2021 BMW M440i xDrive: Overview
In my early 20s, I was in love with good-looking coupes. It really was the first thing that came to my mind when I think about a sports car. It can still be practical as you still get a decent amount of cargo space, as long as you are okay with limited rear headroom and legroom for better looks. A not too long time ago, BMW decided to change the model name from 3 Coupe to 4, creating a sportier-looking version even though they share the same platform.
Compared to the last decade, in the world of SUV craziness, there are still serious contenders in the premium compact coupe class. BMW decided to update the 4 series this year and still shares the platform with the latest 3 series which is released in 2019. However, unlike the previous generations, this time BMW decided to take a risky step and enlarge the iconic kidneys making it look a lot different than the 3-Series, which is already criticized by several automotive journalists. Let’s see how it performs and if it’s a good option for you.
Exterior and Interior
As mentioned, this time BMW took it to the next step in terms of kidney grille sizing, and it comes with an enormous grille in the front. Before jumping the bandwagon of criticizing the front-end design, BMW is not the only brand enlarging the grille sizes, but they definitely took it to an extreme level and it needs to stop. In my opinion, the front grille doesn’t look too bad with darker colours but like our tester, it has to come with blacked-out grille instead of chrome.
I am sure there will be an aftermarket solution for the front bumper/grille, but the rest of the car looks actually pretty good. Our tester may not be an actual M car, but it still comes with a decent amount of sportiness overall. It has big side grilles on the front bumper that are actually functional and helps cooling the brakes, BMW Laser headlights look great with DRLs. Double-spoke 19″ M specific wheels make the car look even sportier.
BMW decided to keep the traditional BMW design on the rear end. Though there are significant differences with the latest 3-Series, it still looks very similar to an untrained eye. Though I really like the dark gray colour which is called Dravit Grey Metallic, I think this would have been a better combination for the 3-Series. I wish it didn’t come with fake vents and exhaust tips in the rear, it would have been much better if they were functional. Other than that, everything looks good.
When you sit behind the wheel of the 2021 BMW M440i, you immediately feel it is exactly the same with 3-Series. It was kind of expected to be this way, as they share the platform and 3-Series already has solid interior features. Our tester had red leather upholstery and aluminum-looking plastic trims all around the console, which I think is a great interior choice for a sports coupe.
You get typical BMW treatment with the M440i, standard BMW steering wheel with the M badge, glossy black shifter column, a little bit more hard plastics compared to 5 Series but it is totally acceptable for this entry. The button layout is also a typical BMW feature, all important features have dedicated physical buttons but you can always use BMW’s intuitive infotainment system, which is one of our favourites. Not to mention now it comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and it works flawlessly.
Like most 3-row SUVs, rear seats in sporty coupes are for “emergency” situations, meaning that you use the rear seats only if you absolutely carry 3 or more people. As it has limited headroom due to exterior design, it is not a good place to be if you are a tall adult. For most buyers, this place is more for bags or other items rather than a passenger. Granted, it still comes with decent features such as air conditioning controls, air vents and 2 USB-C ports.
If you want 4-Series over 3, it means trunk and passenger accommodation is not your priority. As a result, you get significantly less cargo space which is not surprising. All 4-Series Coupe versions including the M440i have 7.8 cubic feet (220 lt) of cargo space standard. If you push down the rear seats it provides a cargo capacity of 15.7 cubic feet, which is still behind 3 Series’ cargo space when the rear seats are up. For sport coupe standards, it is not bad but definitely something to consider if you are in between two models.
Engine and Drivetrain
As of May 2021, there are two engine options in the 4-Series Coupe model lineup. Behind those oversized kidney grilles, there is a 6 cylinder twin-turbo engine that produces 382 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque if you choose the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive. This is my favourite BMW engine as of 2021. There are more powerful engines in BMW’s model lineup, but BMW is the master of 6-cylinder engines and it offers a great balance of performance and fuel economy. Speaking of fuel economy, our tests showed an average fuel consumption of 9.5L / 100 km which is excellent for a premium AWD coupe that weighs more than 1800kg.
