Despite only coming in M Sport trim, the 440i isn’t a car that shouts about its blistering straight-line pace. Apart from a pair of widely spaced exhaust tips, some sizeable brake discs and that potentially controversial badge, it could be a humble 420d with a few options boxes ticked.
That subtlety continues when you thumb the starter button: there’s a brief burst of revs but none of the histrionics some rivals employ. While a six-speed manual gearbox is standard, our test car came with BMW's familiar ZF eight-speed automatic. We might like changing cogs ourselves, but the auto's silky shifts in Comfort mode and punchy changes when you start selecting gears yourself are predictably impressive.
It certainly helps the 440i’s dual personality. Left in Comfort, the engine is happy spinning at around 1500rpm, offering a pleasing response to even small throttle inputs. Keeping pace with other traffic requires little effort, and better than 32mpg isn’t too hard to achieve. Stop-start is standard but even this doesn’t hurt refinement, with the six-cylinder unit shutting off smoothly and restarting with little fuss.
So what about the other half of this car’s personality? Once throttle pedal meets carpet, the ’box smartly shuffles down a ratio or three and the rev counter needle soars towards the redline. Some may have complained that the M4 doesn’t make a great noise from inside, but this isn’t something you could say about the 440i. Whether it’s the lower boost pressure or different pipework coming off the cylinder head, it certainly gives this 4 Series quite the set of lungs.
As the engine passes the middle of the rev range, the creamy whirr becomes more of a mechanical howl that could belong to a classic six devoid of forced induction. It isn’t obnoxiously loud and it's a noise you’ll want to revisit time after time. As for the performance, no one realistically needs to get to motorway speeds any quicker than this.
The handling should prove familiar to anyone who has sampled a 435i in the past couple of years. The optional adaptive dampers allow relaxed high-speed cruising in Comfort mode and keener responses in Sport or Sport Plus. With no four-wheel drive option, the tail can be persuaded to follow a different path to that of the front tyres, but a relatively long wheelbase helps the process remain predictable, easy to catch and jolly good fun.
We do have a couple of complaints, however. The steering, while precise, is a little numb and ride comfort could be better. Although 19in wheels may fill the arches well, the tyre’s skinny sidewalls transmit road imperfections into the cabin with a jolt and a thump. We’d retain the standard 17in wheels and keep the looks even stealthier than they already are.
The interior remains the same as before, meaning plenty of high-quality materials, lots of room up front, reasonable room for rear-seat passengers and, of course, BMW’s iDrive system to make navigating the infotainment system easy. The boot is big enough for a couple of sizable suitcases and there are nets and luggage hooks to prevent your shopping rolling around should you indulge in a spot of hoonery.