BMW has built all kinds of things. On the 106-year-old Bavarian company's résumé are Fokker biplane engines, a Formula 1 race team, a three-wheel microcar, and kitchen cookware. Despite that vast experience, and today's push toward electrification, the 4-series Gran Coupe is an example of what BMW does best. What you see here is a sleek sedan with a silky inline-six that burns premium gas—a core vehicle that BMW has built for decades.
Aside from the exaggerated grille and flush door handles, the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe looks like a traditional BMW sports sedan. It squats low on staggered tires that wrap oversize wheels and brakes. It has all the right creases and angles. The more disruptive design element isn't the nose—it's the Gran Coupe's rear. Disguised as a small trunk when closed, the liftgate opens nearly seven feet high to reveal a generous 17 cubic feet of luggage space—46 with the seats folded. That's nearly as much as an X2 and way more than a 3-series.
From the driver's seat, the stoic design of the canted center stack and the basic-looking controls evoke a business lounge where everyone is too important to say hello. Let the iX SUV have an oblong steering wheel and hide its buttons in the wood trim. Like an old E36, the M440i reminds you why you sat down. Wasn't it to drive somewhere? Nothing here distracts or overwhelms. When you dive into the infotainment system, it dispenses everything but toilet paper. The M440i self-steers, self-reverses while retracing your path, reads your hand gestures, projects entire city blocks on the windshield, and sends a 360-degree camera feed to your phone. It's all remarkably fast and intuitive. In a time where technology is universal, BMW puts enough pizazz in its electronics that they feel opulent.
We also live in a time when the M440i, which is not even a full-fledged M car, is just as quick or quicker than every standard M3 up through the previous generation. Aided by launch control, rear-biased all-wheel drive, and the optional sticky Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires, the 382-hp M440i laid down a 3.9-second run to 60 mph. It also hustled through the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 111 mph. And yet, the i4 M50 Gran Coupe is even quicker, zooming to 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds and through the quarter in 11.7 at 120 mph.
The Gran Coupe's performance was roughly equal to the all-wheel-drive M440i coupe, the rear-wheel-drive M340i sedan, and the M440i convertible we've previously tested, except for grip, where the Gran Coupe's wider front tires helped it reach 0.94 g on the skidpad. On the road, the M440i's rich torque—369 pound-feet—is the main reason BMW drivers are always tailgating someone.
The fuel economy is a pleasant surprise, with EPA estimates of 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. You might do better on the highway, given that we hit 33 mpg in our long-term M340i and 36 mpg in the M440i convertible in our 75-mph highway test. The eight-speed automatic plays a big hand in efficiency and response. It's faultless and predicts your every move regardless of the selected driving mode.
We will fault the fuzzy steering that muffles any communication from the front wheels. It's a shame, since the suspension and adaptive dampers do such an exceptional job keeping the ride both taut and comfortable—a compromise the Mercedes-AMG C43 can't match. Synthetic recordings drown out some of the engine's sonorous notes, and the exhaust is a bit quiet, which further separates car from driver. Even at triple-digit speeds, it's too easy to get bored in an M440i when everything is so smooth and damped.
Like it or not, M Performance models like this are luxury cruisers with big engines, not sports cars. And though we chide the M440i, the competing Audi S5 Sportback is even more sterile. There's no other direct rival, unless you lean toward a Genesis G70 3.3Tor Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing. Cargo space is far less in those sedans, and they're light on gee-whiz electronics, but they are more exciting to drive.
The greater threat to the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe, though, is probably the i4 M50, which is far quicker and starts below our test car's $69,570 as-tested price. From that angle, the M440i Gran Coupe looks too slow and costly to run. We'll take another angle. Despite its muted dynamics, we'd argue there's no sweeter engine or better-balanced chassis in a compact sedan at this price.