BMW M440i xDrive: long term test review
Second report: With its driver-assistance tech on or off, the BMW M440i is very impressive
The key to the M440i is that while it is happy to take over during dull motorway driving, it still has the great engine and dynamics that you’d expect from a BMW. It’s proving a deeply impressive car.
- Mileage: 5,285
- Economy: 33.2mpg
Driver-assistance systems are becoming increasingly commonplace in our cars nowadays, and the M440i xDrive has more than its fair share of them. The car will steer and brake all by itself. It will accelerate and decelerate itself to remain at a constant distance from the car in front. It will even park itself if you wish.
On the surface, then, you could quickly accuse it being the polar opposite of the “ultimate driving machine” mainly because, if you allow it to, this car will all but drive by itself along most roads. Yet the more miles I do in our M440i, the more I’ve come to like it, driver-assistance systems and all.
I don’t use all of the aids, all of the time. Sometimes it’s nice to switch all the systems off and enjoy driving it in the conventional sense. Do this and the steering, although entirely digitised, has real life to it. Somehow it manages to percolate nicely with feel, even if the set-up isn’t quite bursting with feedback.
The same goes for the engine. Thumb the Sport button down in the centre console, maybe even select the Sport Plus setting within the touchscreen infotainment menu, and the M440i feels very much like an old-school six-cylinder BMW.
Its exhaust emits a deep yet typically creamy rasp if you open the throttle wide in a low gear, and when you do, the acceleration is strong and instant, despite there being two turbos. To a point where the whole car can feel a lot like a fast, torquey, engaging, enjoyable-to-drive BMW from yesteryear.
And I really do love driving it merely for the sake of driving it sometimes, purely because it delivers on all the right levels. It’s quick in a way that genuinely entertains but rarely feels unnecessary (whereas the latest full-blown M3s and M4s can feel a little bit too well endowed sometimes). Plus it rides, steers, stops and handles absolutely like you’d expect a BMW to.
On the other hand, the M440i xDrive has an entirely different side to its personality: that of the near-autonomous fast coupé that will, if you ask it to, do just about everything for you. This is the side of it I was sceptical about but have learned to live with and, eventually, to quite like. Sometimes.
Take, for example, the way it goes down a motorway. It’s not just comfortable to travel in, but also pretty much effortless if you select a speed, set the guidance control system to follow the car in front at a comfortable distance and basically just sit back and let the car do its thing.
And it’ll do so with a surprising degree of delicacy and accuracy, give or take a wobble or two when going from one motorway to another. From this specific point of view it’s a lot more natural to “be driven in” by the tech than in some rivals, whose automated steering and throttle inputs can be quite clumsy by comparison. I’m finding that I reach far-away destinations feeling fresher nowadays, because the tech does enough of the job for me to remove a percentage of the stress involved in simply grinding out the miles along a busy motorway network.
And I like this side of the M440i’s personality almost as much as I like its conventional side, which is there ready and waiting to entertain whenever a decent B-road appears in the windscreen and it’s time to switch the systems off.
Either way, the M440i xDrive is rapidly becoming one of the more impressive cars I can ever remember from BMW. And that’s before you even mention that it’ll do 40mpg-plus on some journeys, has a decent boot and half-decent rear seats. It is also, shall we say, intriguingly styled, to put it mildly. I’m even coming round to this most controversial aspect of it as well, although that’s a story for another day.
BMW M440i: first report
The new BMW M440i coupe looks like a fine car to live with
- Mileage: 1,640
- Economy: 34.2mpg
The all-new 4, as it’s known, is a controversial car for one eye-wateringly obvious reason: the way it looks. Its gaping new grille attracts attention and inspires debate from all quarters, and not always is that attention flattering.
Truth be told, some like it, some do not. Either way, the 4 Series is a car that guarantees its 15 minutes of fame long before it has turned so much as a wheel nut. And in the Instagram era this ensures it of success, no matter how good or otherwise it might be as a car to drive, and to live with.
Fortunately, however, the Tanzanite Blue M440i xDrive you see here, which I’ll be running for the next six months, is already proving to be anything but a disappointment on the road. Dynamically it represents something of a return to form from BMW, featuring a slightly old-school appeal to its steering, engine and chassis, despite being loaded with convenience tech. And that makes it an unusually interesting machine to get your head round.
On the one hand, the M440i is a car that will all-but drive itself along a motorway thanks to its clever speed-sensitive cruise control, its lane-assisted steering and its subtle pre-emptive braking system. And it’ll return anything between 32-42mpg while doing so thanks to its mild but highly effective hybridised powertrain.
Yet on the other hand, the M440i is also a car that can deliver a proper hit of driver appeal if you switch all its electronic systems off and select Sport within the multi-adjustable drive programme.
Do this, and its 369bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six produces a major hit of performance, right where you want it most, and it sounds menacingly appealing in the process. Its steering, ride and handling are also sweet as a nut if you select the right settings for the right road. As a result, the M440i has an unusually wide range to its dynamic personality, and is proving quite a fascinating car to live with.
Even after 1,500 fairly committed miles in it, I’m still not quite sure what kind of car it really is – B-road bruiser or high-tech luxury coupé. The truth, I suspect, is a lot of both, with all sorts of other attributes in between – although more miles will reveal other hidden depths, no doubt, and maybe even some faults as well.
One of which I was alerted to via the BMW Driver App just the other day. The app pinged me with a message saying “recall”, yet I’d only had the car for few days. So I called my local dealer, Chandlers of Brighton, and got it booked in.
It was for a potential problem with the starter generator cable connection, which, if left unchecked, “could result in a fire”, according to the app. Hmm...
A couple of days later, and having been given a shiny white 320i saloon to chip about in while I was waiting, Chandlers did the recall, gave the car a full health check, sent me a nice video of it being inspected up on the ramp, and I got the car back. All good, no fire, no more worries.
Despite the surprisingly early-doors recall, it was a curiously positive experience overall, though, because the aftersales treatment from Chandlers was flawless. The whole experience, although entirely contactless physically, was the opposite of painful, which is just what you want from a new £51,300 sports coupé.
Since then I’ve been to Wales in it, twice – and to Goodwood, Brands Hatch, the Bedford Autodrome, and up to Birmingham and back a couple of times – and I’ve found lots to like about it, and not a whole lot to dislike. In Comfort or Eco Pro, with all the driver systems engaged, it really is a very relaxing, comfortable car to do big miles in.
|Model:||BMW M440i xDrive coupé|
|On fleet since:||November 2020|
|Engine:||3.0-litre 6cyl turbo, 369bhp|
|Options:||Technology Plus pack (£3,650), Shadowline Plus (£500), Comfort Plus pack (£1,950), M sport seats (£850), Interior aluminium fabric (£500)|
|Insurance*:||Group: 50/Quote: £871|
|Any problems?||Recall for starter generator|
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.