In life, if 20 is growing up and maturity arrives in the 30s, then fun begins at 40. That’s something some of my youthful CarExpert colleagues will have to trust me on.
Conveniently, BMW’s ranges (particularly with its mid-sized model lines such as the 4 Series) work much the same. The 420i is budget-savvy graduation of sorts from the mainstream, while the 430i is a proper premium BMW.
But it’s really once you head more upmarket, into the six-cylinder stuff via the ’40 grade, that the depths of sport-luxury motoring become properly indulgent, rewarding and seductive.
Pile on the goodness and you end up with the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe. Yes, it’s a clumsy name, but BMW’s oh-so-teutonic nomenclature does spell everything out, albeit in code: M-fettled, performance-oriented, coupe-styled, six-cylinder petrol and all-wheel-driven…with five doors.
There’s nothing else quite like it in the current BMW line-up – yet lots of stuff that’s a bit like it. There are a couple of four-pot versions of the G26 and the M340i xDrive offers the same goodness shore-horned into a sedan.
Instead, the M440i GC (for brevity) amalgamates: 3.0-litre muscle, genuinely heady performance, solid dynamics, five-door practicality, fulsome features and enough comfort to serve primarily as a fine daily-driver with consummate ‘gran touring’.
It’s all-round goodness and well beyond mere competency, all minted in a dynamic coupe-like vibe with frameless doors and realistic 2+2 seating.
These are things that the more sensible M340i xDrive alternative doesn’t aim to embody (right down to the Bucky Beaver teeth grille).
The M440i GC lists for $115,900 plus on-road costs.
The fundamental package can also be had in four-door 3 Series guise as the M340i xDrive for $111,900 before on-roads. There’s also a Pure version of the sedan that trims some gear and knocks $10k from the list price ($101,900).
There’s no cut-priced Pure guise offered in the 4 Series Gran Coupe.
Still too rich for you? In 4 Series Gran Coupe line-up, the four-pot rear-drive 430i lists for $83,900, while the range starts at $75,900 for the 420i. Want electric? There’s also a plug-in i4 eDrive40 that lists for $99,990.
Rivals? Lining up neatly is the six-pot, five-door Audi S5 Sportback quattro, at $112,700 plus on-roads.
Two optional paint grades are available: six regular metallics wanting an extra $2000 and three BMW Individual metallics, such as our tester’s Adventurine Red III, at a higher $3850 premium.
M440i xDrive highlights:
- M Sport package
- M Sport brakes
- Adaptive M suspension
- M Sport differential
- 19-inch alloy wheels (20s optional)
- Sport seats with front-seat heating
- Alcantara and faux leather seat trim (leather optional)
- Head-up display
- Parking sensors
- Reversing camera, reversing assistant
- LED headlights with high-beam assist
- Powered tailgate
- Powered front seats
- Ambient lighting
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 10.25-inch infotainment system
- Satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wireless)
- DAB+ radio
- Wireless phone charging
- Driving Assistant Professional, Plus
- Leather seat trim
- BMW Laserlight headlights
- 16-speaker harman/kardon surround sound system
- Instrument panel in faux leather
- Powered glass sunroof
- Cerium Grey exterior highlights
Yes, BMW piles on the goodies. Alcantara and Sensatec trim is standard; although, Vernasca leather trim can be had in a choice of five colours at no extra cost.
There is also fancier cabin trim available (with a choice of eight types) which ups the price by $1000. As you can see there’s plenty of personalisation on offer.
Further still, there’s also a variety of bundled options such as the Comfort ($1300), Executive ($3000) and M Sport Plus ($1800) that add selective ‘spruce-up’ features depending on how wide you want to pry open the piggy bank.
The 4 Series Gran Coupe hasn’t been crashed tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
However, both the related 3 Series sedan and the 4 Series (two-door) Coupe have scored five-star ANCAP ratings, albeit applying to four-cylinder variants only, and with different criteria scoring.
