A couple of the latest BMW models and a couple who loves driving – the ideal combination for a zippy double date. Tony Tan cruises through town with petrolheads Adrian Ong and Michelle Eng in two sporty sprint machines.
How do you spot a good driver on the road? It is the way the car effortlessly accelerates and smoothly slows down while overtaking vehicle after vehicle – and swiftly, but surely, disappears from your view.
This is what I experienced when I accompanied Adrian Ong and his wife Michelle Eng on their double (car) date as they spent an afternoon cruising through Singapore in two new models from BMW – the 530i M Sport saloon and the 430i Coupe M Sport Pro respectively.
Both handled their cars with such consummate ease during the three-plus hours traversing our city’s highways and roads. To say that the couple are car enthusiasts is a gross understatement. Through the years, they have owned and driven a slew of high-performance machines which will be the envy of most. Italian supercars, British luxury saloons and German autobahn speeders… they have piloted quite a few of these.
“Adrian and I love driving. We have even attended advanced driving courses to level up on our skills. He has participated in more events than me of course,” says Michelle, who runs an LED lighting company with her husband.
Adrian chimes in: “Sure, I have more of these driving courses under my belt but as you can see, she is pretty adept at the wheel too.”
I could not think of a better duo to experience the driving pleasure offered by the BMW 530i M Sport and BMW 430i Coupe M Sport Pro.
“We sold our BMW M3 recently and we were starting to miss it. When I found that I would be given first choice of which BMW to drive, I picked the 430i Coupe immediately,” states Michelle.
The BMW 4 Series Coupe has grown – it is longer than its predecessor by 128mm, wider by 27mm and taller by 6mm. Yet it still retains the precise and tautly carved surfaces, short overhangs, long doors and flowing roofline which have been the trademarks of BMW’s sporty two-door models.
One design feature which catches the eye immediately is the distinctive front end. BMW says it is “a nose for tradition” as the new grille features upright kidneys that are connected in the middle. This is inspired by the ones found on legendary classics such as the 1936 BMW 328 and 1971 BMW 3.0 CSi. “I know some may not like it, but I feel that it is a worthy interpretation and tribute to the legendary models. And it definitely caught my eye,” Michelle adds.
Further enhancing its dashing good looks is the M Sport Pro package which is being offered by BMW for the first time. A standard item on the 430i Coupe, it takes features of the M Sport such as extra-large front air intakes, contoured rear apron and M Sport brakes, and adds goodies such as 19-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and Harman Kardon surround sound system.
Not to be outdone, the BMW 530i saloon you see here is fitted with its own M Sport kit which includes M Sport brakes, M aerodynamics package and 20-inch M alloy wheels with “Y” spokes.
“While the 530i M Sport saloon does not look as sexy as the 430i Coupe M Sport Pro, I like its understated style. The new full-LED headlights and L-shaped daytime driving lights are my favourite exterior bits and so is the curve of the bonnet,” says Adrian.
With over 600,000 units of the BMW 5 Series sold worldwide since the current generation was introduced, one key feature, which is found in all 5 Series variants sold in Singapore, is mild hybrid technology. Comprising an extremely powerful 48-volt starter-generator and a second battery, a significant amount of brake energy can be regenerated and stored. This potent energy not only supplements the car’s electrical system’s needs, but it also lightens the engine’s workload for improved fuel economy, and boosts power by 11hp.
“The inclusion of mild hybrid technology is great as it shows that BMW is thinking about the future and being as earth-friendly as possible. Also, a bit of extra power never hurt anyone,” Adrian says. “Not that the 530i M Sport is short on performance. It is propelled by truly one of the most responsive turbo-charged 2-litre four-cylinder engines I have ever come across.”
With outputs of 252hp and 350Nm, the saloon completes the 0 to 100km/h dash in 6.4 seconds. He adds: “The way the power is put down is so easy. You don’t feel like you are going that fast, but the speedometer shows otherwise and the eight-speed automatic transmission’s gear changes are silky smooth.”
Like the BMW 530i M Sport saloon, the BMW 430i Coupe M Sport Pro is equipped with an eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission complemented by gearshift paddles. The same turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder engine resides under its long bonnet – but it has been tuned for 6hp more and more importantly, 50Nm more torque.
On her experience, Michelle says: “The way the car accelerates is quite surprising. If I did not know, I would have probably assumed it had a larger engine and not a 2-litre one.” For the record, if you put pedal to the metal, the coupe takes a mere 5.8 seconds to accomplish the 0 to 100km/h sprint.
Equipped with Adaptive M suspension which utilises electronically controlled dampers, the BMW 430i Coupe M Sport Pro really shines when the asphalt starts to swerve and bend. She adds: “Size-wise, it is on the larger side for a coupe yet it is very agile when taking corners. There was always ample grip too. I was expecting the ride to be firm, but it was very comfortable – maybe a bit too comfortable. Having said that, I do like that driving over uneven road surfaces didn’t feel bumpy at all.”
As Adrian often travels to construction sites because of his LED lighting business, his daily drive is a large German saloon. “As much as I would like to drive a sports car to these places, it wouldn’t do the undercarriage any good. Hence, the BMW 530i M Sport saloon would be a good alternative to my current ride.”
He continues: “The worksites are also riddled with obstacles and obstructions, and BMW’s Parking Assistant Plus is another great feature.” A slew of useful functions such as the 3D Surround View, Remote 3D View and Park Distance Control makes manoeuvring around tight spaces and parking a cinch. Reversing Assistant is particularly impressive as it allows the BMW 530i M Sport to steer and park on its own from distances of up to 50m. Currently, BMW is the only carmaker with this technology.
A feature found in both cars which the couple like is the BMW Digital Key. BMW is the first marque to offer this innovative feature, which works with any compatible Apple iPhone. Once activated, the iPhone can be used to lock, unlock and even start the car without the need for a physical key. You can even authorise access for up to five other people. On its ease of use, Michelle explains: “No more fumbling for keys in pockets and handbags. All I need is my iPhone and once I am inside, I place it in the smartphone tray, depress the ‘start’ button and off I go.”
Being busy business owners and parents of young children (they have three daughters – a seven-year-old and a pair of four-year-old twins) who are constantly driving around, staying connected is essential. “I am able to make calls and play music via Apple CarPlay and I have access to my own personal assistant,” Adrian elaborates. He is referring to BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant which is activated by simply saying “Hello BMW” followed by your request.
These digital services are powered by the new and cutting-edge BMW Operating System 7.0, which also enables key updates, enhanced vehicle functions and additional features to be imported.
While looks and interior features rank quite high on Adrian and Michelle’s list when shopping for a new car, performance and handling sit right at the top. After all, they are driving aficionados. “The new BMW 430i Coupe M Sport Pro has ample power for day-to-day driving and it corners pretty well. I could definitely go faster if I wanted to. Its sleek looks and flowing lines also appeal greatly to me,” says Michelle.
To that, Adrian adds: “While I would have loved a V8, I was impressed by the responsiveness and punchiness of the BMW 530i M Sport saloon’s turbocharged 2-litre engine. The car is very stable, precise, and sharp around bends too. I also can’t fault the spaciousness, ride comfort, and multitude of convenience and connectivity options.
“I did spend a bit of time at the wheel of the BMW 430i Coupe M Sport Pro as well and it is a sporty drive. However, I cannot wait for the new BMW M3 and M4 to arrive.” Now, that duo will definitely be worth having another double date.
(Images of Adrian Ong and Michelle Eng: Meng Choon Tan; all other images: BMW)
This story first appeared in Prestige Singapore February 2021 issue.