BMW has a way of confusing people with the way it names its models, so let’s start by clarifying what this car is. Back when the 4 Series range emerged it was fairly easy to tell the difference between the 3 Series (four-door sedans) and BMW 4 Series (two-door coupes and convertibles). Then BMW went and made a four-door sedan with the same swoopy roofline as the 4 Series and had to come up with a new name, so it created the 4 Series Gran Coupe. Then the same thing happened with the 5 Series and 6 Series.
These days the ‘even’ number model ranges are the sportier looking ones, and this is one of those – a four-door 4 Series that looks better and is somewhat more exclusive than the relatively everyday 3 Series sedan.
- Engine. The 440i uses BMW’s new-gen turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder producing a strong 240kW and 450Nm. It’s a real highlight of the package. Effortlessly torquey and tractable, it can be a pussy cat around town when you need it to be, and opens up with a glorious engine note and plentiful power when the road allows.
- Gearbox. Behind the brilliant engine is an equally impressive 8-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are almost undetectable when pottering about, and more than snappy enough in when sharp changes are asked for. It could be used in a case study about the effectiveness of the traditional torque converter auto in this era of iffy dual-clutch transmissions.
- Practicality. You read that right. The 440i somehow manages to retain adequate rear seat room and a cargo area that is in fact more useful than the 3 Series sedan on which it is based, despite a dramatically chopped and stylised roofline. The boot lid is more of a hatch, hinging from the top of the rear windscreen where the glass meets the roof. It lifts up to reveal a long and deep boot with no parcel shelf in the middle to worry about.
- Value. Purchasing a 440i Gran Coupe costs $10,000 more than equivalent 340i sedan - $99,855 vs $89,855. That’s a lot of extra cash that could be saved or spent on options to make a 340i more appealing. The 340i is an attractive sedan in its own right, and features the same excellent engine and gearbox as the 440i. A $10k premium is a lot for what, it could be argued, is just a slightly better looking version of the same car, albeit without the fancy rear hatch.
- Interior. Quite a few BMW models are starting to look long in the tooth on the inside, and the 4 Series is one of them. It’s still a nice place to be – well made, finely trimmed and covered in premium materials – it just feels last-gen compared to the cutting edge cabins of the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
- Access. Something’s got to give when you take a chunk out of the 3 Series’ roofline, and it becomes obvious when getting into and out of the Gran Coupe’s back seats. They’re a bit tricky as the door openings are considerably smaller than those of a 3 Series. Once inside, though, leg and headroom isn’t too bad at all, and only those who have a car full of people on a regular basis might find it enough of an issue to steer clear.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
When Audi brings the Audi A5 Sportback to Australia it will be the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s only direct competition. Until then, the BMW sits on its own in the premium, design-oriented, mid-size four-door category. No doubt anybody interested in the 440i Gran Coupe will also look at the more conventionally styled Audi S4 (soon to land) and Mercedes-AMG C43 ($101,900) which offer similar levels of performance with more up-to-the-minute styling, especially inside.