With more practicality than a 3 Series sedan and much improved four-door coupe styling, the new-generation BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe should be the perfect middleweight from Munich, especially with a gorgeous straight-six under the bonnet
In the 2000s, if you wanted a premium midsize family car with a BMW badge on the front you could choose from a 3 Series sedan, wagon or coupe. Now, thanks to efficient platform sharing, the same basic choices still exist but there are also SUVs such as the X3 and coupe-like X4, and now this 4 Series Gran Coupe to consider.
On the face of it, the 4 Series Gran Coupe blends the best of both worlds. It’s as practical as the 3 Series sedan with four doors on its flanks, yet the liftback tailgate means it’s a far easier car to fit bulky items in (Touring aside).
Then, of course, there is the way it looks. From the front, this M440i xDrive Gran Coupe tries its best to make an impression in Aventurine Red metallic ($2961 extra). Our car’s black pack ($615) softens the appearance of the controversial new kidney-grille treatment, and it does exude some of the suave coupe aesthetic the name implies.
Styling is subjective, of course, though some of the M440i Gran Coupe’s details are exquisite: the door handles hark back to the 3 Series E36 coupe (1991-1999), the wing mirrors evoke M cars of the past and the attractive 19-inch alloy wheels and laser headlights are lovely and crisp.
Take a step back, though, and to my eyes the Gran Coupe as a whole appears a bit amorphous. There’s no single defining character line to tie the car together, just a collection of body creases that don’t seem to go anywhere.
Still, if there’s one marque that’s proven the success of this body style it’s Audi with its chief rival for the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe, the S5 Sportback (from $108,700). In Australia, the A5 Sportback has shown this niche isn’t so niche after all, shifting 625 units in 2021 – 156 less than the traditional A4 sedan and three times the amount of A5 coupes.
The second-generation 4 Series Gran Coupe only went on sale in Australia in December 2021, so there isn’t solid data on the BMW’s sales just yet. In its best year on sale in Australia (2015), the previous F36 4 Series Gran Coupe managed 858 sales which was significant, though some way adrift of the 4146 3 Series BMW sold in the same year.
Once you’re behind the wheel of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, it’s a less controversial proposition than looking at it from afar.
Thumb the starter button on the transmission tunnel and the ‘B58’ 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six sparks to life with all the creamy smoothness you would expect. The engine is loud enough to be a constant presence in comfort mode, but in this case that isn’t a bad thing as BMW’s six-pot provides a syrupy smooth backing track that rises and falls with the car’s speed.
Stomp on the throttle though, and the 285kW/500Nm outputs stand the M440i to attention. Thanks to the standard-fit ‘xDrive’ all-wheel-drive system, you can easily match this car’s 0-100km/h claim of 4.7 seconds with effortless ease.
BMW purists may scoff at power being sent to the front axle, but in practice this xDrive system is close to flawless. Grunt is sent rearwards by default and in the wet you can still kick the tail out using the loud pedal. In the dry, the M440i xDrive doesn’t so much feel all-wheel-drive – more like a rear-drive car with all the grip you could imagine.
Also seamless is the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. Yes, this gearbox is used by plenty of manufacturers including Alfa Romeo and Audi, but none have quite figured out how to make the shifts as silky and intuitive as BMW. Switch into Sport or Sport Plus mode and there’s an added edge to each ratio change to amp the drama, but it’s still a refined experience.
On paper, $32,000 is an awful lot more to shell out over the 430i Gran Coupe ($83,900) seeing the engine is the only significant difference between the two. Do I see the value in that? Absolutely. The straight-six engine is a BMW hallmark and if the M440i is within budget, then you’re certain to derive joy from its energetic power delivery.
The M440i’s standard adaptive dampers are immaculately suited to Australian conditions too, with comfort offering a plush setting for urban cruising and sport handily tightening up the body control without ruining the ride.
If there’s one issue with the M440i xDrive’s dynamics, it’s the vague steering feel. An overly fat wheel rim combined with a little bit of corruption from the powered front axle means you can’t feel the 235/40R19 Pirelli P Zero tyres navigate the tarmac like you can in an Audi S5 Sportback. This BMW therefore requires a small amount of patience on turn-in, though beyond mid-corner the xDrive system adds huge confidence, and fires the M440i out of bends with astounding conviction.
Overall roadholding is absurdly good, as are the brakes and deft ESC tuning which add high marks for passive safety. The driving aids are also impressive – BMW’s adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are some of the best in the business following cars ahead at a reasonable distance while seemingly never wavering from the set speed.
