BMW 4 Series M440I Xdrive MHT 2DR Step Auto [M Sport Pro PACK]
As mentioned, this doesn't actually drive any different from a 4 Series two-door. But its context is different: that's seen as a sports car, this as a family car. And as a family car it's a gorgeous thing to pilot.
Our first test is the M440i xDrive. This is a stonking engine, now bolstered a little by some mild hybrid assistance. That alters its character not a bit.
At low revs it's soft and refined. Definitely laggy to be sure, but the autobox discreetly covers up for that, shifting smartly down on a tickle of throttle. Once the dial swings into the middle-order revs, it's a torquey and quick-witted machine with a lovely harmonious note.
Towards the red-line the timbre firms up a little more and the pull is like a catapult. It's not just the 4.7 sec 0-62 time that matters. That's mostly down to 4WD traction. It's what happens beyond 50mph – way, way beyond.
It's not just a straight-line king. There's sensitivity, quickish wits and well-judged balance in the handling. But most of the time it feels a little aloof, just because the natural tyre grip is so high. So you drive it within itself, enjoying the accuracy of its answers to your inputs.
Whisper it, but if our 3 Series experience is anything to go by, the 430i might be a great choice. You have to work the engine harder because there's a lot less torque. OK it's not a straight-six, but it's a very cultured four. And with fewer cylinders and no drive to the front, it's nearly 200kg lighter than the M440i xDrive. Most of that reduction is in the nose, and you absolutely can feel it – the steering unlocks extra agility and precision and feel.
At the base of the range is a 420i, still capable of squeezing under 8.0 sec for 0-62. Or for dieselists there's the 420d as a RWD or xDrive. There's also a 430d xDrive: quite the thing for long, quick bad-weather trips.
With all this happiness about the handling, the payoff is an extremely taut ride. All UK 4ers are M Sports. It's firmer than the already sometimes-jiggly 3 Series. Even with the optional adaptive dampers set to comfort mode it gives you a bit of a shake-up. They don't always adapt as much as you'd want, so you might find yourself switching between modes as you enter and leave a town.
You can have all of BMW's latest drive support measures, with sensible ergonomics to switch them on and off. They work well too. As well as motorway support, the package includes a system that'll replicate, but in reverse, the exact course that you snaked when driving forward into a dead-end parking space.
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter. Look out for your regular round-up of news, reviews and offers in your inbox.
Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.