The 3 Series scored 97 and 87 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, 87 per cent for vulnerable road user and 77 per cent for safety assist.
The 4 Series Coupe was, according to ANCAP, based off 3 Series established testing with further assessment conducted – side impact, oblique pole – for its different side structure.
As a result, the 4 Series Coupe received a slightly lower child protection score of 86 per cent, a superior vulnerable road user score of 93 per cent, and lower 73 percentage for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Forward collision warning
- Lane departure warning
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Rear collision prevention
Vehicles with Driving Assistant Professional or Plus packages gain:
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Lane-keep assist
- Evasion aid
- Front cross-traffic alert
As a somewhat alternative packaging, the G26 is mostly successful in its aim of blending form, size, packaging and vibe.
The first row mints design familiar to 3 Series owners and is almost indistinguishable from the 4 Series Coupe in all positive senses.
Low-slung seating, sporty driver-centric vibe… unless you peer at the rear passengers in the rear-view mirror you’ll be forgiving for thinking you’re piloting the two-door 4 Series.
Row two, though, is somewhat at the mercy of the sloping roofline beyond the B-pillars: a coupe, then, by classic definition.
Despite concave relief in the rear ceiling to necessitate adult-friendly head-room, rear accommodation is short and the rear seatback is set quite forward, due to the roof’s contour.
Design wise, it’s a balancing act of form and functionality and one the Gran Coupe just gets away with…
The trade-off is a hugely deep boot space, some 470 litres that expands to 1290L when converted to a two-seater with the 40:20:40 split-fold backs stowed. The compromise this presents is that although not cramped, row two isn’t as spacious as a 3 Series, particularly in legroom.
There are three rear seatbelts that send out necessary five-seater vibes, but with the large hump in the seat base centre position, the pronounced plus-two shapeliness to the seating design and the fairly narrow cabin width, this is realistically a four-adult car with any concession to comfort.
Our tester has the no-cost Vernasca black leather rather than the standard issue Sensatec (fake leather) and part-Alcantara (fake suede) and it’s decent rather than rave-worthy.
While the sport seats, with their hard and proud side bolsters, bring torso-hugging focus, some more generously proportioned occupants may find them lacking in long-haul comfort. The 430i’s pews, for what they’re worth, are perhaps a nicer middle ground.
From the dual digital screen jewellery to the multi-coloured ambient lighting that flashes in the door trim when the door is open (presumably to warn oncoming cyclists) the M440i presents a slick and techy theme that many lovers of premium German gear will be drawn to.
However, there’s not much of it unique to the flagship, outside the seat design and appearance, and not much distinguishes it from, say, the 330i sedan.
Infotainment is quite good, crisp looking and fast acting, with iDrive 7.0’s handy tiling format. It’s all fairly intuitive and quite logical to navigate. Wireless Apple CarPlay works faultlessly and pairs quickly on start-up and the elaborate 360-degree camera system is clear and very handy.
In an era when key rivals are moving away from console controllers, the BMW’s rotary selector array remains, if realistically just to reinforce a sense of value in that you’ve plonked down good money for a premium vehicle.
The fussy and graphically overwrought instrumentation is less successful, a design of flamboyance for the sake of it at the mercy of quick-glance legibility. Thankfully the speedo is in the head-up display. It’s been a mainstay in 3ers for years now and it doesn’t get any worse with time.
The option of a switchable, straightforward alternative display skin (with the clarity of a Kia) would be a most welcome improvement.
There’s plenty of storage in the console bin and doors, there’s a selection of USB-A and -C ports throughout the cabin and the dedicated row-two air-con controls are a neat inclusion.
But, again, there’s not much different to a 430i GC, or its equivalent 3 Series for that matter.
One seemingly small gripe that will become annoying in ownership is just how noisy the climate control fans are.
They are positioned close to the dash fascia and air vents and are loud enough, in regular auto temperature regulation on a mild day, to almost drown out the nice deep thrum of the turbo six.
