BMW M440i - the proof is in the driving
f there was a title for the prettiest BMW, I think this may take it.
It’s the M440i and it is currently creating a name for itself as a compact performance coupe.
It’s not to everyone’s taste. Some BMW aficionados don’t like the grille, others are not impressed by the skinny rear haunches. Me? I like it. This is a fine car to drive and it’s not bad to look at.
As ever with a BMW, the proof is in the driving. This car is balanced and quick off the mark without being too firm or uncomfortable. It has a wondrous six-cylinder engine and an engine note which hints at its sportiness.
For all the criticism of its appearance, it has film star looks and it is low, lean and well proportioned. My time with the car was spent in and around Wetherby. It was a motor industry jaunt based at the racecourse and our journeys were on the splendid country roads in the locality.
So, what is the M440i? Well, the BMW has had a few additions in recent years. You will be aware of the 3 Series and 5 Series models but this is a new range called the 4 Series.
The 4 Series was created when BMW spun off the two-door models in coupe and convertible form from the 3 Series into a separate range. The 4 Series is in its second generation and it is winning friends and influencing people.
If the 3 Series is a workaday model, the 4 Series is its sexier, sleeker sibling. Certainly more interesting and capable. First deliveries in the latest guise came in March and they cost from £45,785 on the road. M Sport specification is as standard for UK customers, with exclusive M-Sport Pro Edition also available.
It is sharper than its predecessor – both in looks and ability – and echoes the bold style of the 4 Series Coupe. It blends sporting driving pleasure and open-air thrills to continue the 35-year legacy in this model class that began with the first 3 Series Convertible.
The test model is new to the sixth generation’s range – the BMW M440i xDrive Convertible – and it offers standout performance courtesy of a 374bhp six-cylinder in-line petrol engine, with power via a Steptronic eight-speed gearbox and the intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
There was also a choice of two four-cylinder petrol units and a four-cylinder diesel from launch. Two straight-six diesel engines will joined the engine line-up later.
For me it’s the front of the car which is the most alluring. It highlights its standalone character and distinguishes it most clearly from the 3 Series Saloon. The defining element is its large, vertically emphasised BMW kidney grille, which – as on the new BMW 4 Series Coupé – has a pronounced forward slant.
Full-LED headlights are fitted as standard. There is also the option to specify the Visibility Pack, which adds BMW Laserlight and high beam assist. BMW Laserlight includes the adaptive cornering function with variable road illumination optimised for urban and motorway driving and, at speeds above 37mph, increases high-beam range.
The cockpit is a work of art. BMW say it is driver-centric and it features a large screen-grouping formed by the instrument cluster and control display. The arrangement of the controls emphasises that this is a car built for driving enjoyment – as do standard features including electric sports seats in the front with automatic belt feeders, Vernasca leather trim, seat heating and a leather sports steering wheel, plus the clear individual seat design of the two rear seats.
M Sport specification is impressive. This includes large front air intakes, a sculpted rear apron, sport suspension, 18in M light-alloy wheels, sport seats, knee pads on the centre console and a Sensatec dashboard.
The Live Cockpit Professional, Ambient Lighting, electric seats, reversing camera, reversing assist, three-zone automatic climate control and 10.25in CD are also included in standard specification. It also has what BMW call a welcome light carpet – unlock the doors and a carpet of light appears to guide you to the front doors. A gimmick, but quite a nice one.
This is the first time that all model variants in the 4 Series Convertible range have been fitted with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission as standard. The advanced transmission offers sharp shift dynamics, comes with shift paddles on the steering wheel and introduces the new Sprint function. This prompts the powertrain and shift characteristics to maximise handling performance when putting in a sudden burst of speed or overtaking.
A far wider selection of driver assistance systems is available compared to the preceding generation of the 4 Series Convertible. Park Distance Control with sensors at the front and rear, front collision warning with brake intervention, Lane Departure Warning including lane return with steering assistance, and the Speed Limit Info system are all now fitted as standard.
This is a pretty car and a quick one. Yet it is well mannered in all modes of driving.
BMW M440i xDrive Convertible
Price: £58,980. With extras £67,550
Engine: A 2,998cc six cylinder 374bhp petrol engine via eight-speed 4x4 transmission
Performance: Top speed 155mph and 0 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds
Costs: combined 35.3mpg
Warranty: Three years’ 60,000 miles