There is only one transmission option regardless of the engine choice, which is a well-known 8-speed torque converted automatic that sets the industry standard when it comes to regular torque converted automatic transmissions. This transmission is as fast as dual-clutch when you need to fast. Upshifts and downshifts are very fast, but it can be very comfortable if you leave it in automatic and just cruise around.
There is only one drivetrain option which is All Wheel Drive (xDrive) with the M440i Coupe. If you want a rear-wheel-drive version, you need to choose the Cabriolet version. xDrive system works like the other higher-end BMW models as it also comes with a longitudinal engine platform, it is a heavily rear-wheel biased AWD system. Unlike M5 Competition we reviewed last week, you are unable to switch to rear-wheel-drive only and that was the only thing I wish was also available with the M440i.
Driving Impressions and Features
One of the biggest problems with today’s modern cars is not only having too much electronics, but also a lack of directness that makes you feel disconnected from the driving experience. I personally love this drivetrain and I believe 6 cylinder twin-turbo 3.0L engine is the best platform that you can get for long-term ownership in BMW’s model lineup. It is fast, has tons of torque in the mid-range, is smooth and great on gas.
However, M440i has the most common problem of the modern automotive era, it’s the lack of excitement. No matter how good the drivetrain is, or how fast you are, at the end of the day, it feels like a mini grand tourer rather than a sharp sport coupe. Granted, it is not a full M4 version so you would not expect super sharp driving dynamics, this is why M440i xDrive is a great daily driver that can go fast anytime you need.
Like the rest of the car, suspension tuning has a great balance of daily drivability and handling as it has little to no body roll. It would not punish you over the big bumps, despite having big 19″ rims. You can choose different driving modes and it would change the dampening settings. Comfort mode is very comfortable and when you switch to the sport mode, it stiffens the struts meaning that you feel more road imperfections to get less body roll.
You would be surprised how good the M440i xDrive is in terms of features. As our tester comes with an extra Premium Excellence Package, it has everything available in 4-Series. Like other BMWs, M440i comes with the latest BMW infotainment system that is very easy to use. The screen resolution is perfect, 360 and 3D cameras work really well. It also has gesture control that can be annoying as it can be overly sensitive to your movements from time to time. Like the other BMWs, Adaptive Cruise works perfectly fine but I wish it allows you to keep your hands off longer like Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist.
Another nice BMW feature available in the M440i is the digital gauge cluster and head-up display implementation. Digital gauge cluster comes with the 4 series standard and although it is not as customizable as the other German rivals, it is pretty good in terms of features available on the screen. BMW sets the industry standards with the optional Head-up Display, it is the most user-friendly display on the market. It not only shows your speed but the radio channel, navigation, RPM range in sport plus mode, speed limit so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road for the most essential features.
Pricing and the Verdict
If you are looking for a premium compact coupe that can do everything well, the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive is the sweet spot. It can go fast, handle well, comfortable, cruise around peacefully and this is what makes the M440i an interesting choice because there are almost no compromises in terms of daily drivability while still being very fast. Unless you go to track a lot, you may not need to spend extra money for the M4.
Depending on what you expect from the 2021 BMW M440i, this would be a great or not-so-great option for you. No matter how good driving dynamics are, it still has the most common problem of modern automotive era, you don’t feel what’s going on around you. It is fast, but you don’t feel the speed. Exhaust has some pops and crackles from outside, but you don’t hear that inside. It definitely misses the “drama” factor of a sports coupe (like E46 M3) from two decades ago. Even though it has the M badge, it lacks the excitement factor, makes the M440i feel more like a small 8-Series rather than an entry-level M4.
2021 BMW M440i starts at $64,950 and with few important options like Premium Excellence Package, the price may go up to $70k mark easily, which includes automatic trunk, comfort access, leatherette dashboard, ambient light, Driving Assistant Pro, Head-up Display, Harman Kardon premium audio system, BMW Drive Recorder, Wireless charging, BMW Laser Headlights and so on. On top of the Premium Excellence Package, our tester came with the M Enhanced Track Package, which has adaptive M suspension, M Sport Brakes, Carbon Exterior Package which costs an additional $5000. For more details, please see the spec sheet below:
Please visit www.bmw.ca for more details.
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay