The brand new BMW 4-Series has landed in Coupe format across markets, following its massively debated reveal in June, earlier this year. Dressed to impress, we were given the keys to the sporting flagship – the new M440i xDrive – for a drive around Munich.
Before we touch on the driving dynamics, let’s first address the elephant in the room – the new grille. With more people loathing than loving it, the question is whether BMW made a good decision on the design direction of the car. Clearly, the new kidney grille are more “lung”-sized than “kidneys”. On top of this, the “redesign” of the Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar has been widely discussed in the last few months. Being a key feature of the overall design language of the new 4-Series, the revamped kink has fueled a massive debate. But let’s move on from the design as there is more to the second-generation model than its controversial styling.
Lots Of Engine Options And 48V Feature
We find five model variants within the new 4 Series lineup . The top-of-the-line M440i is powered by a 275 kW/374 hp (in Europe) six-cylinder in-line petrol engine, producing 500 Nm (369 lb-ft) at 1,900 – 5,000 rpm. But the range also includes two, four-cylinder petrol engines and a four-cylinder diesel unit. Two six-cylinder, in-line diesel engines will join the line-up in March 2021. Additionally, we find a mild hybrid technology for the six-cylinder, in-line-petrol engine and all diesel engines, sharpening their responses and optimizing efficiency. The 48V starter-generator boosts the combustion engine with an extra 8 kW/11 hp. All diesel engines now have two-stage turbocharging.
Each of the five model variants come with the standard eight-speed Steptronic transmission. There is an optional eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission with new Sprint function, which was standard on our test car. BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive is available for two model variants from launch and four variants from March 2021. The M440i also has an electronically controlled rear M differential.
Larger Than Its Predecessor
The package of the new 4 Series has shifted away from the first-generation. The G22 Coupe is 128mm longer (at 4768 mm), 27mm wider (1852mm) and 6mm taller (1383mm) than its F32 predecessor. In comparison to the G20 Sedan, the center of gravity is 21mm lower, rear-axle track 23mm wider and the Bavarians stiffened the body structure fitting some specific bracing and supports. The weight distribution is a nice 50:50.
On the inside, we immediately notice the driver-focused cockpit design, with its familiar digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster from the other BMW models. The sports leather steering wheel and sports seats are standard, knee pads on the centre console are optional. Two seats in the rear offer room for two more people, but are quite limited when it comes to head room. The boot space is a touch smaller than its predecessor at 440 liters.
The Driving Dynamics
Now that we have looked at the visuals, let’s discuss the driving dynamics of the new M440i, which offers on paper a package that brings you from naught to 100 km/h in 4,5 seconds and onwards to a limited top speed of 250 km/h. However, the initial kilometers behind the wheel don’t immediately give us the notion of what it is all about. The subdued driving characteristics let you question the sporty characteristics of the car, which feel rather absent at first.
Hitting the autobahn offered a better insight into its potential. The M440i is definitely quick with the xDrive, giving you most of its power to the rear wheels, but it never seemed to fully impress us behind the wheel. BMW’s wonderful turbo 3.0-liter inline-six – also known as the B58 engine – feels better at home in smaller, more nimble cars than this 4 Series which weights a hefty 1815 kilos. ZF’s eight-speed automatic swaps its gears with ease. The 48-volt mild-hybrid set up offers an extra punch and assistance to the turbo. The addition is a nice extra to remove a feeling of lag.
The handling of the 2021 BMW M440i is what you might expect from a sporty coupe, although on fast sweeping roads with quick turns, its weight does come into play. The additional camber on the front wheels in comparison to the 3 Series and lift-related dampers with bespoke tuning, don’t have a major impact on the way you drive it. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires do have an impact on the drive and they are a great part of the M440i’s connection to the road.
Next to this, the standard M Sport suspension on the M440i offers a firmer set-up for dampers, mounts and anti-roll bars, plus additional body struts and variable sport steering. Body control is nicely balanced. The steering offers a great turn-in, but doesn’t offer a lot of communication back to the driver. Overall a lovely package that does what it needs to do, but never at that sporty level you might want or expect from an M-tuned product.
All in all, the the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive feels more aimed at a luxury touring segment having put its pure sporty characteristics aside for the upcoming //M line up to deliver. This isn’t a bad thing at all, just a quick observation for those who are looking for a Sporty coupe which in this case offers a highly comfortable and controversial looking package. But at the same time, that’s pleasant to drive and transports you from an A to B in sheer comfort, especially during long distance trips.
There is a level of sportiness which is enjoyable and clearly visible if you compare it to the current 3 Series G20, but we would have loved to have seen a bit more oomph and playfulness transferring through our hands, feet and body planted in the driver’s seat.