When the new BMWs with their monstrous grilles hit the scene a while back, many of the BMW faithful lost their shit over the new design language. A proliferation of memes hinting that soon the grille would be bigger than the car itself hit the internet. Oh the horror. If you look way back in BMWs history to the original 328, that car also had a pretty big grille. Admittedly, from the early photos, I was tentative, but I wasn’t crazy about the E85/E86 Z4s when they first made the scene either. Eventually the shape really grew on me – I even had an E86 coupe for a while.
In today’s world, everyone loves to hate, and as my good friend Cameron likes to say, it’s all about the last “real BMW.” What exactly is a real BMW? As Cam says, it’s not the one that’s a generation newer than the one you own.
As the two- door model of the three series is now the four, I still feel that with a pair of 2002s, a pair of E21s, three E30s, a Z3 (technically an E36), and an E46, I qualify as a three series fanboy. (I used to have an E92 wagon too!) Yep, I love the three series.
It just happened
So, a funny thing happened on the way to the BMW dealer to get some routine service on my i3. Nothing mechanical or electrical, the damn seat bolster is wearing prematurely, and BMW was kind enough to replace this while I still had a few months of warranty left. That’s when the idea lightbulb went on, sort of like when Beavis gets a big idea. Maybe it’s trade in time.
Not that there was anything wrong with the i3. Honestly, that has been the most trouble free four years of car ownership I’ve ever had. My only complaint was the range. As a second generation i3, it was usually good for almost 130 miles. In-N-Out Burger is 57 miles from my house, so adding range anxiety to burger anxiety is just too much. Heading out to Cannon Beach is about 92 miles, so that’s off the table, because the chance of getting one of the three chargers at the beach is slim. I hate to profile anyone, but it’s always those damn Teslas (with 300+ mile range) hogging the chargers. As the guy at the foldup table on the internet says, “convince me otherwise.”
Everything else about the i3 was perfect. Quiet, zippy, great handling, plenty of space, super fun to drive. And a carbon fiber roof, just like an M3. If someone made a 300mi battery update for this car, I’d keep it for life.
However, during the morning visit to the dealer, knowing my love for vintage BMWs I was escorted to the detail bay to inspect a one owner, 1984 318i in Henna Red – a lifetime favorite. There were a handful of 430s and 440s up there, but alas all white, black, and silver. Standard BMW faire. We started talking price, and Jared, my new sales advisor mentioned, “they had two in green.” Now we’re talking.
Another trip to the parking lot revealed this gorgeous, San Remo green 430i with Cognac interior. It looks like a baby 8-series. Yes, the 440 is a second faster 0-60, but with a 13-thousand dollar speed penalty. The 430 features the same 4cyl. (B48) turbo engine from the current Z4, which truly is no slouch. I could take the weasely way out and say that the 440 is less of a purist driving experience because it has more weight on the front wheels, but I won’t. More power is almost always more awesome, but this time I just wanted a nice runabout. A fun to drive car, with great creature comforts, that is fresh. With five project cars currently, something that just runs is fun.
At first blush, the car drives as expected. A buttoned down Z4-ish car, with the same instrument panel, console layout, and even comfier seats. The only other BMW I have that is more comfy is the E34. Where the 235 and 240 were both a bit Spartan, thanks to the increased functionality that comes with a bigger, touchable, nav screen, it feels a little more adult. Honestly, I kinda like that.
Another area BMW has improved dramatically in the last few years, is the response built into the electrically assisted steering. Our 2015 Z4 felt like driving a Play Station controller. It’s better in Pam’s 2018 X1, and improved again with this car. No, it will never be an E30, but it’s gone from dreadful to workable. Too bad they can’t just do software updates, or hack this into more feel. But I digress. Steering feel has gone from a D on the E89, to a B- in Comfort mode and a B in Sport mode.
Back to the beginning, I mean the front
Yeah, yeah, you hate the grille. Whatever. I really like it, and whether it stands the test of time is yet to be seen. The Chris Bangle cars are despised by many (still) but I like them too. Hey, I used to drive a lime green Saab 99, so what do I know?
I know this. Much as I love my E21, jumping back in that car after putting in a quick 100 miles in the new 430, the amenities are nice. I’ll never poke fun of anyone having a heated steering wheel again!