Is the luxury coupe a dying market segment? Are the buyers of these cars – and I’ll be honest, they’re all around my age – going to luxury SUVs instead?
At DriveLife, we hope not. A luxury coupe with a bit of punch can be such a satisfying drive, and often more practical than an SUV when it’s your daily driver. Sure, you can’t load as much stuff in the back, but when you are at a certain age where you don’t have lots of passengers often or loads of stuff to carry about, a coupe like the BMW M440i might just be the perfect answer.
This new model is 128mm longer, 27mm wider and the wheelbase is extended by 41mm over the previous gen.
We managed to get an extended 2-week drive of the flagship M440i, and that included a drive to Auckland and back. So, this begs the question: does over 2,000km in an M440i make me want to buy one?
What’s In The 2021 BMW 4 Series Range?
You get to pick from two 4 Series Coupe models; the 420i and the M440i (tested). The 420i starts at $81,900, while the M440i kicks off at $129,900.
There’s a 12.3” digital instrument cluster in both models, along with a 10.25” central display.
The 420i comes standard with the M Sport package, 19” M light-alloy wheels Y-spoke style 797 M with runflat tyres, adaptive suspension, adaptive LED lights, Alcantara/Sensatec upholstery, sports seats, wireless Apple CarPlay, BMW Live Cockpit Professional, Connected package Professional, Driving Assistant, and Parking Assistant. You can read up about these packages on BMW New Zealand’s website.
The M440i adds Adaptive M suspension, BMW Laser Headlights, M Sport brakes, M Sport differential, M Performance exterior package, mirror caps in Cerium Grey, Harman/Kardon Hi-fi sound system, ambient lighting, leather upholstery, Driving Assistant Professional, Parking Assistant Professional (incl. Parking Assistant with Active Park Distance Control rear, Reversing Assistant, Surround View, Panorama View, 3D View), and also keyless entry and start.
There’s two engines available, depending on what model 4 Series you buy. One is the 4-cylinder petrol engine for the 420i, which is rated at 135kW of power, and 300Nm of torque, allowing it to get to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds and it uses 7.8L/100km of fuel. Then there’s that other engine; the 3-litre, TwinPower turbo straight-six powering the M440i. It manages 285kW or power, and 500Nm of torque and gets to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. Both are fitted with an 8-speed automatic transmission, both with steering wheel paddles.
Our test car was fitted with the Visibility Package and the M Carbon Exterior Package at $9,600 for both, bringing the as-tested price up to $139,500. The Visibility Packages includes ambient lighting on the inside, an electric sunroof with electric blind and pop-up wind deflector, and sun protection glazing. You can option the Visibility Package on the 420i for $5,800, and then it includes the laser headlights (which are standard on the M440i).
You can read more about the M440i on BMW New Zealand’s website.
First Impressions of the 2021 BMW M440i
Well, it sure looks better than most SUVs. Our test car was finished in Arctic Race Blue – a colour I was initially a bit meh about, but by the end of my time with the M440i, felt it suited the car well.
But first of all, let’s talk about the front. When the first photos came out of the new 4 series of cars, a lot of people baulked at that grille. I say baulked, but others used much stronger words. Honestly, I didn’t like it either – it looked massive. But hand on heart, in the flesh it looks ok. I think the fact that it wasn’t all chromed-up made a difference; finished in dark grey, it didn’t stand out enough to look too big, and in grey suited the style of the car. BMW say the grille “stands confidently”, and harks back to the BMW 328 and 3.0Csi.
I back this view up with some evidence. At the traffic lights, a window cleaner gave me a double thumbs-up and a comment of, “beautiful car, Sir.” I don’t get called ‘Sir’ often (if ever), so it was a nice, random comment. Then on Jackson Street in Petone, a bunch of schoolgirls walked past and one of them stopped as she was walking and looked at the M440i, then threw me a “love your car!”. So maybe the M440i appeals to all age groups after all.
On another day, I went to pick up some brake discs for my Sunbeam Tiger that I had skimmed at a Midas, and as I was backing the M440i out of the car park, three of the mechanics stopped and looked at it. The M440i is a car that will turn heads, and side-on some of that may be down to the low, sleek design, and also those awesome blistered rear guards that look amazing.