The range-topper packs a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six good for 285kW from 5500rpm and 500Nm between 1900-5000rpm. There is a European tune, as sampled in our international first drive, that pegs output down by 10kW.
Power is sent to all four wheels via a conventional eight-speed torque converter automatic.
At 4.7 seconds for the 0-100km/h, it’s damn quick for a near two tonne car. In comparison, the 430i rear-driven Gran Coupe is a 6.2s proposition in the 100km/h sprint.
The engine is Euro 6d compliant with combined consumption of 8.2L/100km according to BMW Australia, though real-world use proved around a litre-per-hundred higher.
As per the intro, the fun really begins in 4 Series – or 3 Series for that matter – at 40-spec. In other words, with a six-cylinder heartbeat. The four-cylinder stuff, by comparison, merely get the job done.
There’s also something wondrous, and quite fitting, about a straight six. It was the high-revving format that motoring convention tried to shuffle towards extinction for reasons of packaging and torque delivery, compared to the V6 design. Power unit evolution has, thankfully, eradicated most shortcomings in any cylinder orientation now offered.
Torque is good in this B58 3.0-litre, a similar unit to that used in Toyota’s GR Supra. It hits its 500Nm peak quickly and cleanly, dealing with the M440’s considerable mass without pause or sweat, comfortably tooling about without demanding much rpm.
While it doesn’t offer the sheer poke of the twin-turbocharged M4’s engine, the single-turbo unit is crisp and flexible, with linear delivery. It hits its peak power at lower revolutions than most straight-six cars, though this of course is a blessing in the daily-driven and open-road grand touring roles this sport coupe aims to fill.
Kickdown response is swift and the eight-speed auto is, for the most part, quite intuitive and slick in the upshifts. There’s not much call for the paddle shifters to come into play, short of tapping into Sport mode during a hot back road punt, which amplifies the soundtrack nicely.
The adaptive suspension is taut enough for good body control in Comfort and plaint enough in its firmer setting to maintain good compliance. It feels perfectly adequate no matter how or where you’re going, though its sweet spot is really is in long-haul touring. Unsurprisingly, it’d make fine a ‘bahn’-stormer.
Its hefty weight is ever present when hooking through curves but it’s reactive and alert enough on account of the crisp edge to the chassis and the amount of impressive lateral grip it summons. It points well and responds confidently, though the chassis is more planted than it is playful.
Does that M rear differential pay dividends? Perhaps, if you push on hard enough. There’s certainly enough purpose and muscle in the braking package to return rewarding pace one you turn the heat up.
If dynamic liveliness is your key measure of sportiness, as it is to many, then you’re probably better off heading towards the two-door Coupe version or the proper M-car stuff. That’s no criticism of the M440i xDrive, mind, as what it does offer fits its all-rounder bill very nicely.
BMW still offers only three years of unlimited-kilometre warranty on the 4 Series, and the rest of its line-up.
Servicing is a reasonable $1800 for a five-year/80,000km ‘basic’ package.
It’s easy to get distracted by what else BMW offers, petrol or electric, as a mid-sized alternative to the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe and rationalise a preference whichever way you like. Bottom line is, choice is good thing.
The variant tested here delivers on its well-rounded promise and stands up handsomely – grille notwithstanding – in what it aims to do for the price.
Sure, it doesn’t look that much more premium than the more affordable four-pot versions, but much of that is because the lower-grade versions present quite an upmarket vibe to begin with.
Still, that inline six and all-paw drive is worth the extra that the M440i commands, transforming an otherwise fine and likeable package into one that’s quite lust-worthy and compelling.
It’s not the full-monty M-car, but it does not pretend to be one, nor is it priced like one.
Besides, suppressing the outright heat and smoothing out the sharp edges does wonders for its friendliness, everyday comfort and usability. Remember, fun begins at 40.
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MORE: Everything BMW 4 Series