Now there’s no mistaking me as a smart guy.
In fact, the only difference between me and, say, an automated forklift is the fact the automated forklift wouldn’t lose its keys every other 30 seconds.
But when the BMW coves tell me that the 4 Series range is the same as the 3 Series except the number of doors is reduced, I’m usually inclined to nod my head sagely and get on with finding my keys.
Not this time. Oh no. I can count to at least four, and I can tell you that the 4 Series Gran Coupe has four doors. Not two. Which would make it a 3 Series. Wouldn’t it? The BMW people smiled blandly and hid my keys again. Dammit!
Semantics about doors aside, the F32 Gran Coupe is proving to be the go-to choice for 4 Series buyers. It’s got the same size boot as a 3 Series – and about two thirds of the space of a Touring wagon when you chuck the seats down – and the hatchback-esque tailgate makes loading a doddle. And those convenient rear doors! A revelation for back-seat passengers, let me tell you.
Anyway… the 440i is a new badge for the brand, a replacement for the 435i that debuted in 2013. BMW uptweaked the 3 Series late last year, and the 4 Series changes pretty much follow form there, with the 440i scoring Bimmer’s sweet B58 Twinpower 3.0-litre straight six that debuted in the 340i last year.
Rumbling up 240kW (15kW more than the 435i’s six-potter) and 450Nm (up 50Nm), it comes standard with a ZF eight-speed box (or a six-speed manual as a no-cost option), the M Sport package (10mm ride height reduction, 19-inch rims with 225/40 R19 front and 255/35 R19 rear run-flat tyres, adaptive dampers and other trim bits), variable-rate steering and an electric rear diff. Chuck in some supportive leather seats and you’ve got the recipe for quite a handy jigger.
Sadly, something’s gone amiss in the kitchen, despite a shelf full of the good stuff. There’s not a jot wrong with the single huffer-equipped six-potter, one of the new generation of modular motors that sports 500cc per cylinder, double VANOS, Valvetronic and direct injection.
It’s polite, sedate even, when cruising around town, but likes nothing better than being given a nudge and bolting for the next postcode. It’s smooth and sonorous under the whip if not especially overt, but its torque comes on hot and strong from 1380rpm through to 5000rpm, delivering its best power at 5500rpm.
No, the drama lies in the chassis. It was fair chucking it down on our test route, so speeds were down, but the lack of feel and road engagement was disconcerting, to say the least. Those 19-inch runflats feel like lumps of pencil eraser when it comes to feedback, while the steering feel just wasn’t right anywhere in the motion.
The rear end doesn’t settle, even with the dampers softened off, and it feels as if there’s zero shock travel left to pitch weight onto the nose to get the thing to turn. Its 1750kg heft doesn’t exactly help, either.
The feeling of remoteness from the helm is the thing that sticks, though. One of a rear driver’s inherent talents should be its steering… not here. No way. The 440i is a long way off the pace – at least in damp to teeming conditions.
Shame, really, because with about $13,000 more kit included as standard, and a pretty reasonable price cut of $10,000, the 440i’s $99,900 price tag is made more palatable by the Gran Coupe’s unusual take on life.
Cracking straight six engine, lots of car for the dollars
Suspension tune and steering feel out to lunch, run-flat tyre feel
Engine: 2998cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 240kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1380-5000rpm