There was a time when driving a BMW with an M badge was a rarified treat. But just as Mercedes-Benz has done with AMG, the M badge is now plastered across half of the line-up.
The M stands for Motorsport of course, and signifies you’re getting a BMW that hardcore enthusiasts will love. But given the M440’s $12,900 premium above the already-spendy $45,600 BMW430i Coupe, you have to wonder if the M actually stands for money.
Regardless, it’s time to see if the M440i xDrive Coupe is deserving of its hallowed M badge.
Until recently, the 4 Series was known as the 3 Series Coupe, which is basically what it is, as the 4 Series uses 3 Series engines, and its interior is similar. The newest iteration of the 4 Series Coupe has grown a bit, 5.2 inches longer, 1 inch wider, 0.4 inches taller with a 1.6 inch-longer wheelbase and 1.4 inch-wider front and 1.2 inch wider rear tracks than the previous 4 Series Coupe. It also looks significantly larger.
If you first approach the 4 Series Coupe from behind, it’s hard not to be impressed, with its smooth aerodynamic shape and flowing lines. Its sophistication is impressive, even seductive. It’s lovely two-door shape calls to you, ready to steal your heart. Then you walk to the front of the vehicle, and all enthusiasm vanishes.
BMW’s PR minions call its freakishly oversized grille striking, and they’re right. But a third eye in the middle of your forehead is striking as well. Yet you wouldn’t call it attractive – and this front-end execution certainly isn’t.
Thankfully, the interior is a far different story. The instrument panel seems to be directly lifted from the 3 Series. The test vehicle was tarted up with the $3,700 Executive Package, which included some options you’d expect as standard equipment given the M440i’s base price, such as a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, ambient lighting, a head-up display and LED headlights.
“… BMW’s PR minions call its freakishly oversized striking, and they’re right. But a third eye in the middle of your forehead is striking as well …”
But the cabin’s premium ambiance is unmistakable, and a very good place to spend some time. The leather seats, a $1,450 option, are firm, yet comfortable with enough legroom in the rear seats to bring along some guests, as long as front seat occupants make some accommodation. Cargo space is sufficient, with the 12 cubic-foot trunk able swallow
all that was required.
What makes this car so sublime is its powerplant, a smooth turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 augmented by a 48-volt hybrid system that generates 382 horsepower through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The difference from the 430’s 255-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4 cylinder is noticeable, running 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds versus 5.5 seconds for 430i xDrive Coupe.
Safety and Technology
BMW equips the 440i with an impressive roster of standard driver-assistance safety gear, including lane-departure warning with steering correction; frontal collision; pedestrian warning with braking function; blind-spot detection; rear cross-traffic alert; rear collision preparation, automatic high beams; and speed limit information.
Optional goodies include Driving Assistance Professional Package which adds Active Cruise Control, lane-keeping assist with side-collision avoidance, front cross-traffic alert and emergency-stop assist. A Parking Assistance Package includes a panoramic 3D surround-view camera. Another new option, a drive recorder, uses the cameras of the various driver assistance systems to record video footage, which can be watched on the center console. It stores up to 40 seconds of video, automatically recording up to 20 seconds in the event of a collision.
An 8.8-inch center touchscreen infotainment display and a 5.1-inch instrument cluster display are standard, and it can be upgraded to 10.25 inches and 12.3 inches respectively. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard. Wireless charging is a $500 option.
One stab of the throttle and there’s little doubt that you’re in an M. There’s a strong, smooth surge of power. Thanks to the mild hybrid system, the M440i feels particularly lively off the mark. And the cabin is noticeably quiet.
However, those expecting a true, hardcore M driving experience may be disappointed. Yes, the M440i handles sharply, but its electric power steering and compliant suspension don’t impart that hardcore fun-to-drive feel you’d expect of a car wearing the M badge. This is more a fast grand touring car than a true died-in-the-wool M, despite various M upgrades made to the car. And its all-wheel-drive system ensures that won’t be much on the way of tail-happy antics when carving through corners.
While the BMW M440i xDrive is a fine grand touring car, it’s not hardcore enough to be a true BMW M, and it has a grille only a mother could love. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great choice, it is, as long as you’re not fooled by the M badge it wears.