New BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe 2022 review
The BMW M440i xDrive is the hottest 4 Series you can get before the full-fat M4, but does it leave us yearning for the faster M car?
View the 4 Series Gran Coupe in isolation, and it's hard to see how BMW could have nailed it any more resoundingly. In top-spec M440i xDrive form, it delivers storming performance and rides and handles brilliantly; the build quality is excellent and the tech is great, too. The only real doubt comes from within the brand’s own range; the BMW M340i xDrive has all of the same traits but costs almost four grand less.
On the face of it, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe seems like a niche within an already broad BMW family line-up, but as we’ll see there are enough reasons why people might be tempted by its less traditional take on the compact executive formula.
Despite the ‘4’ prefix, the Gran Coupe is closer in concept to the 3 Series saloon than the 4 Series Coupe. It features the dramatic toothy grille of the 4 Series, plus the slimmer, scowling LED headlights, but here there are two extra doors, just like the 3 Series saloon. The handles themselves are flush fitting within the doors, though. They give a cleaner look, even if they’re not as pleasingly chunky to use.
The biggest change comes at the back, and the boot in particular. Instead of a saloon tailgate, the Gran Coupe is a hatchback. While the overall volume of 470 litres is actually 10 litres down on the 3 Series, the much larger opening combined with a folding rear seat bench makes the available space more versatile.
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Step inside, and it’s all typical 4 Series. The driving position can be set low to the floor for a sporty feel, while the cockpit is gently angled towards the driver. In the back, the swoopy roofline means that it’s not quite as accommodating as a 3 Series (there’s 13mm less headroom) but only the tallest back-seat passengers will have any reason to complain.
With no plans to make a full-fat M variant of this particular body style, The M440i xDrive we’re driving here is as potent as this dramatic fastback model will get.
The engine is a phenomenal unit. The twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six pumps out 369bhp, while its 500Nm of torque is available from 1,900rpm right the way through to 5,000rpm. Combined with its four-wheel-drive set-up, the M440i will leap off the line and hit 62mph from rest in 4.7 seconds. Barely 10 years ago, it’d take perfect conditions for an M3 to hit that benchmark.
It’s not just the speed that impresses though, it’s the refinement too. There’s a pleasing but unobtrusive growl under hard acceleration, but when you want to settle down, the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts seamlessly and the car settles down to a wonderfully relaxing cruise. Wind and road noise are well suppressed, and stability is rock solid at the UK motorway limit. There’s even mild-hybrid tech, which makes the most of engine-off coasting to save a little fuel.
There are few cars this size that ride with such a comprehensive balance of comfort and composure. Drivers can play with the firmness of the adaptive dampers, which are standard on the M440i, but we found that body control was still more than precise enough to leave them in their most relaxed setting most of the time. Still, even in Sport mode, the firmer set-up never feels harsh or unforgiving.
Hunt for twistier roads, and it’s soon clear that handling remains an area where BMW’s CLAR platform delivers one of the sharpest drives in the segment.
The whole range benefits from extensive use of lightweight aluminium; the engine side members, spring struts, bonnet and front wings are all made from the stuff. This helps to deliver impressive weight distribution.
The M440i doesn’t feel as immediately light as the four-cylinder, rear-wheel drive 420i Gran Coupe, because the larger engine and four-wheel drive tech add a couple of hundred kilos over the entry-level options, but it still darts into corners keenly and positively.
What agility it misses out on relative to the lower models is more than compensated for by unflappable traction and stability, brought about by the M Sport differential. The electrically controlled unit is able to fully lock in certain conditions, and driving enthusiastically it allows for enjoyable, small slides. If we’re being picky, other compact executive models like the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE have a more pleasing steering weight, but otherwise the 4 Series Gran Coupe is a very engaging car to drive.
But that’s only a very minor complaint, so what else holds the 4 Series Gran Coupe back from a five-star rating? Well, only two points.
First, the all-electric version of the Gran Coupe, the i4, gets an even larger, prettier and faster-loading infotainment system and digital driver’s display than the set-up fitted here. The second is that if you can do without the rear hatchback, the M340i, which is mechanically pretty much identical, is available for £3,810 less. That’s a big premium for the extra style and a more versatile boot arrangement.
Still, the equipment levels on this top-spec M440i are generous; 19-inch alloy wheels, uprated M Sport brakes, LED headlights, heated front seats and online services for the infotainment setup are all included. Our car came with the best part of £10,000 of options, the biggest of which was the £3,650 Technology Plus pack. This adds steering assist for motorway driving, a head-up display, a Harman/Kardon sound system, wireless smartphone charging, and gesture control for the infotainment.
|Model:||BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe|
|Engine:||3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|