Winnipeg Free Press

BMW balances sport with luxury

by Haney Louka . Nov 30 2017
Merino leather and a slick tile-based touch screen enhance the driver experience.

Merino leather and a slick tile-based touch screen enhance the driver experience.

While it’s far from the most memorable thing about my week with the 440i xDrive Coupe, I’m compelled to comment on the quality of the Bimmer’s voice recognition system.

One might expect that all new vehicles have a decent interface in this regard, but that’s surprisingly far from reality.

But the system understood voice commands for functions such as phone calls and navigation entries on the first try, without fail, during my entire week with the car.

It’s iDrive 6.0 that is providing this intuitive user interface; the voice control system complements the slick tile-based touch screen that can also be controlled using the console-mounted wheel. It’s a cinch to learn, and yes, this is iDrive we’re talking about, once the bane of many a BMW driver’s existence.

Turns out that’s just the icing on the cake: BMW’s latest coupe checks all the boxes for those in the market who want a truly engaging experience while being pampered at the same time.

As has been the case since the 2014 model year, the 4 Series BMWs are the coupe versions of the venerable 3 Series sedans.

Now, I could say that the 4 is simply a two-door version of the 3, but that would be inaccurate, because the 4 Series is also available in a four-door, dubbed the Gran Coupe, which is actually a hatchback.

Got it?

But this time I got the honest-to-goodness two-door coupe, just to remove a bit of the confusion. It’s the 440i, which according to traditional BMW naming convention, has a four-litre engine, right?

Actually, no. BMW abandoned the logical numeric assignments when forced induction started producing more power from smaller mills. So, the 430i has a 2.0-litre four-banger, while the 440i gets the three-litre.

All you need to know, though, is if you’re like me, a BMW needs an in-line six. And to get the six, you need to order the 440i.

This gem uses a twin-scroll turbocharger to produce 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque; the latter available from 1,380 right through to 5,000 rpm.

I saw the 440’s spec sheet before I saw the car, and since there was no automatic transmission listed on the sheet, I held on to some hope that the car was coming with three pedals and a six-speed stick.

Turns out I was wrong, but happily, the 440i is available with said manual gearbox in both rear- and all-wheel drive trims. That’s a win for the save-the-manuals crowd.

But our tester came with the eight-speed automatic — a no-cost option. Not surprisingly, it comes with a manual mode and shift paddles.

But I was shocked at how much I used the paddles.

I typically only use them if shifting manually genuinely adds to driver involvement, and with an automatic, it rarely does.

But with the 440i, I kept it in manual mode 90 per cent of the time. It was just more fun: the gearbox reacts quickly to shifts, it snaps them off with authority, and is a pro at rev matching on downshifts.

The 440i allows true customization of the driving experience, thanks to the standard M Performance Package, which includes variable-ratio sport steering and adaptive suspension.

The latter assesses road conditions and adjusts damping accordingly, and is also driver-selectable for firmness.

It didn’t hurt one bit that our tester was equipped with the $2,900 M Performance II Package, which adds an obnoxious sport exhaust and a 35-horse boost under the hood.

XDrive is BMW-speak for all-wheel drive, and it adds a mere $700 to the 440i’s $57,650 price tag.

And while the standard equipment list is extensive, there’s always room for more.

More, in the case of our tester, means the $6,000 Premium Package Enhanced.

That nets auto dimming mirrors, power lumbar support, parking sensors, automatic high beams, surround cameras, a heads-up display, a Harman/Kardon sound system, and BMW’s new full digital instrument display.

Unfortunately, our tester was an early-production version that didn’t include the digital display, so we’ll have to wait to try out this feature that is BMW’s response to Audi’s popular Virtual Cockpit.

Our tester also benefited from the $1,500 Driver Assistance Package, which uses cameras to enhance the BMW’s active safety features.

Upscale Merino leather, adaptive LED headlights, and active cruise control round out the individual options on our tester.

The 440i has a confident, understated appearance that belies the driving satisfaction that awaits.

And once inside, it’s clear that BMW’s designers have achieved the balance of sport and luxury with aesthetics as well as driving dynamics.

photos by BMWThe 440i has a confident, understated appearance that may not advertise the satisfaction that awaits drivers.

photos by BMW

The 440i has a confident, understated appearance that may not advertise the satisfaction that awaits drivers.