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Review: Big BMW M440i Grille-zilla still has the moves

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

The compact-class, BMW 3-series has grown a lot in the past 20 years. Check out the all-new 2021 BMW M440i Coupe prowling my driveway.

Once the 3-series was offered as both a coupe and a sedan, but in 2014 the coupe grew its own dedicated 4-series badge. That new line grew M trims like my 6-cylinder M Performance tester (in addition to a turbo-4-powered M Sport and fire-breathing M4). Its pant size grew, too. The '21 coupe's wheelbase has grown nearly half a foot and 450 pounds over my 2001 BMW M3 Coupe. Its wheelbase and weight are about equal to a 2004 5-series, for goodness sake.

And then there's the twin-kidney grille.

M440i is the first car model to feature grille-zilla — full-fascia kidneys that look like they were taken off the X7 SUV. They are huge. They provoke heated arguments among BMW faithful about whether the grille makes the 4-series look bold — or like a buck-toothed gopher.

But one thing hasn't changed. The BMW 3/4 series is still the compact class' performance standard.

Hustling over Doyle Road's rollercoaster turns west of Hell, the M440i was true as an arrow. The comfortable suspension that carried me on a magic carpet west from Detroit on I-96 was now taut — like the sinewy thighs of a greyhound — in Sport Plus mode. The balanced torso is an extension of my hands. Turning in to a hard, 90-degree left-hander, the car slid effortlessly across the apex to the edge of the road. Right where I placed it.

 

The car's added girth is apparent. Its two tons tip the scales like the 4,068-pound, 2004 5-series of old. But the 4's modern chassis feels smaller. About 2,000 pounds of that weight gain is the addition of all-wheel-drive, which means more grip. Lots of grip.

On a lonely patch of Doyle, I do a launch control-assisted, 0-60 mph sprint. The grip is instant (Car and Driver recorded an impressive 3.8 seconds). The drivetrain roars like a cheetah unleashed.

Ah, BMW's unparalleled drivetrains. At the heart of M440i is another terrific 3.0-liter inline-6. This one is blown to 382 horsepower with a single turbo — 52 more horses than my 2001 M3 Coupe. The new M4 Coupe (formerly the M3 Coupe — sorry, the alphanumerics will make your brain hurt) now makes up to 503 horsepower by adding a second turbo.

I'll have a chance to test the M4 sometime soon, but for now 382 horses will do. They make beautiful music.

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