I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect from the new BMW M440i as I slid behind the wheel. After the initial launch of the new 4 Series, there were several claims from journalists and enthusiasts about its more GT-like nature. They said it was a baby-8 Series, not a sportier 3 Series. But then more reviews came out, claiming the exact opposite. So I was intrigued and interested in what I would find when finally putting the new BMW M440i xDrive to the test.
During the same Test Fest event that allowed me to flog several other BMWs, including the M2 CS, I had the chance t test the M440i on the road. There’s a chance that the M440i was at a natural disadvantage during my test, as I’d just driven the aforementioned M2 CS on the very same roads, only minutes before taking the 4er out.
After driving the M440i, it was clear to me that it’s certainly more of a grand touring car than a proper sports car. The baby-8 Series comparison is accurate. Having said that, the BMW M440i impressed in many ways, proving to be its own car in BMW’s lineup and not just a two-door 3 Series.
One of the first things you notice when driving the BMW M440i is just how smooth it is at everything. All of its inputs are delivered with the slickness of a well-oiled machine. Everything from its steering, to its throttle response, to its gear changes are done with a silky smoothness that would make most of its competitors seem crude.
Being that smooth and refined does come at a price, though. There’s little to no feel or feedback through the controls at all, so there’s never a sense of what the car is doing underneath you. One of my biggest annoyances with modern BMWs is also on display in the M440i and it’s that the steering weight doesn’t seem to change significantly as the steering angle increases. Because of that, you can’t properly judge what the front end is doing.
However, the benefit — and yes, there is a benefit — to all of that isolation and refinement is that the BMW M440i is incredibly relaxing to drive. It’s comfortable and quiet, in a way that would make you think you were sat in a six-figure GT car. Seriously, close your eyes in the passenger seat of a 4 Series and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and an 8 Series. The ride in the M440i is just as good as it is in the M850i and its cabin is just as quiet. It’s a lovely place to spend some time.
It also nails so many of the finer points of a GT car. The seats are superb, the driving position is excellent and all of the materials you can see — and even the ones you can’t — are lovely. It’s an outstanding car to spend hours and hours, covering hundreds of miles in at a time.
Sports Car Performance
Despite not feeling like a proper sports car, it certainly performs like one. As per usual, BMW’s B58 engine is absolutely brilliant, as is its calibration with the eight-speed ZF auto. It’s actually better than ever in the M440i, as it’s now equipped with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.
So it features a battery alternator starter that can actually act as the starter motor as well as providing just a touch of low-down torque. This means that the seemingly imperceptible turbo-lag in every other B58, which is already the benchmark of the industry, has now been completely eliminated. Just smooth, effortless surges of power.
That 48-volt MHEV setup also helps with the transition of auto start/stop. Even on the brilliant B58 engine, auto start/stop is infuriating, as it herks and jerks as it abruptly shuts the engine down and starts it back up. However, the MHEV actually helps to smooth the feature out to the point that it’s not only no longer intrusive but good enough to actually keep on.
After having spent a lot of time with different B58 engines over the years, I genuinely didn’t believe it could be made any better. I was wrong and I’m thrilled about it. The BMW M440i might not provide the tactile feedback of a bona fide performance car but it certainly delivers acceleration like one.
BMW quotes the BMW M440i in the low four-second range to 60 mph but, honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s fast. Hilariously fast. And it delivers forward thrust in any gear, at any rpm, in a way that its competitors just can’t. All while delivering an excellent, though artificially enhanced, soundtrack.
The Grille Still Needs Work
Prior to testing the new 4 Series, all of my colleagues that had already tested it before me told me that the new grille is better looking in person than it is in photos. To be honest, that’s true for most things. In person, you can see how light reflects off of different shapes better, you can see the three-dimensional aspect of different shapes and just get a better overall sense of a design. So I had a feeling the grille would look better in person and it does. But it’s still not good looking.
I like the people at BMW, they’re great people and I always have lovely conversations with them. So I felt a bit bad expressing my harsh but honest opinion. But that’s the job. It’s my job to cover and review the 4 Series and I can’t, in all honestly, say that the new 4 Series grille looks good in any way, shape or form. It looks like a beaver that’s fallen into a tub of radioactive miracle grow. The most unfortunate aspect of the irradiated grille is that the rest of the car is actually quite pretty.
Face aside, the new 4 Series is an elegant, well-proportioned and even seductive looking car. Its design also promotes the idea that it’s more GT car than sports car well, as it’s far less aggressive or muscular than its predecessor. While the outgoing F32-gen 4 Series looked like a butch, two-door 3 Series, the new G32 4 Series is smoother and softer. With aggressive cars, there’s a common automotive trope to say that the sheetmetal looks like it’s been shrink-wrapped around its structure. With the 4 Series, it looks more like silk has elegantly fallen upon its frame.
As you walk around the car, you notice lovely little creases and body lines, all of which are subtle and delicate, in the best of ways. But they you make it back around to the front and, Sweet Fancy Moses, it shocks you all over again.
Style is subjective, though. So what one person finds beautiful, another might find repulsive. One thing’s for certain, though, the new 4 Series is going to stand out from the crowd, for better or worse. Which actually makes it a surprisingly good GT car, as style is a big part of what makes a proper GT car great. So if you’re a fan of the style, the new BMW M440i will make you a very happy tourer.
Nothing Wrong with Being a GT
BMW might not like people calling the BMW M440i a GT car, especially with all of the advertising and media buzz it’s putting out about the 4er being some thrilling sports car. However, I don’t mean it as an insult when I say that the M440i is built more for romantic tours through the European countryside than it is for flogging a race track. Not only is there nothing wrong with GT cars but they’re some of the coolest and most desirable cars you can buy.
The new BMW M440i xDrive is not a better sports car than the M340i, nor is it even a proper sports car. The M440i is an 8 Series for half the price. To be perfectly honest, unless you absolutely need the extra length and 20-percent increase in luxury, I don’t see the point in buying the 8 Series over the 4 Series, especially in the blisteringly-quick M440i spec. And at its price point, I actually can’t think of a better car to go touring in.