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Video review: 2018 BMW 440i coupe

by Drew Johnson
2018 BMW 440i coupe review - image 1

We take a look at a staple of the luxury coupe segment.

The decline of the sedan over the last few years has been so extraordinary that it's completely overshadowed the fall of the coupe that preceded it. Not all that long ago you were spoiled for choice if you wanted a sleek-looking coupe from a mainstream automaker — they were available in virtually every segment, from compact to full-size.

But fast-forward to modern day and your coupe choices are severely limited. Want a compact coupe? The Honda Civic and Toyota 86 are the only games in town. How about a mid-size or full-size coupe? Cars like the Nissan Altima coupe and Chevrolet Monte Carlo have long been discontinued, leaving only sporty pony cars like the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger.

But for some reasons luxury brands have managed to stave off the widespread extinction of coupes. Two-doors exist in every major category, from the Audi A5 on up to the Mercedes S-Class Coupe. Curious to discover the allure of the luxury coupe, we decided to take a closer look at one of the stalwarts of the segment — the BMW 4 Series.

What is it?
Believe it or not, the 4 Series is now the largest coupe offering in the BMW fold, slotting ahead of the automaker's only other two-door hardtop model, the 2 Series. BMW recently discontinued the larger 6 Series coupe and the new flagship 8 Series coupe is still a ways off.

Despite a numerically higher nameplate, the 4 Series coupe is still essentially a two-door version of the 3 Series sedan. In fact, both share the exact same wheelbase and have the same general exterior dimensions. Powertrains are also similar between the two, including the available 320-horsepower turbocharged inline six-cylinder found under the hood of our 440i test car. In proper BMW fashion, rear-wheel drive is standard, but the 4 Series coupe can be optioned with all-wheel drive.

What's it up against?
The BMW 4 Series coupe competes directly against the Lexus RC, Audi A5/S5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. Those interested in a small luxury coupe that isn't made in Germany can cross-shop the 4 Series coupe against the Cadillac ATS coupe for one more year.

What does it look like?
Not surprisingly, a lot like a 3 Series sedan that's missing some doors.

Up front, that means a long, sloping hood capped off by BMW's signature kidney grilles and quad headlights. Our test car was also equipped with BMW's optional M Sport package, which includes a more aggressive front fascia, wider side sills and a black rear diffuser to house the dual exhaust outlets. Other perks of the M Sport package are unique 18-inch wheels, dark shadowline exterior accents and M sill plates.

The most obvious difference between the 4 Series coupe and 3 Series sedan is the rear roof treatment. Unlike the more traditionally shaped greenhouse of the 3 Series sedan, the 4 Series coupe has a sharply raked roof that gives it an almost fastback-like appearance. The trunk of the 4 Series is also more shapely than that of its four-door cousin, giving it a sportier look.

Our test car was finished in eye-catching Estoril Blue that's been one of our favorites since the days of the E36 3 Series. It's a $550 option we'd gladly spring for.

And the inside?
BMW isn't really known for wild interior designs, and that holds true for the 2018 4 Series. The cockpit of the 440i is classically laid out, with clearly defined areas for radio and climate controls. A widescreen display sits at the top of the dash and a control panel — including a large dial — for the infotainment system resides in the center console behind and to the side of the shifter; that positioning isn't ergonomically ideal as it requires an unnatural arm bend to operate. The system itself is thankfully easier to use with its logically arranged menus and intuitive controls. Some functions — like direct tune for the satellite radio — are a little more buried than we'd like to see, but we managed to find our way through the infotainment system without much fuss.

The gauge cluster in the 440i is a nice mix of old and new. Four analog dials are accompanied by LCD readouts for things like fuel economy and trip odometer. Overall we found the 440i's dials easy to read and use.

The M steering wheel fitted to our test car is one of our favorites on the market today. It's classically styled with all the modern features you'd expect, including a pair of easy to grab paddle shifters. The look of the wheel really does enhance the aesthetic appeal of the 4 Series' interior.

And that's a good thing because there aren't a lot of other visual interests in the 4 Series' cabin. Pretty much everything is either black or silver, save for the pop of blue contrast stitching in our test car. Moreover, the materials in the 4 Series are rather uninspiring — nothing feels egregiously cheap, but there also isn't much that screams luxury car quality.

The 440i's front seats proved supportive and comfortable during our week-long evaluation. We also appreciated the grippy bolstering that didn't feel too confining during normal driving. As with most coupes, the 440i's backseat isn't an ideal place to spend a road trip; it's best reserved for kids, but it can house a couple of adults in a pinch. Trunk space isn't bad with 15.7 cubic feet available via a wide opening.

But does it go?
320 horsepower might not sound like much in an era where you can get a Honda Civic with 306 horsepower, but the 440i scoots along with plenty of gusto. BMW says the 440i can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, and it feels every bit of that fast. From a standstill the turbocharged inline-six delivers lots of low-down torque, and there's plenty of top-end power to pull off high-speed passing maneuvers. The eight-speed auto also works well — it shifts quickly and always seems willing to kick down a cog or two when you mash the gas.

Overall handling is good. The 440i feels stable and planted on the highway or on a curvy road, with the optional M suspension helping to keep things flat through corners. The 440i is more grand tourer than all-out sports car, but it's more than cable of handling its own on a back road.

The 440i's weak point, however, is steering. BMW used to do a masterful job of producing cars with communicative steering, but that seems like a lost art form at this point. In comfort mode, the 440i's steering is over-boosted without any feel. Sport mode is better in terms of weight, but is still devoid of the road feel that made BMW the ultimate driving machine. The 440i is nice to drive, but it's not fun like a BMW coupe should be.

The 440i is at least efficient. The EPA says you can expect to return 21mpg in the city and 32mpg on the highway, which is pretty impressive for a car that can do 0-60 in 4.6 seconds.

Leftlane's bottom line
After spending a week with the 2018 BMW 440i coupe, we understand a bit better why people still lust after luxury coupes. The 440i coupe proved to be a stylish and comfortable cruiser that's also competent on the back roads.

That said, there were some disappointments — our test car's interior didn't really live up to its $56,000 price point, and the 440i isn't exactly what we'd call the ultimate driving machine. Luckily there is the 2 Series coupe if you're looking for some of that BMW driving magic, at least for now…

2018 BMW 440i coupe base price, $48,700. As tested, $56,245.
Estoril blue metallic, $550; Leather seats, $1,450; Premium package, $2,000; M Sport package, $$2,550; Destination, $995.

Photos by Drew Johnson.