BMW 4 Series M440I Xdrive MHT 2DR Step Auto [M Sport Pro PACK]
The old 440i was a bit of an unsung hero in the 4 Series range, so this time, it’s come out fighting with an ‘M’ tacked onto the badge and some serious performance. Thanks to a 48-volt mild hybrid system providing a meagre economy gain and a slight accelerative boost as the turbos spool up, this sub-M4 flagship develops 385bhp – 11bhp more than you get in the M340i saloon and estate.
Allied to the usual eight-speed automatic gearbox and standard, rear-biased xDrive, the M440i sees off 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, before rushing into its 155mph limiter. It’s actually quicker than the old E92-gen M3 – that’s the one with the big 4.0-litre V8.
In fact, it’s a real treat, this car. There’s some proper straight-six timbre to the mildly autotuned noise, and a wonderfully elastic power delivery that simply never runs dry of torque. Don’t order a new M4 without trying one of these and discovering just how fast, capable and involving this junior M car actually is.
Back on planet sensible, BMW expects the 420i will be the top-selling model in the UK. How times have changed – the old 4 Series inhabited a world where low-CO2 turbodiesels were king and 420ds were a more common sight than lampposts.
The 420i gets off to a good start. It’s a rare thing: a modern German car with a badge that actually makes sense. Under the bonnet is indeed a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, delivering 182bhp and 184lb ft. If that’s too logical for you, the 430i uses exactly the same engine, with the computer allowing it to produce 254bhp and 295lb ft. An early drive of a 430i prototype suggested it’d be the sweetest 4er of the bunch, but the 420i offers adequate shove (0-62 takes 7.5sec), and the in-gear response is meaty enough that anyone jumping ship from a turbodiesel won’t feel unduly short-changed.
Noise-wise, it’s reedy if it’s revved out, but with the superb transmission allowed to shuffle gears, the 420i emits a mildly sporty mid-range thrum and returns about 35mpg. Which is exactly ten fewer miles per gallon than we got from the 420d on the same test route.
Need a proper all-rounder? The 420d might be the pick of the bunch here, which is a bit of a pity given that ship has sailed, and promptly sunk to the seabed. The old four-pot diesel 4 Series suffered from too much rattle and rumble when clogged, but that’s been eradicated in the new car. The 187bhp, 295lb ft twin-turbo diesel is much more hushed, slightly quicker than the 420i, and will pretty much refuse to do less than 45mpg even if you never press the Eco Pro button to harvest maximum efficiency from your tankful. On the official test cycle, BMW claims 55mpg.
Mind you, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a cornering connoisseur, the 420i states its case with gusto. Less weight in the nose makes it more agile and keen on turn-in than the six-cylinder cars, while ditching xDrive brings benefits in agility.
Basically, there’s still plenty of Ultimate Driving Machine’ness in the bigger, bolshier 4 Series. The gloopyness that mired the old car’s steering has gone. Responses are clean, sharp and poised, and there’s a tangible sense of balance, with all four tyres being worked equally. It’s a hugely rounded luxo-sport coupe, this.
The ‘but’ you’ve been expecting concerns the extremely taut ride. All UK 4ers are M Sports, with 18-inch rims as standard and 19s on all our test cars. We’d suspected the 4 would be a tense, nuggety-riding machine after discovering the latest 3 Series also sacrifices some plushness at the altar of handling, and even with the optional adaptive dampers set to Comfort mode, so it proves.
It seems BMW’s doubled down on expectations it’s a schportier outfit than Audi and Mercedes, and delivered a car that’s happy to jiggle its occupants about in the pursuit of its genuinely engaging, clinically precise manners. So, you’ll have to be sure your priorities match the car’s, before you choose a 4er instead of a softer, lazier A5.
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