Minor tweaks make a major difference to BMW’s updated 4 Series Coupe
As BMW droned on about new lights and bumpers in the press conference, our expectations fell. We were in Germany to drive the revised 4 Series Coupe, hopeful of some big changes, but a new steering wheel and new choice of colours for the interior leather didn’t really set our pulses racing.
Our interest was finally stirred when the man in charge of how the car drives stepped up. He spoke of sportier suspension, revised geometry, plus a much-improved steering system. As this was something we’d long criticised on the old car, we started to be more hopeful.
BMW 440i Coupe auto
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1630kg
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 41.5mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 159g/km/30%
Hopes were dashed during our first drive, in a 430i Convertible. With its raucous four-cylinder engine, indecisive automatic gearbox and so-so steering, we wondered whether there was good reason why BMW had wittered on about new body colours for so long. But then we swapped keys for the more interesting model, a 440i Coupe.
At last, this was more like it. At last, we could feel the improved steering BMW’s handling guru had spoken of. Turn-in to corners is far more positive and accurate, weighting builds naturally and it’s a far more natural and fluid system than on any previous 4 Series. Yes, it’s hard to explain this chalk-and-cheese feel between two similar BMWs, but such a difference there was.
It enabled us to enjoy the 4 Series’ revised suspension, which minimises body roll but doesn’t ruin the ride, making it feel super-stable and well keyed in to the surface beneath. It’s smooth when cruising, and well supported by a gorgeous engine that has a lovely six-cylinder growl and plentiful pull.
This is an engine that’s a real great, one with a huge spread of power that ranks up among the best turbo engines out there. Our test car was again fitted with an eight-speed automatic, but this time it felt so much more intuitive, we weren’t left longing for the standard six-speed manual alternative.
There is a proviso here. Bad weather ultimately hampered our German test drive: the snow fell hard and BMW sensibly thus fitted the cars with winter tyres. But we still learnt enough to confidently say that although the 430i Convertible remains disappointing, the 440i Coupe is now a much-improved proposition.
For all the talk of new bumpers and fresh lights, it doesn’t look all that different. But beneath the surface is something little short of spectacular. Roll on its arrival in the UK, for this car now has the makings of being a real great.