Five-door version of dynamic new 4 Series Coupe arrives in M Performance form.
The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe was conceived as a niche model, but there has been nothing niche about its sales performance since its arrival in 2015. With more than 860,000 examples delivered to date, the low-slung liftback has exceeded expectations in almost every market, including Australia, and it will launch here soon.
Predictably, then, the new Mk2 model sticks with the same design formula. It shares its front end with the new 4 Series Coupe and Cabriolet, including its enormous grille, but farther back there are frameless doors and an angled tailgate that opens high to reveal a large boot.
It also shares much of its interior architecture with its two namesakes, including the dashboard, which as standard features a 10.25in digital dial display and an 8.8-inch (optional 12.3-inch) infotainment screen. It’s all pleasingly upmarket and BMW’s iDrive system remains class-leading.
The 4 Series Gran Coupe isn’t as accommodating as the 3 Series, though, especially in the rear, where its more heavily sloping roof restricts head room, despite the low-set seats.
Three variants will be offered from the outset of UK sales this month: the 420i, 430i and M440i xDrive. Whereas the others all have four cylinders, the M440i has a straight six – the latest incarnation of BMW’s 3.0-litre turbo unit. Power climbs over the powerplant used by the old 440i to 285kW. Torque is also up to 500Nm, developed on a band between 1900 and 5000rpm.
The increases are partly thanks to the 48V mild-hybrid system, which uses an alternator to boost power under acceleration. It also provides the basis for the engine to be idled during prolonged periods of trailing throttle in two of the M440i’s five driving modes: Eco Pro and Comfort.
It’s a terrifically well-balanced engine with great drivability and unmistakable BMW qualities. It’s very linear with little discernible lag and loads of low-rev flexibility, combined with a pleasantly smooth and rev-friendly demeanour high up.
The standard eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox is quick to react and mostly smooth in action, whether left to swap ratios itself or when you take control via the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The four-wheel drive system is tuned with a clear rearward bias and comes with an M Sport electronic locking rear differential, giving the new M440i outstanding traction.
Suffice to say that this car is brisk. BMW claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.7sec, some 0.3sec inside the time quoted for the old 440i, and it feels quicker still, with its determination and excellent longitudinal stability.
There’s a litheness to the M440i that belies its 1825kg kerb weight. It’s very satisfying to thread down a winding back road in Sport mode. Rapid changes of direction reveal impressive agility, well-checked body movements and, if the DSC is turned off, an ability to entertain through a good deal of adjustability.
The steering is hardly overflowing with feel, but the electromechanical system is quite heavily weighted and engagingly responsive off-centre.
On the M440i’s standard M Sport suspension, the ride is a little on the firm side, although optional adaptive dampers ensure road shock on rough bitumen remains quite well isolated in Sport mode. Even so, for everyday driving, it’s best to dial up Comfort.
The new M440i represents quite an advance. Although larger and heavier than the old 440i, its sharp performance and engaging dynamics lift it well above that car. It’s also a good deal roomier and more practical.
At $115,900 before on-road costs, you might need to dig deep. But as an everyday proposition, its attraction can’t be denied.