Around the back of the M440i are some particularly large, rectangular exhaust tips, and these are real, no fake stuff here like we’ve been seeing a lot of lately.
I can’t not talk about those wheels. ‘Only’ 19 inches, but man, they look great on this car. Side on, this car is low, sexy, and a little mean. It’s 57mm lower than a 3 Series sedan, so that gives you an idea about its stance.
The bottom line here is that in the flesh, the car looks good, and don’t let photos or memes of that grille put you off.
What’s The Interior Of The 2021 BMW M440i Like?
The sharp exterior design flows down to the interior of the car, especially when it’s finished in Cognac, as was our test car. Anyone who looked inside was stunned. Just changing the colour from black to something else suddenly lifts both the sportiness and perceived value of the car. The seats catch your eyes too. Not because they are finished in Cognac, but the size of the bolsters gives any onlooker a hint that this car isn’t all looks. Nice ‘M’ logo badges in the seats finish off these sports seats.
On the whole, the interior of the M440i is pretty much the same as most other BMWs, and that’s fine with us. They exude class and style, and I’m certain this is what most buyers in this segment are looking for.
There’s plenty of room in the front, with that wide dash conveying a feeling of openness. The dash itself is quite high though, giving front-seat passengers a feeling of being cocooned. At the front of the centre console is a Qi charging pad, and just behind that a 12-volt socket and a standard USB port.
In front of the driver, is a very chunky steering wheel, not flat bottomed which was a surprise, but it feels great in your hands. At the bottom is a small, subtle M badge.
There’s a good-sized cubby at the rear of the centre console, and this has a USB-C port in there. Good to see a mix of USB ports for those with different devices.
Back seats passengers have a mixed bag of good and not so good stuff. They get two supremely comfortable seats (the M440i is strictly a 4-seater), a just-reasonable amount of legroom, and two USB-C ports to plug phones into. Getting in and out of the rear seats is a little tricky though. Slipping the handle at the top of the front seat up sees electric motors do all the donkey work for you, as the seat glides forward, but the actual access in and out is a little awkward. I’m sure the grandkids wouldn’t have any issues, though. Headroom in the rear isn’t fantastic, with the electric sunroof taking some of the available space. The headlining does lift up at the rear of the sunroof but it’s still pretty tight for adults.
There’s also some handy storage spots for rear seat passengers, in the quarter panel. I’ve not seen this lately in a modern car, and can imagine sticking all sorts of stuff on there on a trip to Auckland. Keep in mind that the rear windows of the M440i don’t go down, in case that’s important to you.
If there’s one thing I think detracted from the interior, it was that the plastic finish on the lower half of the dash was also in the same Cognac colour and for me, that was a step too far. Others liked it, so perhaps this is more of a personal choice.
Opening the boot is a bit of a revelation; at 440 litres, there’s plenty of usable space. It goes forward quite a ways, and the centre of the rear seat folds down to accept some skis, pointing to the M440i’s target market – empty nesters who like to shoot to the mountain for a weekend’s skiing. The whole rear seats fold down, in a 40/20/40 split.
While there’s a 12-volt power socket in the boot, there’s no pump or spare back there. The M440i is fitted with run-flat tyres, so you can drive up to 160km to get it fixed.
What’s The 2021 BMW M440i Like To Drive?
I have to say, this was one review I was looking forward to. I last drove a 4 series on the road in January, but it was the base model with a 2-litre motor and was a little underwhelming. It didn’t seem to have much power or torque, so it always left me wanting more.
Well, the M440i is the answer to that. With a 3-litre, six-cylinder TwinPower Turbo power plant, torque is never an issue, let alone having 285kW of power at hand. This thing goes like a scalded cat, and sounds amazing, with 100km/h coming up in 4.4 seconds. Yes, the M5/M8 with their twin-turbo V8 motors sound amazing too, but this motor is an engineering masterpiece. It sounds and feels like a turbine, and you get the feeling that it will never stop revving out.
