In the circus that is modern car design, the BMW 4 Series Coupe could well be cast as the clown, complete with a ‘red nose’ and big boots. The maker says it has conceived the new Coupe to stand on its own two feet away from its 4 Series cousins.

And to say the BMW M440i xDrive does is an understatement, with a flashy front end that refuses to be ignored. And this is not only reflected in its controversial appearance. In dimensions, too, the new model shifts further away from the model it replaces – length to 4770 mm, wheelbase 2851 mm, width 1852 mm and height 1393 mm.

The M440i is the halo car of the range, with the 420i Coupe opening the account at $70,900, plus on-road costs, followed by the 430i Coupe, $88,900 and the M440i xDrive, $116,900, the test car, taking top spot.

The specialist BMW M tag is taken up by a standard Sports package incorporating extra-large air intakes at the front and highly contoured apron up the back, while Cerium Grey accents further set the BMW M440i xDrive apart.

Underneath is an M Sport suspension, 19-inch M light alloy wheels, knee pads on the side of the centre console and other interior elements specially designed for the car. An M Carbon exterior package can also be optioned.

At first glance, the BMW M440i xDrive front is to automotive design what the bull-nose roof is to architecture. There’s a pugilist’s flattened schnoz with wide nostrils to sniff up masses of cooling air with the shutters open at full fire.

The vertical ‘kidneys’ in the centre hark back to the company’s past, with such legends as the BMW 328 and 3.0 CSi with modern touches. The slim LED headlights, with high beam assist, take up the front of the wheel arches.

Behind the bonnet, the car reverts to the sharper sleek lines we expect of a wind-cheating coupe, with curved surfaces, short overhangs, slim pillars long doors and frameless windows.

A sleek roofline, and muscular shoulders accentuate a powerful stance and darkened LED rear lights with constantly lit light bars sign off the sporty character of the flagship 4 Series coupe.

Standard sport seats and high set centre console envelop driver and front passenger. A newly designed M leather steering wheel, instrument panel and door trim co-ordinate to present a prestige feeling.

Rear seats with integral head restraints are specific to each model are designed to accommodate two occupants.

A built-in SIM card with 4G connectivity and BMW Connected Package Professional hook into digital services, including the maker’s TeleService, and Intelligent Emergency Call, real time traffic info with hazard warning, Remote and Concierge services.

A fully digital instrument display has enough space to take in a section of the navigation map, driver assistance info, or 3-D view of the surrounding area. A standard head-up windscreen display backs this up with important driver information.

Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is on hand, while vehicle software updates are remote over ‘the air’.

Two four-cylinder engines, putting out 135 kW / 300 Nm and 190 kW / 400 Nm, respectively, power the 420i and 430i. The M440i xDrive use of a six-cylinder motor upping the output to 285 kW / 500 Nm.

All three powerplants are mated with a slick-shifting eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission, with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.

The BMW M440i xDrive has a full suite of the latest active and passive safety features, including Parking Assistant Plus with surround, top and side view.

It also boasts a wide range of driver assistance aids mentioned elsewhere in this report.

Two doors and four seats; there’s the first hurdle. The contoured front seats and low roof conspire to cut the door frame to a vertically challenging opening, while the seat backs fold only so far, making the entrance and exit of passengers far from elegant.

When settled in, things improve out of sight for all four occupants. The driver is faced with a pretty standard selection of sports car ‘stuff’, which is no hardship. Instruments and control display is extensive and easy to work with, while the start / stop button has been shifted to the control panel of the centre console. The 4 Series Coupe does offer an optional remote engine start feature.

The front seat passenger can take advantage of a large storage space and extra cup holder, and the pair in back, limited head room apart, enjoy ample comfort, topped off by an acoustic glass windscreen, for the longer journey. The tighter roof lines have also cut the boot capacity by 5 litres to 440L.

The twin turbo ‘six’ and eight-speed auto tranny punch the BMW 440i xDrive from rest to 100 kilometres per hour in a sharp 4.5 seconds. But that’s only half the story, for the sports coupe is the epitome of well-bred driving manners and fuel economy.

For example, the test vehicle clocked fuel consumption of 10.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the urban environment and just 6.4 litres per 100 when let free on the open road.

The standard M Sort suspension incorporates specially tuned dampers, while buyers can opt for the Adaptive M suspension with electrically controlled dampers.

While the brakes are sharp, they don’t grab me. However, I suppose pulling up a 1.8 tonne flier calls for high-end operation. In stop-start city stuff they can be a little challenging for lovers of a smooth ride.

Standard LED headlamps on the crack Coupe throw a new light on night-time driving. The BMW Laserlight system features adaptive cornering and variable illumination that increases high-beam range to more than 500 metres and follows the course of the road at speeds above 60 km/h.

If you can draw the curtains on the opening scene, the M440i xDrive frontal design; or maybe this unconventional ‘overture’ is music to your ears, the rest of the car is straight out of the classical sports coupe repertoire, bum notes – getting in and out, for example – and all.

BMW 420i Coupe $70,900
BMW 430i Coupe $88,900
BMW M440i xDrive $116,900
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local BMW dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (BMW M440i xDrive 3.0L Turbo 6-cylinder petrol 8sp Steptronic automatic xDrive AWD)

Capacity: 2.998 litres
Configuration: Six cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 285 kW @ 6500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 500 Nm @ 1900-5000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.8 L/100km
CO2 emissions 178 g/km

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed automatic, AWD

Length: 4770 mm
Wheelbase: 2851 mm
Width: 1852 mm
Height: 1393 mm
Turning Circle: 12.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1740 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 59 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Three years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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