HOW do you make a good thing better? Well, by improving it, of course. In the case of the BMW 440i which we’ve had the pleasure of tooling around in recently, even the famously short-sighted cartoon character Mr Magoo, might have problems actually outlining what exactly BMW has done to improve the latest version over the last one, writes Declan Colley.
Yes, the Munich boys might have refettled items such as bumpers, lights and other body elements — and not by much it has to be said — but you would have to be a forensic scientist to be able to identify each and every one of the visual differences implemented.
Certainly the car does, even to a calloused eye, look sharper what with the dazzling new front and rear LED lights and clusters and there appears to be a few more aerodynamic elements to the body, but there has been no truly drastic reappraisal of the overall design. Which is good because the previous version was pretty sharp after all.
Under the hood though there have been many changes — stiffer suspensions, uprated dampers, and revised steering and you don’t have to be Kay Scarpetta to realise that it is these modifications that are the key to this car rather than the visual signposts.
BMW has wisely decided that the essential element of the 440i — its wonderfully powerful and sonorous three litre straight six — is to be retained, unfettered and unmolested and just a little pumped. And that, believe me, is a very good thing indeed.
So what is the 440i? Well, despite BMW’s somewhat unnecessary and sometimes frivolous tricking around with their model-naming designations — the 4 Series, after all, is really only what used to be the 3 Series Coupe — it is still one of the sharpest and most driver-pleasing coupes on the market.
But the 440i is also something of a fish out of water these days, as BMW appears focussed on developing four cylinder diesel and petrol units, even for use in such as the iconic M4, rather than sweet as silk engines such as the one we have here.
In terms of the facts and figures, the 326bhp 440i will, in tandem with the eight speed auto ’box, hit the 100km/h mark in a tad over five seconds, while top speed is limited to 250km/h. Those are the good bits.
The less impressive facts of the car include an annual tax bill of €570 as a result of the 169g/km emissions and by modern standards the thing is hardly frugal with an official consumption rate of 7.4 l/100 km (37.8 mpg), although considering it is a six pot, that’s hardly a shock.
Undoubtedly there are those who would point out that such as the 435d is every bit as potent, more torquey and considerably more fuel efficient and emission-friendly, but to those of us of a certain age the petrol option would always be the preferable choice.
I don’t know is this a particularly age thing or is it just a mutton-headedness that we were born with and which tells us that petrol will always be the best, smoothest and more visceral performer.
I mean, when was the last time you saw a diesel Formula One car?
Whatever about that and we can make comparisons all day long. It does have to be reiterated that the diesel option in this instance is quicker, considerably more frugal and more CO2 friendly than this one. But what the hell, it is still possible to make a case for the 440i for a number of reasons — and personal preference has to be top of the list.
Sure all these things are subjective and it is very much “each to their own” when it comes to spending the bones of eighty grand on a two door car. But when you look at some of the available options, then you can rationalise why this car appeals.
We’ve been through the diesel v petrol shtick, but when you consider other — very fast — 4 Series options (if, of course, it is the coupe you’re set on) you will invariably arrive at the M4, which is one of the most potent and hysterical automobiles anywhere at the price.
But there are those out there who neither want nor desire to be a rich hooligan who craves the performance and, let’s not be shy about saying it, the manic jealousy of their peers. Although there are a few genuine addicts.
No, there are some who like a rather more anonymous mode of transport and yet one which will provide more than a frisson of excitement while also being desirous of a top whack technology package, a considerable amount of style and sophistication. That’s what they get here.
OK so it is not the most practical 2+2 out there, but it is not bad, considering you can get a bit more than a rolled up newspaper into the rear seats. It will, somewhat surprisingly, accommodate two adults in the back, although personally, I suspect that anything more than about 20km back there will result in severely cramped buttocks.
From the driving point of view, what you have is a car capable of biting chunks out of you, but does not really deem it necessary to do so on a minute-by-minute basis. No, this is a car which can be enjoyed rather than endured.
It rewards confident driving moreso than many similar cars which, when you arrive at critical moments can tend to opt out and leave you to your own devices. With the 440i you always get the feeling it is there to help you through rather than assist your early departure from this mortal coil.
It will, most certainly, get tail happy with liberally heavy doses of your right shoe and in Sport+ mode can be tricky enough. But in all other realms, it handles with the precision of a watchmaker and grips like a Donald Trump handshake. Ride can be a little lumpy on anything other than a billiard table surface, but that’s part of the deal.
Adding all those factors together then, you may arrive at the conclusion that the 440i is something that will be appreciated by the more mature among us. And that’s possibly the case.
But even for younger guns who don’t desire the attention that something like the M4 will give you in spades, but still want very lively performance — and a petrol straight six to orchestrate that recital — this car has to be on the radar.
On top of all that, it is a conspicuous example of a car which is evolving and which has benefitted from considerable refinement to many of its’ smaller bits.
Small tweaks make big differences.
The Cost: From €68,246 to €77,333 as tested.
The Engine: Sweet as a nut.
The Specification: Pretty good — with the usual warning that dipping into the options list will see your resources wilt alarmingly.
The Overall Verdict: For the older hooligan.
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