2021 BMW M440i xDrive review: Stuck in the middle with you
You can’t please all people all the time, but that won’t stop some people – or machines – from trying. Take the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive for example. The latest iteration of the 4 Series still prioritizes sharpness on the road, but in an ongoing effort to infuse as much sophistication into the experience as possible, parts of the script are lost in the mix.
- Fast as heck
- Neutral handling
- GT-style interior comfort
I do not like
- Rocket J. Squirrel face
- Front axle weight
- Hypersensitive brake pedal
Why that long snout?
There is no sugar coating – the BMW 4 Series of 2021 looks weird as hell from the front. His brand new face is sure to polarize Thanksgiving Zoom conversations, but if the goal is a thought-provoking conversation, then the mission is accomplished, BMW. Yes, the new horn grille offers a cooling advantage when its active shutters are wide open, but it’s still an acquired taste. Thankfully, the rest of the exterior is quite pleasant, borrowing the silhouette and various shapes from the bigger and prettier 8 Series.
The interior of the Series 4 is in contrast to its shell, because it’s … well, it’s the same cookie stencil interior seen on any other modern Bimmer, which looks amazing for something with such a unique face. . However, that doesn’t mean it is bad, because it isn’t. In fact, it’s luxurious as heck, even with the standard vinyl trim on the door panels and dashboard. The leather surfaces are soft and warm, contrasting with the cooler aluminum on the waistline and center console.
For a coupe, the M440i is very useful. The rear seats, while somewhat narrow in height, are capable of holding adult humans for long periods of time, and are quite comfortable, to boot. Both door panels have large pockets with extra cup holders, the glove box is a decent size and the shelf under the armrest is good for pocket tchotchke. An optional wireless charger ($ 500) lives behind the console’s cup holders, which isn’t my favorite place from an accessibility standpoint, but it’s a good use of the available space. Open the trunk and you’ll find a 12-cubic-foot cargo bay, which is less than a 3 Series but more than two-door competitors from Audi, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz.
A heavy sports car for grand touring
Sports cars garner praise for bringing the driver into close connection with the vehicle and, by extension, with the world around them. Conversely, grand tourers are meant to be plush, comfortable cheaters who can build up speed, but in a way that prioritizes simplicity and disconnects from all those little annoyances. The 2021 BMW M440i tries to be both, which means it is successful in some places but falls short in others, leaving me a little confused as to its true intentions.
From a sports car point of view, the M440i offers a lot of hustle and bustle. Its 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 produces 382 horsepower and 364 pound-feet of torque, enough to reach 60 mph from a standstill in about 4 seconds, which is as fast as some full-fledged M cars. I also hear it on the old test bench; it’s fun to crack the throttle and let the eight-speed automatic shift quickly find the correct gear for maximum driving force, with a little kick in the back when shifting up gear with heavy throttle. Unlike the more recent iterations of M3 and, the M440i sounds really good even while on the go. When tossed into a corner, this all-wheel drive coupe displays decidedly neutral handling, never feeling truly upset or ready to kick your ass in an instant.
Indeed, this is where I begin to see blurry lines from sports cars to GTs. Instead of wanting to engage in insane skidding, the M440i’s deep front axle weight incurs more than a hint of understeer. Composure is not limited to traction; the optional adaptive suspension ($ 700) numbs the driver to the road even in its most aggressive Sport Plus setting, hitting only hard on potholes that should be avoided in the first place. In Comfort mode, it’s downright luxurious – great if you want to forget your worries, but not so much if you want to toss the thing around forest hairpin turns. The steering is a bit sleepy and also light to the touch.
There’s one part of the car that best exemplifies the M440i’s inability to figure out what it wants to be and, oddly enough, that’s the brake pedal. A hint of the foot will induce a sag of the head as the brakes bite immediately, which is great for the quick reactions needed during brisk driving but rather annoying when cruising around town. However, after that initial grip, the pedal launch is long and easy to modulate, which is great for smooth stops but not the feel (or lack thereof) you want when you need a lot of stopping power quickly.
Despite the car’s desire to make its way to the horizon, it’s easy enough with the gas tank and, by extension, with the wallet. The EPA rates the M440i xDrive at 22 miles per city gallon and 31 mpg on the highway, numbers I have had no trouble encountering and occasionally beating. Part of this thrift comes from the 48-volt lightweight hybrid system, which can deliver small increases in power but is primarily meant to expand start and stop capabilities and improve overall efficiency. You’ll never know it’s there.
Familiar and welcoming technology
The exterior of the M440i might look like nothing else before it, but the tech inside the car is blissfully familiar and pretty great to boot. The dashboard sports a touchscreen with BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, which despite its information density is fairly easy to get used to. It’s responsive whether I’m using the touchscreen or rotary knob on the center console or not, and if the standard UI isn’t your cup of tea, both wirelessis they are standard. Analog gauges are standard, but my tester’s Executive package ($ 3,700) adds a 12.3-inch digital cluster, as well as expanding the 8.8-inch center screen to 10.3. The map in the center of the IP is largely useless, unless it has detailed directions running, but all information is displayed cleanly in a way that minimizes distractions. A head-up display included in the box further reduces wandering eyes.
The Executive package also contains BMW’s gesture control, which is always more annoying than it is useful. Why should I turn my finger in circles, wildly varying the volume of the speakers, when I could slightly adjust the dial right next to where my hand is already? If I dare to speak to my passenger, a wandering expression of the right hand usually changes the channel or mutes the sound. Since almost all of the audio controls are already available on the steering wheel, it’s just more annoying to start waving my digits willy-nilly. Just … put this to rest already.
Since the rear seats are actually somewhat tolerable, it was very nice of BMW to include the USB charging ports behind there, as well as the USB-C port under the center armrest and the USB-A port just in front of the cup holders.
On the safety front, the standard kit includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross traffic warning. This M440i also carries the $ 1,700 Pro Driving Assistance Package, which strengthens driving aids with radar-based adaptive cruise control and a lane keeping combination that allows for short, hands-free driving in traffic jams, with indicators LED on the steering wheel telling me when to regain control. It’s a great system and really reduces the boredom of stop-and-go highway traffic.
Up to brass tacks
Despite the crossovers and their sloped-roof crossover-coupe siblings, there’s still an active community of two-door shoppers, so the M440i isn’t exactly alone in its segment. Theoffers a slightly more luxurious experience – as long as the standard suspension doesn’t shake your bones in dust, that is. The Audi S5 Coupe isn’t as new as the Bimmer, but it’s attractive and adequately equipped with both fancy appointments and some proper tech. This isn’t exactly a business-friendly segment, though; with just a handful of options, my $ 59,495 M440i xDrive Coupe inflates to $ 70,470.
The 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe is an impressive, if a little confusing, car. He can tackle a lot of grand touring tasks with aplomb, and he’s not that bad in the switchbacks, but in trying to attract so many different corners of the industry at once, he ends up being an all-rounder but a master of none.