The assumption was that a few minor tweaks to the 2017 BMW 440i Coupé wouldn't make much of a difference. It turns out they do

What is it?

It didn’t start well, our drive from Munich to Austria in the updated BMW 4 Series. Like the preceding weeks in the UK, apparently Deutschland had experienced an equally balmy run-up to Easter, so snow was the last thing on anyone’s mind. Yet snow it did, and in the midst of the blizzard, a brilliant display of German ingenuity ensured that the whole fleet of press cars was swapped onto winter tyres before our Airbus A320 pilot had pulled up the handbrake and switched off the seatbelt sign. 

The press conference began with some disappointingly mundane facts about the new car. New lights, they said, front and rear. New bumpers, too, plus new leather colours, body colours and even a new steering wheel. Yippee, but if we’re honest, test driving a new bumper didn’t really seem worth the horrendously early start. 

Things got a little more interesting when the talk moved to the updated technology. This includes the options of a configurable digital instrument display and a new infotainment package, with swipeable, tile-based menus and Apple CarPlay. Both ape similar systems fitted to the current 5 Series and 7 Series.

Then Jos van As, BMW’s driving dynamics guru, mentioned the increased negative camber of the front wheels to curtail understeer, revised damper rates and larger-diameter anti-roll bars; things are looking up, we thought. But it was the phrase "remapped steering, to improve feedback" that really set the pulse racing, because of all things, a slack helm was the main blot on the previous 4 Series’ copybook. Our interest was well and truly piqued.

Bmw440i 338

What's it like?

Well, piqued right up to the point where we hit the road in a 430i Convertible, which left us underwhelmed. Its four-cylinder petrol engine produces adequate pace but is raucous when you try extracting any of it. It's an engine that forces you to spend time in its lower rev range just to find some peace and quiet, and has no place in a modern BMW. 

Meanwhile, its eight-speed automatic gearbox is neither smooth nor responsive, and the steering, although improved, still doesn’t quite hit the spot for feel around dead centre or on turn-in. This, we were told, could be the extra flex of the tread blocks on those winter tyres. Nevertheless, we arrived at the lunch stop disheartened.

Then we swapped into a 440i Coupé; ladies and gentlemen, it is a smooth camembert to the dry, chalkiness of the 430i. Those small changes that had failed to enliven the 430i had, on the 440i Coupé, effected a genuinely noticeable improvement, to the point where it’s a belter of a car. So if you’ve ever heard whispers that BMW is losing its mojo, this car at least, is proof that it knows exactly where it's kept. 

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Bmw440i 348

It all centres round that steering upgrade. In the previous 4 Series, you turned in to a corner and had to make little corrections, because your brain was receiving messages from your hands that were too faint for it to calculate and execute in real time the correct trajectory.

Not in the 440i, though. Now the weight builds beautifully, so not only do you see the results on the road as every further degree of steering angle is applied, but you feel it, too. The upshot is that just one smooth, fluid sweep of the wheel through every corner is all that’s required, leaving your brain to focus harder on the road ahead. And in case you’re wondering, we did ask why there was such a difference between the 430i and the 440i, bearing in mind that both were on winter tyres. There was talk of differing tyre manufacturers, but nothing more conclusive than that.

Regardless of the reason, it meant that when the long stretches of Daz-white, snow-covered roads taking us ever farther into the Bavarian hinterland gave way to occasional Macadam-grey gritted sections, we could lap up the 440i’s revised suspension, which in this case included the optional adaptive dampers. It locks down the body so it barely leans but leaves enough elasticity for the wheels to patter over any uneven ground, keeping you utterly stable and totally confident about what’s beneath you. 

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Bmw440i 340

It’s surprisingly comfortable as well. Okay, the roads we drove were, for the most part, smooth, but not once did it bump or crash through the body. Only wind noise from the door mirrors at motorway speeds diminish slightly its ability to cosset.

Another anomaly is why the 440i’s automatic ’box is so much slicker and more precise than the apparently identical one in the 430i. As standard, the 440i comes with a six-speed manual ’box, but we have little complaint about the auto’s ability to exploit the engine’s output. 

And what a peachy engine. The slightly augmented, yet still satisfying six-cylinder growl aside, it pulls hard and long, feeling as tractable as the best modern turbos out there, even with such severely limited grip. 

Should I buy one?

Because this test was hampered by the inclement weather, being definitive about the new 4 Series isn’t really possible. However, we learnt enough to say with reasonable confidence that the 430i Convertible should be avoided at all costs, but you should beg, borrow or rob graves to get your hands on a 440i Coupé. 

The engine’s great, the ride’s great, the handling's great, the low-slung driving position's great and finally, praise be, the steering is great, too. So there you go: we did travel to Germany to drive a new bumper, but in the 440i Coupé, at least, it has been bolted onto what appears to be a spectacularly well re-engineered car

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BMW 440i Coupé auto

Location Austria; On sale May; Price £45,120; Engine 6 cyls, 2998cc, turbo, petrol; Power 322bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 1380-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1630kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 5.0sec; Economy 41.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 159g/km/30%; Rivals Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic, Audi S5 

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chrisdk 28 August 2017

Steering and options

In an earlier review of the m-sport 4 it was reccommended to avoid variable sports steering (VSS). Is the tested 440i here with VSS and thus now working better? The pictures above are the 440i m-sport, which should include VSS, but maybe it is configured differently? 

Do you have other recommendations regarding options and m-sport package?


One option to avoid is the Variable Sport Steering, which dials the BMW 4 Series’ rack down to just 2.2 turns between locks, but relies on greater power assistance to keep the effort levels sensible. You get a less feelsome, less predictable steering rack on your 4 Series if you go for it – albeit one that masks understeer quite effectively at normal speeds.

harf 11 May 2017

Ummm ...

isn't the main difference between the cars that one is a convertible and one is a coupe - surely a more fundamental difference between the cars than the effect of different tyres?
courtster 27 April 2017

Gran Coupe the same?

An LCI 440i GC sounds like all the car I'd ever need.