Automobile Evaluate: 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe

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Built to thrill, but ready to chill

Author of the article:

Justin Pritchard

Publishing date:

Aug 23, 2021  •  31 minutes ago  •  7 minute read  •  Join the conversation 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe Photo by Justin Pritchard

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After over 1,800 kilometres of driving, testing and shooting the 2021 BMW M440i for various assignments, I’ve got some impressions to share with perspective shoppers looking for detailed information to help confirm or question their purchase decision. With a recent test-drive of the Genesis G70 3.3T Sport AWD fresh in my memory banks, I’ll also provide some impressions on key similarities and differences between these two cars, for shoppers considering both. 

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After testing and filming in Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario, and during a 1,500-kilometre highway road trip connecting the two, one specific part of the M440i stood out as the one I appreciated the most consistently in our miles together: the powertrain.

The latest turbo engine is an exceptional piece of hardware. Six in a row makes this one go, and with both turbocharging and a 48-volt hybrid system working in tandem to boost output from the 3-litre unit, the results are easy to appreciate in virtually any driving condition. Drivers get 382 horses sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic. 

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Special hardware under the hood turns the engine into a turbocharged power-generating station. The M440i’s self-recharging battery stores electricity that can be directly fed to the gasoline engine and used in various ways. Adding electrification to the straight six unlocks more power, more smoothness, and better fuel economy.  Extended use of the engine’s start-stop system helps further reduce idling, even shutting down the engine as drivers coast to a stop for a traffic light or stop sign. Restarts are quick, very quiet, and virtually undetectable. The electric motor can send an 11-horsepower boost to the driveline before the turbocharger is spooled, punching up off-the-line throttle response and smoothing out the power curve for a more direct, responsive feel when driving at low revs, where the gasoline engine is at its most efficient.

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Highway cruising revs land around 1,500 if you’re a little north of the speed limit, with plenty of electric, (and turbocharged) torque at the ready. Downshifting is almost always optional, and you’ll hear virtually nothing from the engine compartment.

In the process, the cruising range impresses. With leading tech in the powertrain, the M440i drinks about 2 fewer litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres it drives, on average, compared to the G70 3.3T Sport. A full day’s cruising on a single tank is no problem at all, and the M440i is highly reasonable on fuel, given the performance capabilities in its back pocket.

Prompt these into action with a button-press into SPORT mode, which can be driver-customized for a fine-tuned feel that matches your specific taste for ride quality, steering feel, and powertrain response. A limited slip rear axle helps the M440i more precisely transmit the driver’s intentions to the road, while enhancing traction and stability in slippery weather.

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2022 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe Photo by Justin Pritchard

In sportier drive modes, the the partial-electric straight-six becomes the M440i’s best asset. Throttle response is sharp, virtually immediate, and the transmission and engine team up for hair-trigger reactions to your inputs that are virtually lag-free, thanks to the on-demand electric boost available right from idle speed. 

Crack the throttle, and it’s a startling downshift, a solid shove into your seat from virtually any RPM, and both pulling power and engine sounds that aggressively build as the revs climb. There’s a thrilling surge and shape to the power delivery in the process, and to make sure you enjoy the show, the athletic straight-six engine sound floods in and soaks the cabin with an eager growl that makes it hard to lift your boot. 

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Paddle shift response is fast, even if gearshift speed is often exaggerated by the animated tachometer. Opened up, the high-resolution display comes to life at full throttle, adding to the show this machine puts on for its driver. Recent transmission updates see further optimizations for faster gear changes, and next-generation dampers and isolators in the driveline work to help smooth out the entire experience.

Add in a heavy and fast steering system, and the M adaptive dampers, and you’ve got both steering and shocks dialled in to add stability to the performance driving experience. The direct steering helps drivers make smoother, more precise inputs to the benefit of vehicle handling and passenger comfort, and the suspension works to keep the body of the car as flat as possible at all times by triggering changes within internal valves that help manage excessive bounding and rebounding.

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So, sporty drivers: this moves properly, sounds lovely, and puts on a hell of a show. In typical BMW fashion, there’s a tremendous sense of polish to the whole powertrain, and everything feels like it’s working nicely in sync with everything else. This helps give you the authentically high-end feel to the drive you’re looking for at this price point. Even driven hard, you just never get the sense that anything in this car is putting up a fuss. It’s built to entertain, and it feels like it’s built to entertain.

