim which helps because the double-stitching on the fascia, for one, helps boost perceived quality of a cabin that’s beginning to feel its age (it feels tidier in the Audi and more stylish in the Merc). The new digital screens, Harman-Kardon audio and sunroof additionally play to that effect.

What’s not?

For all its dynamic abilities on the move, the beefier chassis has come at the expense of a slightly overdone primary ride on uneven road surfaces. No, it’s quite quiet and free from vibrations, but overall comfort is arguably the least compliant against all of its rivals.

Firmer ride bags some merits and flaws.

As with most other mid-life revisions from BMW, the changes – new lights and bumpers - are too subtle for even some fans of the brand to notice. The turquoise colour, as seen here, may be new. But as with any other hue, it’s certainly not to all tastes.

And because BMW needs to be aggressive with pricing a car that has reached its golden years in its current generation, the 430i is hardly oozing with driver-assist tech.

Buy or bye?

As said earlier, we conveniently left out the A5 45 TFSI and RC200t due to their hefty price premiums over the 430i, although the Audi may hold some water with its nice Quattro all-wheel-drive system and intuitive driving manners.

If the C250 is the last hurdle to the 430i buying proposition, then it must be said that the BMW is more fun to drive thanks to its pokier engine and neater handling. But that doesn’t mean the Merc be ignored because it still feels fresher and offers a decent blend of comfort and driving finesse.

Don’t let the small price difference be the deciding factor because the more crucial thing should be about how you expect your premium mid-size coupe to behave on the move.

The 430i is the sportiest car to drive in its class.

Higher quality trim helps offset slightly aging cabin.

Four-pot turbo becomes more lively in Sport mode.

Exterior has received the subtlest of tweaks.

THE OPEN-TOP OPTION

Joining the updated BMW 4-series Coupe in Thai showrooms at the same time is the Convertible, which gets the same 430i engine variance, two-tier spec levels but higher prices by 500k.

The only rival for the 430i Convertible in Thailand is the Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet. Sporty grades measured head-on, the C300 is just 59k cheaper.

Although the C300’s 245hp 2.0-litre petrol-turbo motor has inferior power to the 430i, it actually doesn’t feel like that in the real world. The C300 feels just as quick and agile which could be due to the lighter weight penalty of the soft-top and the nine-speed automatic transmission (the C250 has seven speeds and 430i eight).

Despite having a sturdy appearance and hushed cabin when driven roof-up, the 430i’s retractable hard-top and the other necessary mechanisms nastily rob usable boot space.

That said, the argument for these open-top coupes may not be exactly the same with their fixed-top counterparts. Perhaps, it’s the type and style of the roof that may matter to undecided punters of the either the 430i or C300.

Convertible’s roof-up stance is nearly like the Coupe’s.

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