NOW thereís 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 wouldnít 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 numbers of doors is reduced, Iím 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. Wouldnít it? The BMW people smiled blandly and hid my keys again. Dammit!
Semantics aside, the F32 Gran Coupe is proving to be the go-to choice for 4 Series buyers. Itís got the same size boot as a 3 Series and about two-thirds of the space of a Touring wagon. The hatchback-esque tailgate makes loading a doddle Ė plus, those convenient rear doors! A revelation for back-seat passengers, let me tell you.
The 440i is a new badge, replacing the 435i that debuted in 2013. The 4 Series changes pretty much follow the 3 Series tweaks from late last year, with the 440i scoring Bimmerís sweet B58 Twinpower 3.0-litre straight-six that debuted in the 340i last year.
Rumbling up 240kW (15kW more than the 435iís 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 youíve got the recipe for quite a handy jigger.
Sadly, somethingís gone amiss in the kitchen. Thereís not a jot wrong with the single huffer-equipped sixpotter, one of the new generation of modular motors that sports 500cc per cylinder, double VANOS, Valvetronic and direct injection. Itís polite, sedate even, when cruising around town, but it likes nothing better than being given a nudge and bolting for the next postcode. Itís 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 5500rm.
The drama lies in the chassis. It was fair chucking down on our test route, so speeds were down, but the lack of feel and road engagement was disconcerting. Those 19-inch runflats feel like lumps of pencil eraser, while the steering feel just wasnít right anywhere in the motion. The rear end doesnít settle, even with the dampers softened off, and it feels as if thereís zero shock travel left to pitch weight onto the nose to get the thing to turn.
Its 1750kg heft doesnít exactly help.
The feeling of remoteness from the helm is the thing that sticks. One of a rear driverís inherent talents should be its steering. Not here. No way. The 440i is a long way off the pace Ė at least in damp to teeming conditions.
Its a shame because with about $13,000 more kit included as standard and a pretty reasonable price cut of $10,000, the 440iís $99,900 price tag is made more palatable by the Gran Coupeís unusual take on life.
Cracking straightsix engine, lots of car for the dollar
Suspension tune and steering feel out to lunch, runflat tyre feel