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Wednesday, 26 April 2017 07:58

BMW 4-series driven – refreshed range includes 440i Coupe

Written by Andrew English
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The 440i Coupe is one of the finest cars that BMW currently produces. Just go easy on the options The 440i Coupe is one of the finest cars that BMW currently produces. Just go easy on the options
Since 2013, BMW has muddied the waters of 3-series ownership with its 4-series coupé, a lower and stiffer two-door version.
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As it flogged masses of 3-series saloons into discounted fleet markets and the car became a ubiquitous badge of corporate worth on wheels, the 4-series, it was reasoned, could be a different and more prestigious machine, which private buyers might also like.

In 2014 the two badges moved yet further apart with the launch of the Gran Coupé, a four-door 4-series, which is selling like ice cream sundaes in July. Last year's sales figures tell their own story; the 3-series saloon sold 24,855, the estate 9,788 and the unloved GT hatchback 2,089, while the 4-series coupé sold 9,136, the convertible version 4,258 and the Gran Coupé 10,085.

To keep the 4-series (coupé, convertible and four-door Gran Coupé) fresh, there's been a gentle facelift and a slightly revised interiors and drivelines.

Just to quickly recap on this car's BMW 3-series underpinnings. That’s a largely steel bodyshell with aluminium wings and a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension using aluminium links. The 4-series bodywork is unique apart from the 3-series bonnet. The coupé is lowered and stiffened, slightly shorter and wider, and runs on the same wheelbase.



The chassis changes include wider tracks front and rear and uprated damping. With the rear wheel arches pulled out like a Seventies special saloon, the 4-series is anything but retiring; brutal perhaps rather than pretty. It’s also less useful than the saloon, since getting into the rear seats is a chore and involves limbo dancing under the arms that deliver the seat belts to front-seat occupants. Once in there, there’s a surprising amount of leg room, but headroom is in short supply. The 445-litre boot is shallow but large for the class – the cabrio's boot is 370 litres.

All 4-series come with a choice of three petrol engines: a turbocharged four-cylinder delivering 184PS (badged 420i) or 252PS (430i); and the top-model, 326PS six-cylinder unit in the 440i.

There are three diesels: the frugal and tax-efficient 190PS four-cylinder 420d, which is the most popular 4-series model, and two six-cylinder engines, the 258PS 430d and the 313PS 435d, which has four-wheel drive as standard (it’s an option on most of the other models). Gearboxes are a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, the latter being standard on most of the six-pot diesels and petrol models.

Prices start at £32,580, with the 2.0-litre diesels starting at £35,055. We drove the £41,790, 248bhp/258lb ft 430i convertible and the £43,430 321bhp/332lb ft 440i coupé.

Of the two, the Munich-built coupé is the best looking. The Regensburg-made drophead has a folding metal roof and while its top-down appearance is clean and smart, with the Webasto-made roof raised it looks bumbling and unattractive. Stephan Kessel, the 4-series product manager, says there's a balance between a hard-top roof line that looks good when erected and a low deck line when it's folded; BMW chose a compromise weighted in favour of top down.

"So why not drive with the roof down all the time?" Kessel says. But why have a steel roof at all? Kessel says it's about the desire to offer full model line up and since the 4 cabrio is bookended by the 1-series drophead and a 6-series, both with a fabric roofs, the steel roof is seen as providing as much a model choice as the 4-series badge on the boot. Really?

THE FACTS



BMW 440i Coupé

TESTED 2,998cc straight-six turbo petrol, eight-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive

PRICE/ON SALE £43,430/now

POWER/TORQUE 321bhp @ 5,500rpm, 332lb ft @ 1,380rpm

TOP SPEED 155mph

ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 5.0sec

FUEL ECONOMY 41.5mpg/28.25mpg (EU Combined/Urban)

CO2 EMISSIONS 159g/km

VED £810 first year, then £140

VERDICT You can view the 4-series as a slightly cynical attempt to distance BMW from 3-series fleet sales, but the German company has made a fine car – particularly the two-door coupé, which in six-cylinder turbo petrol form is a fine-handling machine. Leave the extra kit on the options list, eschew the lacklustre cabrio but get that six cylinder coupé and you'll have a highly covetable machine. Not all BMWs are the ultimate driving machines, but this one is.

NUFFINLONG RATING Four stars out of five

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