Active-safety systems include forward AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection (though no reverse, or junction AEB), blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. These safety features helped the 4 Series convertible and 4 Series coupe score five Stars in ANCAP testing, though the Gran Coupe is yet to be evaluated.
The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe’s exterior is pretty in-your-face, though neither the driving experience or the restrained cabin quite match up with the loud sheetmetal.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that when you’re in the driver’s seat, you’re treated to a soothing, easy-to-look-at and sturdily constructed interior, though we’d skip the $923 carbon trim and go for a less flashy and cheaper alternative like the aluminium or oak veneer offered to better suit this particular car’s classy paintwork.
BMW’s cabin architecture is straightforward and easy to interact with. It has all the accessible tech you need in daily use but isn’t deliberately flashy like a Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe’s interior. That said, the 12.3-inch digital driver’s display doesn’t offer the functionality or crisp appearance of Audi’s – it shows a map, speed and a tachometer, but you can’t zoom in on the map or use the screen to control other infotainment functions.he low-contrast colours are also difficult to see.
There are two great ways to control the M440i’s infotainment including through the responsive 12.3-inch central touchscreen and the rotary controller that is cleanly integrated into the centre console, with shortcut buttons spread around it. BMW has also retained the ability to use your finger to scribble letters on the controller when entering navigation directions. And it continues to fit straightforward climate controls on the centre stack, with eight programmable shortcut buttons lined up below – allowing you to customise interaction with the 4 Series Gran Coupe.
Early in 2020, BMW became the first manufacturer in Australia to offer Apple CarKey functionality, which allows further control of the settings depending on the driver, while each of the two keys allow a personal set-up that ties in climate control, drive mode, music and seat settings.
Speaking of seats, our test car featured $1539 worth of black ‘Vernasca’ leather-appointed sports seats with 16-way electric adjustment including sliding under-thigh cushions. The generous bolstering holds you in well and the driving position is classic BMW – long and low. The seats themselves are heated, but cooling is a $1389 option (on the standard seats) that we reckon should be standard in a car of this price.
The leather-appointed steering wheel boasts demure metal paddles and logically laid-out buttons for increasing the volume, engaging the adaptive cruise control and voice commands, though the rim itself is too thick and squishy – robbing any steering feel from your palms.
Around the rear, the M440i Gran Coupe’s hatchback offers a huge opening for bicycles and bulky items, making this the second-most practical midsize BMW after the 3 Series Touring. Offering 470 litres of outright space below the luggage cover, we managed to fit 42 of the Chasing Cars soccer balls.
Though the sloping roofline does impact rear-seat comfort, those under six-foot will have adequate headroom and enjoy generous legroom, though it’s tight on the toes and the windows barely even make it halfway down. Unlike the 4 Series coupe’s individual buckets, the Gran Coupe has a three-wide bench, even though the transmission tunnel and wide outside bolsters mean it’s really only comfortable for two back there.
One of the great aspects of M440i xDrive ownership is BMW’s affordable service packages. Choosing the ‘basic’ option means five years or 80,000km of motoring will cost you just $1750, which is not only more affordable than an S5 Sportback ($3160) but also a Kia Stinger ($2560 for 50,000km).
Unlike other manufacturers, BMW does not specify service intervals – rather the infotainment keeps tabs on when you need an inspection, your brake pad wear and oil life, and independently reminds you when the M440i needs to visit the dealer.
Fuel usage sits in line with the generous performance on offer. The official combined consumption figure is 8.2L/100km, though we returned 10.5L/100km after regularly dipping into the propulsion that turbo straight-six has to offer.
While servicing may be affordable, and fuel use stomachable, BMW’s persistence with a three year/unlimited-kilometre warranty is less than stellar, especially with Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and Lexus all moving to five year/unlimited-kilometre coverage.
So is the 4 Series Gran Coupe the best midsize BMW on sale right now? Its unique blend of practicality and coupe-like proportions means this niche BMW probably suits more buyers than the 3 Series sedan – it’s just a shame the final design wasn’t executed with the boldness and precision of the individual details.
There’s no question that this M440i xDrive’s powertrain is one of the best on sale – that silky eight-speed auto and turbocharged straight-six add so much theatre to the 4 Series experience – even if $30K over the 430i looks steep on a spec sheet.
Thankfully the engine is backed up by a true BMW driving experience on twisty roads, where you can dip into the throttle to trim the line with all the security AWD offers. Not to mention the near-perfect ride quality on well-tuned adaptive dampers.
If you’re a fan of this five-door coupe body style then the BMW M440i xDrive certainly makes a worthy competitor for Audi’s S5 Sportback. And in Aventurine Red, undoubtedly stands out from the rest of the crowd.
Key specs (as tested)
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