Another model year, another caged beast from BMW – This time, the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe. A battle between ferocity and elegance seems to be the driving characteristic when it comes to the new top model of the 4-Series lineup, which is clear in more areas than one. The angry straight-six powerhouse is paired with even angrier front-end styling, resulting in a package that will make some mad and others fall in love. For a base price of $116,900, you get an unhinged animal that certainly risks offence.
Since its release, the new 4-Series has been swimming in negative press due to BMW’s decision to push its new ultra-modern, shark-like, front-end styling ahead into their new models. The front grilles, or gills in this case, demand attention and will be the first thing that anyone notices in their rear-view mirror. BMW forums are full of heated discussion on the matter, but one thing is for certain: Nothing else on the road looks quite like it. As to whether the styling is a glimpse into the future or a face that only a mother could love, that is left entirely to the eye of the beholder.
Besides the grumpy – albeit classy – front end, the aggression in styling ends there; The rest of the M440i’s lines flow smooth and buttery. It is evident that BMW is trying to play off design elements from the heavy-hitters in their lineup, primarily the 8-Series. The pronounced door creases and sloped roof-to-tail elements break the dullness, although the fading roof does cramp the rear headroom a bit. The 19” M alloy wheels put the grace of the body lines in check with some harsh angles to balance the otherwise smooth form.
Taking a step into the interior might cause a bit of deja-vu, as it seems that all new BMW’s share the same interior DNA these days. In a blind comparison, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish the M440i’s interior from say, a 2020 3-Series of a supposedly lower class. With that being said, it isn’t necessarily a negative, as long as plush leather and polished aluminum are still in style.
Surprisingly for a BMW coupe, long weekend cruises are not out of the realm of possibility for the M440i. The gentle hug of the optional ($2,000) ‘Vernasca’ Cognac leather seats in our test vehicle is a welcoming reminder that the M440i is a two-door with grand touring in mind. The 440-litre boot (with additional room with the rear seats folded) will fit multiple day-bags comfortably, no shoving required.
Standard tech is impressive in the M440i, which can be found crammed into nearly every nook and cranny of the vehicle. From the included windshield-projected head-up display, to the now common – but necessary – reversing assistant, electronic aides are impossible to escape in the cabin. Also standard from the factory are BMW Laserlight headlamps that illuminate the path ahead with 10 times the intensity of standard LED light. It is a nice surprise that these tech elements are no longer individually packaged, skyrocketing the MRLP.
The goal of these electronic gizmos is to deliver us an easier driving experience, but I found myself fighting with a few of these modern features. Lane assist, for example, forces you to hold on for dear life at times, as it misunderstands natural movements like avoiding bikers on the side of the road. The included backup assistant also contains some strange nuances. When backing up a steep driveway, the feature attempts to save the vehicle from itself by engaging the parking brake unnecessarily. This is obviously meant to prevent rear-end crashes, but instead it attracts confused onlookers.
Performance is where the savage nature of the M440i is most noticeable. Immense forward thrust is generated by the TwinPower turbo inline-6 powerhouse, pumping out 285kW and 500Nm of torque. That’s absolutely brutal. In comparison of sheer acceleration, the M440i is 0.5 seconds faster in a 0-100 km/h straight-line race than a Ferrari 360.
This ludicrous acceleration can largely be attributed to the M440i’s xDrive – all-wheel drive – system in combination with BMW’s back-to-basics 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission; A combo that leads to silky shifts and even power delivery. But don’t let the effortless shifts fool you, in a straight line the M440i is as violent as an animal on the hunt.
While the M440i can certainly sprint, it often falls on its face when faced with sharp bends. The coupe’s suspension is the main downfall here. In quiet neighborhoods the M440i seems to float above the ground, absorbing any and all bumps that might be significant in any other car – even in its stiffest setting. While that makes it extremely usable and comfortable during the day-to-day, the softness of the suspension causes the BMW to wallow around turns in a performance setting. This is certainly an area where the M440i is more of a house pet than a beast.
As a new flagship for BMW, the M440i is confusing to unpack. It seems to have mood swings between ferocious and tame, with little compromise between. On one hand, it will tear the face off of any challengers at a stoplight, and on the other it will caress you on a long-travelled vacation. While a bit of a mixed bag, the 2021 M440i does many things well and disappoints far less. It’s brutal looks and performance balanced with an elegant interior make the 2021 M440i a beautiful beast.
By Amandeep Sethi