After recently testing the Kia Stinger with its 274kW of twin-turbo V6 power, this was going to be an interesting comparison. The M440i is almost double the price, with just a little more power. Surely, anyone would buy the Stinger and save the money? With a trip to Auckland and back, I hoped to have the answer.
For my first week with the M440i, it was the Daily Driver; commute, evening stuff, and weekend stuff. As is usual for this time of the year, it rained for the whole week bar one day. With BMW xDrive all-wheel drive system, grip and safety is rarely in doubt, unless you floored it away from the lights. Actually, flooring it from a start will see some turbo lag, perhaps a second or so, and then all hell breaks loose as the car rockets forward, the engine singing the song of its people. It’s glorious.
At $130,000, you’d expect that this Daily Driver would have all the mod cons, and you’d be right. There are some it has that work so brilliantly, they alone almost make this car worth its price. For me, one of these was the adaptive cruise control on the M440i. We’ve had many cars with adaptive cruise, and more often than not it’s fitted to cars we test. But the M440i’s system just works so perfectly, it makes that daily drive (and long trips) an absolute pleasure. This car has adaptive cruise down to a stop, but it’s a Stop/Go system. This means if the traffic on the motorway (for example) stops, the M440i will also stop by itself, and then when that traffic moves off? The M440i will simply move off with the flow, by itself. So no pushing of the cruise button, no tapping of the gas pedal, it’s all automatic. And it works brilliantly.
I last had adaptive cruise with Stop/Go on the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe, and that worked very well too, but the M440i’s system was faultless. Man, it’s good. If you’ve selected it, the centre part of the display on the dash also shows your car, with the other cars moving around you, very much like a Tesla. It feels gimmicky, but it gives you some sense of surety that the car can actually see the other vehicles around you. The system will show a truck as a truck, or a car as a car on-screen.
Cruise is still set with one push of a button on the steering wheel, but the design and activation of adaptive cruise has changed a little. There’s now a ‘mode’ button on the steering wheel next to the button that turns adaptive cruise on, and then you can switch between assisted drive (the car assists with steering) or standard adaptive cruise.
There’s Qi wireless charging as mentioned, as well as electrically adjustable seats, SatNav and other things you’d expect at $130K, like the 3D view system (360-degree camera). The only things I felt were missing was a heated steering wheel and ventilated seats, but I could live without them.
One new item I hadn’t seen before on a BMW is the auto window-down location feature, where you can program the car to automatically wind down the driver’s window at a certain location, say a numeric keypad when you pull up to your electric gate. I don’t have an issue pushing down the window button when needed, but I can see this would be pretty handy for some people. Perhaps at the airport, as you collect your parking ticket.
Back to driving, since that’s really what the M440i is all about. With so much torque, the car easily copes with running around in Eco Pro mode. You can certainly feel the drop in off the line or motorway performance, but there is power there if you need it at any time, by mashing the gas pedal down. There are the other normal BMW drive modes; Adaptive, Comfort, Sport. Sport is programmable, so you can choose how you want your steering, suspension, or ride. I left the car in Adaptive mode most of the time. It really is intelligent enough to run the car in an eco mode most of the time, and then pop itself into Sport mode when it feels you starting to drive a bit more exuberantly. The car always reverts to Comfort mode when you get back in, which can be a bit painful, but not the end of the world.
As you’d expect at this price, the car is fitted with a heads-up display, and BMW makes one of the better ones. Using SatNav sees large graphics showing what lanes you should be in on the motorway; large, clear and crisp. If there’s one criticism of the HUD – and I’ve mentioned this before about BMWs – it’s that when you have the car in Sport mode, you aren’t shown what revs the engine is doing, or what gear you are in. I can live without knowing what gear I’m in, but with an engine this smooth and so eager to rev, knowing what the engine is doing without having to look down is a must when in (at least) Sport mode on a twisty road. For me, this is the biggest failing of the car. You can’t turn this on in the menu system either, so you have to live with it. Such a shame.
If we’re talking about things that aren’t perfect, there is a reasonable amount of road and tyre noise inside the cabin, even on smooth asphalt. It’s never bad, and quite likely it’s because that engine is so smooth and quiet, everything else feels amplified. The engine can make a noise, believe me, but around town or on the motorway, it’s either silent, or sounding like a turbine. That is unless you floor it or stick it in Sport mode. More on that later.
Other less-than-great things include the blind spot on the driver’s side of the car. While the outside looks pretty bloody sexy, that does mean a shoulder-check on the driver’s side sees a whole lot of not much. Thankfully, there’s a pretty good blind spot monitoring system in place to save you from lane changes where you shouldn’t. Lane departure warning is in place and like a lot of cars we’ve had lately, too aggressive. At times you are fighting the steering wheel to make the car go where you want. And of course, with ANCAP safety rules, even if you turn off lane departure warning in the menu system, it turns itself back on again when you get in the car.
There are some other awesome things to make up for that, including BMW’s Laser headlights. We last saw these on the mighty X5 M50d, and they impressed – and still do. These headlights are amazing – adaptive of course, but their sheer power and depth (up to 500 metres) put them out front of most other cars, if not all. BMW has really nailed adaptive headlights. On the motorway, I could see (on high beams) down the left sides of cars in front of me, lighting up the banks on the sides of the motorway, but the adaptive side of the headlights ‘blacking out’ the cars in front, so they weren’t blinded. They are incredible to watch, and the safety aspect of these headlights can’t be overlooked.
Time to hit the road to Auckland, a 1,200km round trip. I gassed up the car and was told that the range was over 700Km. I had to laugh at BMW’s suggested combined fuel consumption rating; 7.1L/100Km out of 285kW? I don’t recall ever seeing such an optimistic fuel consumption rating. Still, 700Km seemed like I would make it all the way on one tank full. We’ll see, especially since it rained nearly all the way.
Leaving home at 6am on Friday meant almost no traffic, with that adaptive cruise doing its thing. The laser headlights cut easily through the breaking dawn, as the M440i and I cruised north. Most of this trip was pretty uneventful, so I decided to hang left at Turangi, right at Kuratau Junction, taking the back road to Kihikihi. Those that know this area will understand why I went this way; this stretch of road has long sweepers, fast bends, tight corners and long straights. It’s a mix of every sort of road you ever wanted and seemed like the perfect test for this car.
I had to keep in mind that the road was damp, but heading out of Turangi and winding up the first hill, I forgot all about the damp surface as the xDrive AWD system on the M440i coped perfectly with it. I do have to say that on some of the rutted corners, the car stepped out on me more than once, but it quickly settled back down and just got on with it.
On those long sweepers, Comfort mode seemed to cope just fine, so I left the drive mode as it was until I got to Whakamaru. From Mangakino onwards the road turns nasty, with plenty of quick bends and tight corners. The car loved this road, with me holding the engine just on the 6,500rpm redline in second gear where I could. The engine sounds so good – still amazingly smooth, but with a nice series of snap-crackle-pops on the overrun. I did have it in Sport mode though, both to get the most out of the exhaust system, and early on I found that Comfort mode on those tight corners meant understeer and tyre scrub. Sport mode sorted that out very quickly.
Steering feel increases nicely in Sport mode too. It’s not fantastic, but it’s enough to let you know what the front end is doing. The brakes though; never anything but perfect. No fade, great feel to them, and repeatable braking performance. They are excellent. Grip is good from those Goodyear Eagle tyres, 255/35/19 on the rear, and 225/40/19 on the fronts. Even on that damp back road, they didn’t lose traction often and when they did, it didn’t really concern me as I still managed to keep it all together.
To get the best out of it, you do need to keep the car above 4,500rpm. This does mean awesome midrange power is there when you need it. At 1,815Kg, this coupe may be on the ‘too much McDonalds’ side of things, but it can hustle when you want it to.
The only downside, again, was that lack of at least a rev counter on the HUD. This was absolutely the time when I needed it, to save me looking down at the dashboard to check my revs. With an engine this smooth, it’s too easy to over-rev it.
