BMW M440i xDrive — An excellent coupe wearing a new face

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

When you consider buying a BMW you usually want to know how it drives and handles and how many horses reside under the hood to provide that aggressive BMW "Ultimate Driving Machine" experience. Those traits, however, may be secondary in the purchase decision of the 2021 BMW 4-Series coupe. First you will need to get used to the controversial large buck-toothed kidney grille up front. It seems to be a love or hate thing. But nonetheless it will be a consideration when ponying up between $60,000 and $75,000 for a copy of the M440i.

In addition to the new grille, you will get an outstanding performance coupe powered by a 382-horsepower inline turbocharged 6-cylinder engine plus a mild hybrid system that can produce 0-to-60 runs in about 4 seconds and can carve up winding mountain roads without breaking a sweat.

Note, the 2021 3-Series sedan on which the 4-Series is based, has not yet inherited the big-tooth grille, although the two cars share a 112.2-inch wheelbase. The coupe is 2.3 inches longer, one inch wider, and has a wider rear track. That growth brings more rear seat room, but it's still only tolerable for smaller-sized adults. If you require space for more than two, perhaps you should take a look at the M340i 3-Series sedan, which carries the same engine and 8-speed automatic transmission.

The overall design of the 4-series is elegant and should serve BMW well in a two-door segment that includes the Audi A5 and Lexus RC. Devotees of the fastback coupe will be happy to know that the high-performance M4 will be coming later.

For the time being the M440i offers all the thrills we need for our daily commute. Our test car was the M440i xDrive, which in BMW speak is all-wheel drive. The rear-wheel-only model will arrive this spring, which will probably be slightly lighter and slightly faster.

In addition to the turbocharged 3.0-liter making 382 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm and 396 pound-feet of torque @ 1,800 rpm is a 48-volt electrical system, designating the 4-Series a MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle). In addition to aiding in fuel efficiency, the system provides a small 11-horsepower boost under hard acceleration. The MHEV system also takes advantage of BMW’s Brake Energy Regeneration, which uses a starter generator to recoup energy from braking back into the 48-volt battery. That energy can then assist the 12-volt system or be used for other functions.

This setup yields very acceptable gas mileage on premium fuel rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway and 25 combined.

The 4-Series at the outset also comes in a less expensive 430i configuration that is propelled by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. BMW says it's good for a 0-to-60 mph launch in 5.5 seconds for rear-drive and 5.3 seconds for all-wheel drive. And both engine configurations can be purchased as a convertible. For 2021, the convertible multi-piece folding hardtop has been replaced with a traditional soft top.

We found the interior a good place to live with excellent seats that weren't too bolstered for us old wider bodies proving comfortable with easy adjustability. We think we could be content behind the wheel for extended periods. Two adults can crawl into the rear seats, but make it for short trips — it's a bit cramped. There's 12 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk.

The 2021 4-series comes with the same standard 8.8-inch and optional 10.3-inch infotainment screens as the 3-series sedan. Both displays run the latest version of BMW's iDrive 7 infotainment software, which pairs an intuitive interface with a console-mounted click-wheel controller for easy use while driving. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and in-dash navigation are standard while a 12.3-inch digital gauge display, onboard Wi-Fi, and a wireless smartphone charging pad are optional extras.

BMW offers a full range of standard and advanced safety features. Standard safety features include automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Optional are such features as adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode, and a 360-degree parking camera.

The 4-Series starts at $46,595 for the 430i. The 440i takes the price up to $48,595 and the M440i xDrive goes out the door for $59,495 without options. We say without options because there are a large number of extras available and many are very desirable. The most expensive option on our test car, which carried a bottom line of $71,870, was the $3,700 Executive Package that includes heated steering wheel, heated front seats, head-up display, gesture control, and Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight. One option we think a bit excessive was $1,950 for Dravit Grey Metallic paint.

If you can get past the big-tooth grille — we think it's kind of cool — the M440i is a good purchase for anyone desiring a small personalized luxury performance machine.

2021 BMW M440i xDrive


Base price: $59,494; as driven, $71,870
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6, mild hybrid
Horsepower: 382 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 369 pound-feet @ 1,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 188 inches
Curb weight: 3,977 pounds
Turning circle: 39.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 12 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.6 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 22 city, 31 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 4.0 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Audi A5, Lexus RC

The Good
• Excellent performance
• Comfortable seats
• Refined interior

The Bad
• Cramped rear seats

The Ugly
• Big-tooth grille might be a turnoff