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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

Our Verdict

BMW 4 Series

The facelifted BMW 4 Series has improved on an already solid proposition but can it hold off the likes of the latest generation Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé?

  • First Drive

    BMW 440i Coupe 2017 review

    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
  • First Drive

    2016 BMW 4 Series 440i M Sport review

    More power doesn’t always make for a better car, but the BMW 4 Series 440i is one of the best four-seat coupés out there
26 April 2017

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.

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. 

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. 

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

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 

Join the debate

Comments
9

27 April 2017
"Four cylinder petrol engine (of the 430i) is raucous"
Errrm.... what the hell did you expect? It's four cylinder... geddit?

27 April 2017
If the tyres make such a difference, please tell us the brands concerned...

27 April 2017
They asked the BMW engineers, who could only pile the blame on the tyres and the article seems to point towards some spectacle feelings regarding BMW's conclusion, no?

27 April 2017
Autocar, judging by the BMW convertible owners I see around here I'm guessing 99% never use more than 30% power anyway and are too busy on Instagram to care about engine noise. The 440i coupe however looks a great real world real drivers coupe.......

 

 

 

27 April 2017
So presumably until tried on summer tyres and UK roads that recommendation is pretty much worthless...if the suggestion is that the tyre brand variation is creating a delta.....

27 April 2017
As the owner of a 430d convertible, previously a 320d convertible [for 5 year] I can whole heartedly support the fact that the convertible works best with a bigger engine - the car is very heavy.

As an absolute miminum the car has to be specced with adaptive dampers otherwise the ride is too harsh.

Tyre noise is typical of a car running on ultra low profile tyres.

27 April 2017
Looks lovely in all the photos...

27 April 2017
An LCI 440i GC sounds like all the car I'd ever need.

11 May 2017
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?

 

 

You're not stuck in traffic - you are traffic!!

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