2021 BMW M440i Review: Refined Performance

2021 BMW M440i Coupe in Alpine White

Price as tested: $76,152

Specs: 3.0L turbocharged inline 6-cylinder (382hp, 369 lb.-ft. torque),

paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission

0-100kmh as tested: 4.3 seconds

Looking past its polarizing design, there’s a lot to like about the new BMW M440i. With an updated modern interior, surprisingly refined ride, and seriously impressive performance figures that nip at the heels of the last generation M4, this latest iteration takes a huge leap forward in luxury and refinement, while still mangling to outperform its rivals in most performance metrics. That being said, we were kind of surprised by just how much BMW has focused on comfort. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but note that M440i possess more grand-tourer traits than one might expect from a sporty BMW coupe, lending to a driving experience more akin to a ‘mini 8 Series’, rather than a ‘baby M4’ many would assume it to be.

Special thanks to Teagan at BMW London! Hit her up if you’re interested in a BMW:

Instagram: @teaganbmwlondon


Driving Impressions

For a non-fully fledged M car, the amount of performance the M440i packs is incredible. The star of the show here is the silky smooth 3.0L inline 6 (also found in the M340i sedan and the new Supra), delivering acceleration figures that nip at the heels of the outgoing M4. Mash the throttle and you’re immediately hit with a wave of low-end torque, propelling M440i to 100km/h in a swift 4.3 seconds. Thanks to xDrive providing plenty of grip it's able to put down every drop of power it has, giving it a solid planted feeling both at high speeds and in corners. Not once did we feel the tires struggling for traction, even during hard launches in the cold wet conditions we drove the car in.

Behind the wheel of the 2021 BMW M440i

Adding to the sporty experience is a raspy exhaust note that wails satisfyingly all the way to a 7000 rpm redline. It's a pretty exciting soundtrack that gets your blood pumping without sounding too enhanced, though we were slightly disappointed by its lack of crackles or pops, which were present in the Supra and the M340i (perhaps BMW thought it wouldn't suit the more 'refined and mature' personality of this luxury coupe). Toggle the car into sport mode and the 8-speed auto gearbox also impresses with its tendency to hold on to lower gears, ability to always put you square within the power band, as well as give a good kick on every upshift to add to the excitement.

Make no mistake, M440i is one heck of a performer, but we were surprised at just how much BMW has prioritized comfort this time around. Sure it goes like the hell, outperforms its closest rivals in virtually every performance metric, and feels extremely capable around corners, but BMW’s attempt at giving this sports coupe a luxurious feel lends to steering that is less connected to the road than we would’ve liked, and dare I say a little numb-feeling. And perhaps it was simply the way this particular example was specced, but we felt that the M340i sedan we recently drove was just a tad more dynamic and playful around corners. That being said, steering is well-weighted and responds predictably and accurately to inputs, so its still a joy to pilot on a curvy back road; even if it's not the most communicative steering among BMW products.

On the bright side, this means M440i is the more refined daily driver among its Audi S5 and C43 AMG peers (the Lexus RC350 does give it a run for its money in this regard, but doesn’t come remotely close on the performance side). Traversing over potholes is far less punishing than you might think, and when left in comfort mode it’s honestly a fairly tame experience; not something you can achieve in many performance coupes. BMW has also adopts a 48 volt mild hybrid system with this powertrain, which helps not only in low-end acceleration, but also during low speed maneuvering by smoothing out the auto start-stop system.

Interior: Modern and Familiar

4 Series has always felt adequately premium on the inside, but last generation’s cabin never really stood out as anything special, perhaps even feeling a little dated toward the end of its lifecycle. Thankfully this is no longer the case; BMW has taken a massive leap forwards for this generation, giving us the new sleek minimalistic design from the new 3 Series and all the tech goodies that come with it. Build is as solid as ever and the materials are befittingly premium of the class, with most surfaces covered in handsome leather or aluminium trim. I especially enjoy the Aluminium Tetragon trim, which gives the panels a sort of unique 3D metal-weave look, and suits the high-tech cabin far better than piano black or traditional wood options in my opinion.

At night, 4 Series’s customizable cabin lights set the mood with customizable ambient lighting and laser light strips running across the dash and door panels. You’ll also notice a cool puddle light design on the ground when you unlock or approach the car at night.

Infotainment + Tech

BMW continues to lead the industry when it comes to intuitive infotainment systems with iDrive 7.0, which now sports a large 10.25 inch touchscreen and a brand new UI. iDrive has always been one of the more easy-to-use infotainment systems in the market, and now it works even better now with the inclusion of a touchscreen, even with its plethora of new features making it a bit more complex and feature-packed than before. All the latest tech is also available provided you're willing to pay for it; highlights include a fully digital 12.3 inch instrument cluster, available wireless Apple CarPlay + wireless charging, a digital keycard, BMW intelligent personal assistant, and an interactive 3D Surround View camera system, and more.

Exterior Impressions:

BMW calls this new design "provocative, independent, edgy", and for once that actually doesn't feel like some marketing hyperbole. The giant grille up front seems to be the centre of most of the controversy, and while it does look a little ridiculous, it certainly gives it quite a bit of presence. Less talked about however is the side profile; particularly the rear half which has a sloping roof line and body lines that look a too soft for my taste (lending to a rear end that looks a little out of proportion). The 'Hofmeister kink' (a BMW staple) is also much less prominent this time around, only being subtly hinted at with the lower window trim that slopes slightly upward towards the tail.

Overall I can't say I've warmed up to the radical design yet, but beyond these controversial aspects, 4 Series is quite a sharp looking ride. Chiseled body lines and an aggressively sculpted front bumper give it muscular looks to back up the performance, and the rear angle is undeniably attractive, taking some design cues from the 8 Series flagship coupe. Love it or hate it, at least you can't accuse the new 4 Series of being a 2-door 3 Series anymore.

Final Thoughts:

To put it succinctly, the new 4 Series would be best described as a grand touring performance coupe, and an excellent one at that. With its refined characteristics, it feels less hardcore than its M340i sedan counterpart, and more serious/mature than the generation it's replacing, while still maintaining an element of sport and offering some seriously impressive performance.

If you're looking for something that maximizes driving fun and don't mind sacrificing on refinement, you might want to give its more sport-focused competitors a shot, such as the C43 AMG Coupe or even the M2 coupe. But if you're looking for a good balance of sport, comfort, and practicality, M440i is among the best choices, provided you can get over the controversial styling, and as long as you don't go in expecting a baby M4,