Let’s just get this out of the way first, as it’s going to be a big theme of this writeup: The 2021 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe is a beautiful car with sleek, gorgeous lines and a nicely appointed interior, marred by a ghastly front grill. It’s hard to understand what the BMW design engineers were thinking when they added the “beaver teeth” chrome-edged grill to the front of a vehicle that has literally zero chrome elsewhere on the body. And then to omit a graceful and elegant space for a front license plate in the US model. It’s… weird.
You can see what I mean in this photo of the 430i in striking Portimao Blue Metallic:
There’s more than a passing resemblance to the front grill of both the Bugatti (nice heritage if that’s a design note) and the classic BMW “kidney” front grill, but why wasn’t more effort spent on having it fit with the rest of the design? When I shared some experience driving the 430i on Facebook, it was startling how much passion there was about the front grill design of this 2021 model. None of it good. More “love my BMW, would never buy that model” than anything else, actually. This is too bad because otherwise it’s a real head-turner and more than once I watched people gaze at the car as I glided by on the road or in a parking lot.
It was great to have a full week driving the 2021 BMW 430i around Northern Colorado (even if it had California plates) and the car’s definitely a lot of fun. It’s about 80% “the ultimate driving machine” except for the acceleration from a stop. Though it’s powered by a 2.0L TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine with 8-speed sport automatic transmission, I found that even in tuned Sport mode it was surprisingly hesitant from a stop. Once you were going at all, speeding up was great fun and there was plenty of power under the hood, but that initial acceleration was a real disappointment.
Did the engine need to be tuned for altitude since I was driving it at 5230 feet above sea level? Maybe. When I experience acceleration issues with a Ford, Kia, or Toyota it’s no big deal, but a BMW with a $60K price tag? Yeah, that’s a problem. Other 430i owners were surprised when I shared the acceleration problem with them, which lends additional credence to it being an altitude issue, but this is definitely something to check on a test drive if you really seek a sporty coupe that’ll let you hop from a stop on demand.
With those two issues covered, let’s look a bit more at the vehicle with another exterior photo:
Again, the lines are sexy as hell, it’s a sleek coupe that looks fast even when it’s just sitting in a parking lot. The black wheels in those dark wheel wells add an ominous note to the design too. Nice. Note that it’s a two-door, though like many sporty coupes, there are back seats, but you have to be either very young or a contortionist to squeeze into the back. Since there’s a decent size trunk (I’ll show you that in a moment) it makes sense to have the extra seats, but I wonder who would actually ever sit in the back on the 430i. It definitely wouldn’t work for an adult.
Here’s a view so you can see how the back seats fit into the overall design:
Perhaps the best strategy would be to climb back there between the front seats rather than wiggle past a seat that’s slid and tilted forward. Dunno, didn’t try it, nor did my kids. You could put a car seat in the back for a baby, but then you have the challenge of getting them in and out of the seat. Good luck, mate.
Spinning around to the front area, here’s the overall dashboard layout:
You’re low down, not quite laying down (it’s not a supercar, after all) but you’ll likely be reclining a bit more than a typical SUV driver’s area configuration, for example. Fortunately, the xDrive control system adjacent to the gearshift lets you control most everything you’d need to adjust while driving, along with the many buttons and features on the steering wheel crossbar. I have to say that my Mazda has trained me to the benefits of a rotating wheel interface for the infotainment system and I find the xDrive controls very natural and quite easy to work with too.
Indeed, let’s look a bit more closely at the center console:
There are a few controls on the left side of the gearshift, but mostly this is about the driving modes – Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro and Adaptive – and that xDrive control system. What isn’t obvious is that the dial is a touch sensor too, so choosing an option is done by simply pushing down on it. It’s surprisingly intuitive and while your eyes won’t be on the road, they’ll be on the infotainment screen rather than where the controls themselves are. And remember, there are lots of controls on the steering wheel too, including paddle shifters if you want to go full manual gearshift (minus the clutch, of course).
Moving up just a little bit, the “pit” in front of the gearshift is pretty typical for a modern car with its charging and connectivity options:
The backmost portion is a Qi wireless charging pad, then there’s a USB-3.0 plug front and center, with a 12V cigarette adapter covered by the black plug in the very foreground. And two central and easily utilized cup holders, an ever-useful feature too. A bit further up the central portion of the dash are a row of analog audio favorite buttons – very old school! – and the climate controls, as you can see in the previous pic.
What you’ll be looking at more, however, is the main gauge display, and it’s pretty futuristic:
The color and layout changes based on driving mode – Sports turns it red, for example – but in Eco Pro mode it’s blue and the outer right gauge shows relative fuel efficiency. Notice the average is marked at 30.3mpg. Entirely respectable for a sporty sedan without any special efficiency technology (e.g., no hybrid, no short-range EV). The 430i xDrive is EPA rated at 24/33 so 30.3 is reasonable and with a bit more highway time I might have been able to bump that up even a few mpg higher.
One thing that did make me laugh is that the car includes a seat belt extension device to make it easier to grab and buckle up. You can see it extended here:
It performs exactly as you would want: You slip into the car, close the door, and the arm extends out to make it easier to grasp the seatbelt. Push it into the buckle and the arm promptly pulls back into the support beam until the next time it’s needed. Subtle, but with a car where you’re a bit further reclined than most, very helpful to ensure you’re always buckled up.
As mentioned earlier, the trunk space is great, with plenty of room for a few suitcases or a dozen bags of groceries. Skiis? Not so much, but that’s why we have roof racks, right?
Finally, we’ve come to the back of the vehicle for my last photo:
The rear insets behind the wheels are a nice symmetric mirror image of the front air scoops, and the lines of the vehicle overall are just so great. WIth its M-series upgrades, this is a really fun car to drive once you get it from a stop and there’s lots to like about the design overall. Except for that darn front grill. What gives with that, BMW?
Ultimately, the grill design wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, but the acceleration problem was problematic. Paying this much for a sporty coupe from a company that has the slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and then having a Toyota Prius or Chevy Bolt beat you off the red light? I think that would be pretty frustrating indeed. Maybe it was just my car, however, or something to do with altitude or the gas chosen at the last fill-up. If you’re a 430i Coupe owner, do chime in with your experiences with your car when the light turns green…
CONFIGURATION: 2021 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe in Portimao Blue Metallic with Black Leather with Blue Stitching interior. Featuring the BMW 2.0L TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed sport automatic transmission. MSRP: $47,600. OPTIONS INCLUDED: Dynamic Handling Package, M Sport Package, Premium Package, Harmon Kardon Surround Sound. AS DRIVEN: $60,520.00.
Disclaimer: BMW kindly loaned me the 430i for a week so I could write about it. Much appreciated, BMW!