Arriving in Kihikihi, I took a right and cruised on to Auckland. Of course, I arrived in time for rush hour, but adaptive cruise saved the day, and my right leg. This gave me a chance to reflect on the 8-speed automatic gearbox in the car; it’s very smooth in changes, and off the mark. Thank God BMW hasn’t gone to a dual-clutch automatic, which can be jerky at low speeds. The M440i has a perfectly-mannered transmission, and the speed of changes – especially in Sports mode – is more than fast enough. But it is the day-to-day behaviour of the gearbox; it’s another part of the car that’s perfect.
Heading off from Auckland on Sunday, I again took SH3 then SH4 from Hamilton, this time heading to Ohakune to pick up a friend. This time, the rain was torrential, and visibility was negligible. Can someone please explain to me why New Zealand drivers don’t put their headlights on in the rain? Most cars were like this, and invisible, so the M440i and I took it easy. At times, the car almost hydroplaned across standing water on the road, but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant concern.
On picking up my passenger in Ohakune, she comes to the car bearing bags…and two sets of skis. Thankfully, the M440i’s rear centre armrest is made for these very things, so no drama at all. Tell me again why you need an SUV?
After a right turn at Waiouru, it was time to hit SH1 home. More rain, more cars with no lights on. Go you, New Zealand drivers.
You might take from this review, that I used some of the M440i’s performance when I safely could, and yes, I did. It’s an awesome grand tourer, and surprisingly good as a Daily Driver too. So that would mean my fuel consumption would be reflected in the way the car was driven. BMW suggested a crazy-low 7.1L/100km on a combined cycle for this 285kW, twin-scroll turbo V6. After 2,200Km, I got 7.9L/100km out of the car, so BMW aren’t all that crazy after all. I still can’t believe it. You might think that was all the open-road driving, but here’s the thing; when I left Wellington to head north, it was reading 8.4 – still a bloody good result, if not incredible.
To put that 7.9 into perspective, the 274kW 3.3-litre, twin-turbo V6 Kia Stinger we recently tested did 11.4L/100Km. The 331kW Audi RS5? 13.9L/100Km. Let’s take it right down to the 1.4-litre, 74kW Kia Stonic I tested last month. That car used 6.7L/100Km.
You can see the BMW M440i is amazingly economical, if that’s what you are looking for.
What’s The Competition For The 2021 BMW M440i?
I’ve included the Toyota GR Supra below, even though it’s a 2-seater, but it has the same engine and transmission as the M440i, so certainly worthy of inclusion.
|0-100km/h, seconds||Cargo capacity, litres||Fuel L/100km||Price|
|Lexus RC-F Coupe RWD||5.0-litre V8||351/500||4.5||NA||11.2||$171,300|
|Jaguar F-Type P380 R-Dynamic Coupe AWD||3.0-litre, V6 supercharged||280/460||4.9||336||8.6||$164,900|
|Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio RWD||2.9-litre twin-turbo V6||375/600||3.9||480||8.2||$139,990|
|AMG C43 S Coupe AWD||3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6||270/520||4.7||400||8.2||$130,100|
|BMW M440i AWD||3-litre, twin-turbo, 6-cylinder petrol||285/500||4.5||440||7.1||$129,900|
|Toyota GR Supra RWD||3-litre, twin-turbo, 6-cylinder petrol||285/500||4.1||290||NA||$99,290|
What’s The Pros and Cons Of The 2021 BMW M440i?
Incredible engine; smooth, powerful, sporty
Exhaust in Sport mode
Adaptive cruise operation
No rev counter in HUD
Awkward rear-seat access
|Vehicle Type||2-door luxury sports coupe|
|Price as Tested||$139,900|
|Engine||3.0-litre, twin-scroll turbo, six-cylinder petrol|
|Spare Wheel||Run-flat tyres only|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||1,815|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||4794x2081x1393|
|Cargo Capacity, litres|
Seats up/seats down
|Fuel capacity, litres||59|
|Fuel Efficiency, L/100Km||Advertised Spec – combined – 7.1|
Real-World Test – combined – 7.9
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
|Turning circle, metres||NA|
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
|Warranty||5 Year Warranty|
3 Years Scheduled Servicing
5 Years Roadside Assist
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Star|