Gripes? Highway wind and road noise levels disappointed on certain surfaces, where sharper bumps, expansion joints, and coarsely-textured pavement can coax higher-than-expected levels of noise and harshness into action. On smooth pavement, the M440i is a quiet and laid back cruiser, but certain specific highway surfaces can degrade ride comfort and noise levels more than I like for the dollar.

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If maximum highway comfort and quiet are priorities, be sure to try the Genesis G70 as well. After 1,300 kilometres of testing, I found it to be a smoother, quieter experience on these specific surfaces.

With the ability to autonomously steer, brake, accelerate and even lane-change, the M440i delivers consistent, predictable reactions from its advanced driver assist systems that work with consistent predictability. It’s easy for drivers new to these technologies to get into the swing of how they work, and I found the systems reliable and trustworthy before long.

2022 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe Photo by Justin Pritchard

These features help smooth out the drive, reduce driver fatigue, and instil further confidence, primarily by way of an incredible on-screen infographic that displays a 3D model of the adjacent lanes — and the vehicles in them — in real time. This animated model even recognizes the difference between cars, trucks and motorcycles. It’s a visual reinforcement that the M440i is cruising the highway with full awareness of its surroundings, and makes it easier for drivers to gather quality information about their motoring environment. This display infographic, to your writer, was one of the most engaging parts of the M440i’s driving experience. 

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The optional Laser light package adds laser-fired high-beam augmentation to the mix. Over 60km/h, the headlights can fire up an additional laser module that bumps the output of the LED high-beams to blast clean, white light far up the unlit roadway ahead. To your writer, this system was most impressive for its ability to pick up reflective surfaces at nearly impossible distances up the road. Even distant road markings are well lit, which can provide advanced warning of upcoming off-ramps, or animals lingering near the roadside.

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Are you considering a Genesis G70 3.3T Sport AWD as well? You should be — it’s an excellent driving machine as well, and my tester’s ask was more than $20,000 less than the M440i. Is the BMW worth the extra spend? Yes. Is the G70 a fantastic buy for the money? Also yes.

Let me explain.

On powertrain refinement and response, the G70 3.3T’s punchy V6 is a smooth and refined performer, where the M440i’s turbo straight-six is exceptional. The G70’s engine is one of its most valuable assets, and an engine that put many grins on my face. In the G70’s entire toolkit, I reported that the engine was responsible for some of my biggest smiles. Still, the BMW is even smoother, even more responsive, and considerably more pleasing and dramatic to listen to when opened up. The transmission in the BMW is snappier, and feels more precise and responsive, too. 

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The G70’s interior may impress drivers after a look that’s more glamorous than high-tech, with convincingly authentic design touches and materials, including extended use of quilted leather and metal accenting that richens up the scenery. Little separates the two machines when it comes to the quality feel of the interiors, though the BMW’s display interfaces and flashy tech easily make it the best choice for the tech-loving shopper.

2022 Genesis G70 3.3T Sport 2022 Genesis G70 3.3T Sport Photo by Justin Pritchard

I prefer the G70’s highway ride comfort to the M440i’s. Specifically, thats because it’s quieter and softer over more surfaces, while maintaining the dense and heavy feel sports sedan drivers love, as well as a nearly Lexus-like smoothness at the tips of your fingers. As mentioned above, the M440i isn’t as polished and refined on certain rougher, or coarsely-textured surfaces. A key gripe on my M440i test-drive was highway noise levels. Is it a loud car? No. Is the G70 a whisper quiet car? No. Specifically, the G70’s ride comfort and noise levels just stand up a little better to the M440i’s on certain highway surfaces. If you’ll do a lot of highway cruising, you might find the G70 to be the more comfortable and quiet choice. 

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Still, with the M440i using about 2 litres less fuel for every 100 kilometres it drives, the fuel economy and cruising range advantage go to the BMW. In the M440i, I was impressed with the highway cruising range and fuel economy. In the G70, I wished for a less thirsty engine, and fewer stops to refuel during longer trips. In the long term, fuel savings in the BMW will play a role in overall ownership costs.

Having to choose between these two machines would be a nice problem to have, were I in-budget. But as challenging as that may be, after thousands of kilometres of back-to-back testing, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the extra spend on the BMW.

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