2021 BMW 4-Series Review

2021 BMW 4-Series - BMW ups its sport coupe game with an all-new 4-Series.


With more than 20 models in its lineup. BMW's nomenclature can be a bit confusing at times. The 4-Series consists of a 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible and 4-door hatchback, which is tagged Gran Coupe. This review will focus on the M440i coupe, a rear-wheel drive 2-door that's designed to be the line's flagship performance car. Like all 4-Series models, the M440i was completely overhauled this year with new styling, fresh interior, more features and additional power. As before it's based on the 3-Series, but with a sportier take. Competitors include the Audi A5, Lexus RC and Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe.

The M440i is powered by a turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine that makes 382 horsepower and 369 ft-lb of torque. Sole transmission is a traditional 8-speed automatic. Rear- and all-wheel drive (xDrive) versions are offered. The engine comes with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that allows for stop-start, provides an 11-horsepower assist and engine-off coasting. The 8-speed automatic connects with the navigation system and (optional) Active Cruise Control's radar sensor to adapt upshifts and downshifts to the route and driving conditions.

The M440i xDrive starts at $65,510. Standard safety features include forward-collision warning with brake intervention, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and front and rear parking sensors. Available features include 10.25-inch touchscreen, adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping system with automated steering on the highway, 19-inch wheels, variable assist steering, sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and adaptive suspension.

There's little doubt that the M440i is quick. Stomp the gas and it will accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in about 4 seconds. Stay in at and the Bimmer will trip the quarter-mile traps in 12.6 seconds at 110+ MPH. All the while, the sweet straight-six makes glorious sounds and the 8-speed automatic snaps off quick and crisp shifts. And, thanks to it's standard all-wheel-drive system, power is quickly and smoothly delivered to the wheels with the most traction.

EPA fuel economy numbers come in at 22 MPG city, 30 MPG highway and 25 MPG overall. As you might expect, premium-grade fuel is required. What you might not expect is the M440i's ability to meet or exceed it's EPA estimates. If you drive with a light throttle foot, it's quite likely that you'll average close to 30 MPG overall. Impressive indeed.

Where things get a bit tricky in assessing the M440's homage to M-series of the past is in handling dynamics. Not that It's not up to snuff -- which, in fact, it is more than up to the challenge. The let down is in how this new M model goes about its business on twisty roads. The steering, while impeccable in its accuracy, is devoid of road feel. The brakes, which provide impressive stopping power, are hard to modulate. And the all-wheel-drive system has to be tricked into providing anything but modest understeer when rushed into a corner. Driven at 8-tenths, the M440i is unflappable and impressive if, dare I say it, dull. There's an amazing overall competence that almost drowns of the visceral driving experience.

Conversely, the M40i doesn't beat you up when the pavement gets bumpy. The suspension has plenty of travel and does a good job of smothering harsh impacts. Of course, the occasional expansion-joint jolt thunders through, but, compared to others in this class, the M440i thankfully floats across potholes with its thumb in the air.

Noise levels, what matters! The sweet straight six is glorious when you get on the throttle. Unless you have six figures to spend on an exotic or like the bombastic guttural growl of an American V8, you won't find any other engine that produces more a pleasing aural assault than a BMW straight six.

Inside, the 4-Series might be BMW best attempt to date at creating an interior that's tech-forward and still upscale. Thankfully, button-assault is set to minimum here and the materials are price appropriate and there's enough brightwork and color to stave off the Teutonic blandness that dominates the design of past iterations. The integration of wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play are also quite refreshing for BMW.

The magnificently sharp 12.3-inch digital display makes you forget all about readable dials and the large 10.3-inch touch screen system goes a long way to helping you cope with a much-improved iDrive infotainment system. (BMW still offers its ubiquitous jog dial for those so inclined.) Switchgear is perfectly placed and enhances the driving experience, rather than getting in the way as it does on some competitors.

The regal front seats feel like lounge chairs with extra side bolstering. They provide ample head and leg room and all-day comfort. Surprisingly, the rear seats are actually somewhat usable. There's plenty of comfort, dedicated air vents and even enough leg room for average-size adults. Though getting back there is a bit troublesome. BMW also provides USB ports and storage cubbies for both front and rear-seat riders.  

With 15.5 cubic feet of storage space, the trunk is positively cavernous. And, believe it or not, the rear seats even fold to increase capacity even further. (Are we sure this is a BMW?) Alas, interior storage is scant with just a few open and covered bins. The nicely-sized wireless cell-phone charger is a nice touch, but its forward location in the center console makes it a bit of an awkward reach.

Bottom Line -- As the sporting version of the 3-Series, the M440i succeeds quite succinctly. As BMW's affordable sports-car flagship well ... maybe. The M440i is so polished and nearly perfect in the way it dispatches with its duties. But for some reason, in all of its goodness, it gains an antiseptic quality. Conversely, all of its direct competitors lean too far to the “sport” side to be practical daily drivers, so perhaps BMW is on to something here.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.