Weekend Wheels: BMW’s new 440i Coupe puts on a brave face

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Case in point, Crocs footwear. 

Yet it’s tough to gaze at the buck-toothed, engorged-kidney’d, Edvard Munch The Scream face of the new 2021 BMW M440i Coupe and not quietly ask yourself: What the heck were they thinking?

But, then there’s that other famous saying which certainly applies to the BMW’s polarizing, over-sized maw: Go Big. Or Go Home! 

I guess I’ve gotten acclimated to BMW’s new mega-grille design after its debut on the XXL-sized X7 sport-ute and the latest 7 Series flagship.

I like it, don’t love it, but it certainly makes a statement. Kinda like Ted Cruz’s beard.

New grille aside, the already lovely 4 Series Coupe has had quite the makeover for the 2021 model year. It’s grown in length — by over five inches. It’s wider too, and a tad heavier.

Is the new 4 gaining a little middle-age spread? You might think that, until the moment you hit the start button and select ‘drive’. 

We’re piloting the new $58,500 M440i version, locked and loaded with a 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six spinning all four wheels. It’s one of my favorite engines in automobiledom. Spicy and feisty, yet smoother than Teflon, it packs 382-horseys and more torque than a teen on a Zoom call. 

And it’s a hybrid, too. Well, sort of. There’s now a 48-volt starter/generator to add an extra 11-hp to the tally, essentially filling in before the turbo spools up.

As for lighting the blue touch paper, sprinting from stoplight to 60mph takes a mere 4.3 seconds. That’s quick. And much of that hair-trigger response is down to the sheer brilliance of the car’s  8-speed ZF automatic. 

Either left to its own devices, amped up in Sport mode, or reacting to shift requests from the column-mounted paddles, the transmission is livelier than a sugared-up 2-year-old.

But the beauty of this new 440i is that it delivers all this testosterone with such smoothness and ease. Leave the hardcore performance to the upcoming 503-hp M4 Competition; the 440i offers an abundance of grace with its pace.

While finding anything resembling a twisty road here in the Sunshine State is one of the challenges of life, the 440i loves even the slightest curve, and positively gushes at the sight of an on-ramp.

Surgically precise electric-assist steering, coupled with adaptive, multi-mode M suspension and an M Sport rear differential, combine to make this super-coupe a true joy to drive. 

And it doesn’t deliver all this performance and handling at the expense of ride comfort and refinement. 

Even over the most raggedy blacktop or washboard concrete, the coupe rides with magic carpet ease, coupled with low, low tire roar and rumble. Just brilliant.

And in true BMW tradition, the 440i’s cabin is one mighty fine place to be. 

Our tester came with the optional Vernasca Leather — whatever that might be. It costs an extra $1,450, but it’s beautifully soft, nicely grained and hand-stitched like a Coach handbag. 

Up front, the side-bolstered seats hold you in place as tightly as a hug from John Cena, while there’s 14-way power adjustment to ensure the perfect driving position. And throughout, the quality and craftsmanship, the fit and finish are just terrific.

Interestingly, despite the coupe growing in length and width for the sake of even sleeker lines, the roof was lowered. That means 1.8 inches less headroom in the front, and 0.9 inches in the back. 

And while there’s half-decent legroom in the rear, headroom is definitely on the tight side for taller grownups. 

Two versions of this new 4 Series are on offer. The “starter” 4 is the 430i at $46,595 with 255-hp and standard rear-wheel drive. But trust me, it’s the 440i with that magical straight-six and all-wheel drive you’ll want.

But remember, there’s also a new convertible 4 Series on the way — starting at $53,100 for the 430i Convertible. Plus that new, hardcore M4 coupe and convertible due later this year. 

Choices. Choices. Just “face” up to the challenge.

Test drive the 2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe at Reeves BMW Tampa, Ferman BMW Palm Harbor, Bert Smith BMW St. Petersburg, or Fields BMW Lakeland.