The M Performance tier of the new BMW 4 Series, laying the foundations ahead of the arrival of the full-fat M4 sometime in 2021. Called the M440i xDrive, this two-door coupe uses the same twin-turbocharged, 3.0-litre, straight-six petrol engine, eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic gearbox and xDrive all-wheel-drive system as the BMW M340i – as well as mild-hybrid assistance technology – which means 374hp, 500Nm, 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 250km/h.
Natural rivals include the Audi S5, which has recently made the potentially risky switch to turbodiesel power, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Coupe and the charismatic Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 Coupe, so it competes in a class rich with talent. Therefore, while the interior of the BMW is a decent size, is well equipped and employs the latest infotainment plus digital instrument cluster, it’s almost impossible to ignore what is surely the whole 4 Series family’s defining characteristic: the enormous pair of kidney grilles cut into the front of the car. While the whole of the M440i’s body is hardly what you’d call supercar pretty anyway, it’s going to be these highly divisive features up front that dominate any discussion about the merits or otherwise of the newest hot BMW.
How is it to drive?
Skipping over the subjective styling points, this is a cracking performance car by any reasonable rationale. The 4 Series might be heavily related to the 3 Series and the latter is good to drive as it is, but the German company wants its coupe model to feel sportier and more rewarding than its saloon.
To that end, the M440i is a huge success, because it feels more alive and rear-driven than the steadfast, rapid but oh-so-safe M340i. The mighty engine and super-slick drivetrain provides monster performance for the flagship Four, with little transmission hesitance nor turbo lag to notice at all. Traction and grip are both immense, so that the M440i just rockets off into the middle distance with startling speed when you want it to.
Better yet is the chassis, which offers real reward to the driver. There’s some understeer to work around from the xDrive, but once you get through that, or balance the nose of the car better prior to turn-in, then the back of the M440i feels a far more important part of proceedings than the front. It’s only a shame, then, that BMW has mapped the Sport+ setting of the steering to be too heavy, while simultaneously fitting the car with a too-fat and too-big steering wheel, which robs the driver of a few crucial degrees of interaction with the 4 Series.
As a mini-GT, though, it is exemplary. The Comfort dampers are super-smooth and make it a pleasure to thread around town, just as much as the M440i is imperious at motorway speeds. Mechanical refinement is also high and you’ll hear precious little of the tyres’ progress along the bitumen, nor the bodywork cutting through the air, when you’re rolling along at a steady cruising pace. The idea of doing many kilometres in one hit in the BMW is not one that would fill you with dread.
When is it coming to Ireland?
It’s available on the BMW Ireland configurator now, priced at a basic figure of €78,915. That’s set against the 4 Series range starting at €53,355, so while it’s hardly an inexpensive car, by the same token it’s not flagrantly expensive considering the power and performance it offers, either.
Any juicy technology?
The 48-volt mild hybrid technology isn’t just there to moderately improve the M440i’s eco-credentials – it also provides an ‘eBoost’ back-up to full-throttle acceleration, further minimising any minuscule lapses in the delivery of power from the straight-six up front to the wheels down below.
Carzone.ie rating: 4/5
A superb performance coupe, the BMW M440i will no doubt delight those who take a punt on it with its strong drivetrain, its crisp chassis and its impressive levels of comfort and refinement. The crux of the matter, though, is whether you could ever hope to live with the car’s face – if you can stomach those kidney grilles, then there’s little else here that will put you off this fast 4 Series.