It's arrived with fresh face and a new direction but there's a problem, and it isn't the looks.
Putting looks and design language to the side for a moment it is worth noting that not many car manufacturers are bold anymore. BMW has at least been that. The problem is doing so when the competition is strong. The M440i is a good car, but I can’t say that stepping out of it I didn’t feel like someone had done a reasonable copy of how a BMW should feel, but not quite pulled it off. Bring a Mercedes C43 AMG out and this car starts to really look vulnerable, if Audi hadn’t gone off the reservation and kept the S5’s petrol power, instead of making the bizarre decision to wedges in a diesel, then the BMW would almost be invisible. Start bringing in some interesting left-field options like a Ford Mustang and I begin to think this may be a short review. There is a saving grace, despite the initial feeling that you are driving an imposter, after a few hours the new 4 series does start to prove it is the real deal. The closest analogy would be a cold call, at first there is a direct tension between you and the caller. They give a name that sounds familiar, and then you realise it’s the restaurant you booked next Friday confirming your reservation. This new 4 series spends an hour with me just trying to convince me it really is what it says it is and then starts to prove it. The engine revs sweetly, making the turbo work for its power instead of dropping it in a swell halfway through the band. Those that are tempted to tune the engines of these for more power should really consider whether extra power is worth the corruption of BMW engineers efforts to make this feel so smooth, no doubt the mid-range could be never stronger but it would arrive with a lump of torque that spoils the chase for the redline.
Sadly the peak of this car feels lacking in a deliberate way
The pivot point when dipping into and out of tight corners is good but not as focused as the previous 4 series. I try and coax out a bit more life from the chassis and it is certainly there but an owner would need to dedicate some time to understand how to get the best from it.
All-wheel drive is a negative in my eyes but BMW is following the market, the idea of slipping on a frosty or snowy evening enough to influence their buying decision. A real shame, but then we have become so disconnected from the controls of the modern vehicle compared to just a decade ago that it’s no surprise. The M440i does do its best to be engaging and a fast A road will give the best canvas to let loose. B-roads are another matter, the shudder from the suspension on cracked and scarred tarmac is enough to force you into comfort mode. I get the feeling that BMW may have tried to overplay their hand in the fast, but not an M4, market segment. Admittedly it’s a tiny audience, but it may have been better just to let Alpina work some magic in making an M440i. There’s a feeling that they would have done this all a little differently and mastered a chassis that arrives with rough edges.
Overall any M440i buyer will likely be content as long as they know what they are buying, this isn’t an M4 without the price tag, neither it is the long-distance fast cruiser, it arches in its ability below both. Sadly the peak of this car feels lacking in a deliberate way, a bit faster and it threatens the M4, a bit comfier and it makes a case as a better long-distance cruiser than an 8 series as it would be easier to park in whatever small continental town you had found a cafe for a late coffee.
If you’re a particularly enthusiastic driver I would look to the C43 or go the Ford Mustang. A slightly different proposition but a car that you will be happy to have owned in a decade when battery power is the only option. The practicals of the M440i are all standard 4 series, so great safety rating, comfortable to be in, latest tech, and very good fuel economy when cruising along. As a car to buy and run for transport it would probably be the pick of the bunch, but as a car to enjoy, there’s plenty of other options. I’ll leave the styling debate to others, but mention that the new design language is likely here to stay, love it or hate it, the connection between the old and new has never been greater at BMW.