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Lovely to Drive, Awful to Look At

BMW 4-Series Full Overview

Pro

  • Great engine
  • Great handling
  • Great ride

Con

  • That face
  • Same old interior
  • Gesture control

There is a well-traveled rumor that the 2021 BMW 4 Series exterior design team has been reassigned to styling door handles and seat belt mountings for the rest of their careers.

OK, maybe that’s fake news. But it does prove that Germans have a sense of humor.

Regardless, buying a BMW 4 Series for its dynamic thrills is going to result in people asking you lots of questions, starting not with, “How does it drive?” but rather, “When was your last eye exam?”

Which is a shame, because the BMW M440i xDrive coupe is a blast.

But first, we must discuss design. BMW’s signature kidney grilles are suffering from hydronephrosis. Maybe the design team wasn’t allowed bathroom breaks on deadline, and this was their way of symbolically fighting back. As it stands, the ridiculously out-of-scale grille mars what would otherwise be a flashy front clip. (There are already much better renderings circulating on the Internet.) Unfortunately, the side view isn’t all that stunning as means of compensation. From one perspective, it’s what happens when you ask Infiniti designers to pen the next Mustang.

With that onerous topic out of the way, features editor Christian Seabaugh moved on to better news. “I’m happy to report it drives better than it looks,” he said. “Its turbo I-6 is impeccably smooth, and it encourages the driver to wring every last ounce of power out of it. Chassis is pretty nice—balanced and neutral, even with the addition of AWD. Rides far nicer than most M-badged BMWs I’ve driven this year. It appears like someone at M hasn’t forgotten how to tune a sports car with a compliant yet firm ride.”

Testing director (and figure-eight specialist) Kim Reynolds added: “Nice, quick paddle shifts. Steering response is a highlight. A very powerful car that’s propelled fast to the next corner with a modest tail-out drift exiting. Moderate understeer that you can modulate with small throttle changes. Brakes are strong, but there’s some decay of front tire grip.”

Phew. At least BMW engineers weren’t clowning. And here’s the cool thing: This isn’t even the M4, as senior features editor Jonny Lieberman noted: “A few years ago, this would’ve been M3/M4 power levels. The transmission is absolutely great. The ride quality is quite good. We are so spoiled.”

However, once you stop driving it like a rally car, one might notice fairly significant low-frequency booming in the cabin, and the brakes that are oh-so-confident trail-braking into a decreasing-radius hairpin become choppy at parking lot speeds. But when you buy the M440i  instead of the base 430i, you know that you’re getting M Sport brakes when you sign on the dotted line. Wish we’d asked for a standard-spec version to compare against, though.

Interior design follows traditional BMW styling points, which means it’s either brand-confident or tired and repetitive, depending on your level of cynicism. “It’s a nice interior, but when you’re starting a brand-new generation and have the opportunity to start from a clean sheet, you should take advantage of that,” MotorTrend en Español‘s Miguel Cortina said.

Viewing outward, the large B-pillar, small rear quarter window, and high side sills make for massive blind spots—but BMW drivers don’t look for what’s behind them anyway, so it’s a moot point. Joking, joking.

And although BMW has refined its iDrive infotainment system into a logical, smooth-running user interface, it relentlessly pushes its “gesture control” technology, which allows drivers to perform basic tasks like reducing audio volume or changing the radio station without actually touching buttons or screens. But it works only sporadically, triggering Seabaugh to respond with a more universally recognized gesture.

Dynamically improved, yes. Design? Atrocious. Interior? Feels carryover. So much right but so much crucially wrong.

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 BMW M440i xDrive (Coupe)
Base Price/As tested $59,495/$69,770
Power (SAE net) 382 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 364 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 4.0 sec
Quarter-mile 12.6 sec @ 110.2 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 109 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.93 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 24.7 sec @ 0.78 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 22/30/25 mpg (est)
Vehilce Layout Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
Engine/Transmission 3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6/8-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 3,960 lb (54/46%)
Wheelbase 112.2 in
Length x Width x Height 188.0 x 72.9 x 54.8 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.78 lb/mile (est)


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