What Is It?
The BMW 4 Series traces its lineage directly to the original 3 Series coupe — the 320i that arrived in the U.S. during the late 1970s fueled the popularity of BMW cars on these shores. The 3 Series went on to add convertible, sedan and wagon versions to the lineup on its way to becoming BMW’s best-selling model of all time. For 2014 BMW renamed the 3 Series coupe and convertible as the 4 Series to differentiate the 2-door models, but then added the 4-door 4 Series Gran Coupe the following year to compete against the 3 Series — and cause confusion in the lineup.
BMW provided us with the opportunity to drive a second-generation 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe finished in a beautiful Artic Race Blue metallic with a contrasting Cognac Vernasca leather interior. The M440i xDrive Coupe price starts at $58,500, and the test car also had a Driver Assistance Pro Package, an Executive Package, a Cooling and High-Performance Tire Package, Adaptive M Suspension and other options for a total as-tested price of $70,470 including a destination charge.
At the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, the German automaker offered a first look at the second-generation 4 Series via the Concept 4 — a car that created much discussion and controversy due to its large, vertical dual-kidney grille that dominates the front view. BMW had already added larger grilles to the X7 and 7 Series, although the Concept 4’s large grille became the controversial focal point of that car.
Ooh That Grille
When the production 4 Series debuted last year, it was evident that designers had toned things down a bit from the Concept 4, although the overall impression — including the prominent vertical dual-kidney grille — carried through to further distinguish the 4 Series from the 3 Series. The grille extends to the bottom of the front bumper and features a three-dimensional mesh structure. Slim LED headlights with U-shaped running lights flank this prominent front grate, and lines of the sculpted hood radiate from behind it.
A full 5.2 inches longer than the previous-generation 4 Series, this new version of BMW’s classic coupe silhouette and dramatic proportions yield a long hood, sweeping roofline and short overhangs — a shape similar to other coupes on the market. To differentiate the 4 Series, body lines accentuate the powerful fenders and the decklid curves upward to create an integrated spoiler. Darkened LED taillights flow from the fenders at an angle toward the center, also emphasizing the upturned decklid. Detail lines and vents create a powerful look with dual exhaust outlets below.
Under the Hood
The 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe is powered by a 3.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine that produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque — 62 more horses than the previous 440i. A 48-volt mild hybrid system is also standard equipment on the M440i; it stores energy in a separate 48-volt battery that can be used to power the electronics systems and it can boost performance with an additional 11 horsepower during strong acceleration. The 3.0-liter TwinPower gets teamed with a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission upgraded with a new hydraulic control system designed to improve performance and efficiency. A manual transmission is not offered.
BMW’s latest xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system is standard equipment on the M440i. The system quickly varies torque between the front and rear wheels using an electronically controlled multiplate clutch in the transfer case. When all-wheel drive is not needed, all power gets directed to the rear wheels. The M440i also gets a rear M Sport differential that equalizes torque between left- and right-rear wheels as needed.
BMW designers call the new 4 Series interior modern, although to us it also harkens back to a clean, more simple design aesthetic found in BMWs of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The new interior emphasizes horizontal lines and electro-plated trim extending into the door panels, as well as a high center console. A large screen contains the instrument cluster and central control display, with the tachometer on the right revving counterclockwise to create more space at the center. The test car arrived with Cognac leather seats and Cognac trim on the lower dash and door panels, creating a rich two-tone interior that contrasts with the black upper elements of the doors and dash.
Console and Center Display
Driving functions on the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe are grouped in the center console, including the start/stop button, a new selector for the automatic transmission, iDrive controller and buttons for the Driving Experience Control switch. Entertainment, navigation and other vehicle functions are located in the center stack beneath the center vents; a large display screen resides above the vents at the same height as the instrument display. The tester was also equipped with BMW Live Cockpit Professional as part of the Executive Package, which includes BMW iDrive 7.0, a 12.3-inch high-resolution digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch digital touchscreen control display.
On the Road
The standard sport seats in the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe feel immediately comfortable, as do the driving position and overall layout of the controls — although the thickness of the M steering wheel is a bit too chunky for our tastes. BMW worked hard to improve the driving dynamics of the new 4 Series so the M440i is fun to drive — and fast. The car comes alive on winding back roads, and the sport suspension is firm but well controlled and not too harsh, even on rough surfaces.
The 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe’s steering is responsive and direct with decent feedback for an electric-assist system, although it will never have the direct connection of an early-generation 3 Series. That said, the feedback is consistent and provides good indication of the relationship between steering input and what the car is doing. The M440i takes a big step above the previous generation as a much more engaging car to drive, which puts it back in the running with the best in its class.
The 3.0-liter TwinPower engine in the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe is powerful and fast. Choosing Sport or Sport+ mode unlocks a more responsive throttle, provides quicker shifts and also holds lower gears longer. With the turbocharged engine torque is always available, even at low rpm, and drivers will quickly discover how easy it is to suddenly be accelerating much fast than realized. Even though it’s all-wheel drive, the xDrive tuning delivers more of a rear-drive experience; the system also directs power to the outside rear wheel as needed in corners so the car feels incredibly balanced. We still like the idea of an optional manual transmission, even though we concede the automatic performs better.
4 Series Design
Initially we were not big fans of the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe’s large vertical grille. Although definitely polarizing, the 4 Series will not be mistaken for anything else on the road, and we must admit it’s starting to grow on us. The jury is still out, but the grille seems to be one of those design elements that looks better in the wild than within the confines of an auto show.
The 3 Series / 4 Series have grown in size over the years, and the smaller 2 Series is now more in line with proportions of the original 3 Series when it first arrived in the U.S. The 4 Series is now more of a grand tourer than a sport coupe, yet still a fun and satisfying car to drive. Unfortunately the 4 Series has also increased in price with our test car coming in at $70,000. Granted the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive is a powerful, beautiful coupe and both comfortable and fun to drive. For those who can afford the price of admission, they should gladly display the M440i xDrive Coupe’s kidney grille with pride.