Pace, power and panache . . . and a controversial style
By Bill McCarthy
THERE is no doubt that BMW builds some striking looking cars, with this head-turning coupe arguably the sleekest and most stylish of the lot.
Recently revised, it combines the brutal power of the straight six petrol engine with mild hybrid technology, plus specially tailored design features.
It’s a showstopper, shod with 20-inch black alloys, encasing huge red brake callipers and sporting a feline-like silhouette, it never failed to attract attention whether parked on the drive or out on the road.
The stiffer chassis builds on technology from the latest 3 series and it also features a high quality interior with a raft of driver assistance technologies, cutting edge infotainment and a comprehensive package of safety features.
Longer and wider than the car it replaces, it has narrower A pillars, frameless windows and huge doors, with extreme care needed when opening in relatively confined spaces.
What does mark it out from other BMWs however is the reworked grille. The firm describes it as a ‘vertical kidney grille’ and says harks back to a previous generation of cars. It is much, much deeper, is split by the number plate, and barely resembles the iconic kidney shape and seems much more in tune with the deep grille seen on Audis.
Flanked by slim LED light clusters and deep airscoops, it is a controversial move for BMW purists, a couple of whom registered their disapproval with me. Less so with non-BMW owners, who admired the look.
The rear end styling is also striking and incorporates slim, darkened full-LED rear lights, dual exhausts and a subtle M Sport spoiler.
Power comes from the three litre turbo-charged six-cylinder engine, which is now mated with a 48-volt mild hybrid system which adds a further 11bhp of on-demand power.
Here recuperated energy can be supplied to supplement the 12V electrical system, like the stop/start, or used for generating additional drive power when fed back to the 48V starter-generator. When the car is accelerating, the generator is also able to offer the driver an electric boost effect.
Not that it particularly needs that 11bhp in acceleration terms, as the car rockets to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds, accompanied by the six-cylinder roar, much amplified by the twin tailpipes.
It generates 374bhp and a huge maximum torque of 500Nm. Brutal performance while still returning average fuel consumption of around 40mpg, truly impressive for such a powerful beast.
It is an engaging driving experience, either in full auto or using the shifter paddles behind the steering wheel to race though the eight-speed box. The six-pot burble is always in the background, even when just depressing the starter button, a reminder of the power under the bonnet.
The interior is a masterclass, a four-seater, although the rear two are cramped in 2+2 style, with limited headroom. It offers high quality materials and subtle ambient lighting.
M Sport models also include specific sport pedals, driver’s footrest and the powered red leather seats match contrasting dark soft touch finish, thick carpets and anthracite headlining.
This model also has multi-function M leather steering wheel and 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster display bearing the M logo and digital radio. Options included enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, drive recorder and gesture control.
Central is the 10.3 touchscreen in the middle of the dash, with the central rotary iDrive on the console controlling infotainment, sat nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity,
In addition the BMW Connected Package Professional adds remote services and real time traffic information.
On the road, the car is stunningly quick, throwing you back in your seat, but all that power requires the technology to keep it on the road and safe. It delivers this in spades, with the xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system sending power to the wheels as required, while the stiffened body structure and suspension mountings give greater stability. The handling is peerless with the slip differential, adaptive suspension and active chassis keeping the car firmly planted while sweeing through tight bends and the beautifully weighted steering is direct and responsive.
Practicality is good with a large boot which has a capacity of 444 litres which is supplemented by a 40:20:40 split backrest, and a large central oddments bin.
Safety kit is comprehensive, with a full complement of airbags, including steering wheel bag, traction and stability control plus, plus lane change warning, crossing traffic warning, rear-end collision warning and speed limit information.
Te downside is that on BMWs you can spend a small fortune on optional extras that come as standard on some competitors. This model included eight grand’s worth of enhanced, safety, communication and extra comfort features, whacking the total price to nearly £62k. Question is, do you need them?
BMW M440i xDrive Coupe
Mechanical: 374bhp, 2,998, six cylinder petrol engine driving all wheels via eight speed Steptronic auto gearbox
Max speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Combined mpg: 39.8-41.5
Insurance group: 40
CO2 emissions: 155-163g/km
BiK rating: 36%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles