Have you ever tried a fancy new restaurant that’s been getting a lot of buzz, and after finally being able to secure a reservation after weeks of trying, you leave your meal slightly underwhelmed?
Engine: 3.0L turbo inline 6-cylinder
Output: 320 hp, 330 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual/8-speed automatic
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 21 city, 31 hwy, 25 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.2 city, 7.6 hwy, 9.6 combined
US Price: $50,700, $63,850 as-tested
CAN Price: $59,795, $75,435 as-tested
(all prices include destination fees)
You’ve read all the positive reviews from food critics, you’ve seen the lineups outside the restaurant, and your friends have been raving about their experience, but you still can’t help feeling a bit let down. It’s not that the food was terrible or the hospitality sub-par, however. You’re feeling this way because, in this case, the restaurant’s reputation is its biggest enemy: The high levels of hype make you hold it up to a higher standard, so it really has to dazzle you by going above and beyond your expectations to earn your five-star Yelp rating.
In a way, this summarizes my recent experiences with many BMW products, including this refreshed 2018 BMW 440i x Drive. Before even driving it, it would be safe to assume that it will be really good. BMW doesn’t consistently top the luxury sales charts for no reason, and the automaker has an ironclad reputation for building solid luxury cars with a focus on performance. But like that fancy new restaurant, its reputation precedes it, and because I end up holding it to such a high standard, it ends up being slightly anticlimactic.
Is Being Too Perfect a Thing?
Of course, that’s not to say this BMW coupe is a bad car. Quite the contrary is true: the 4 Series is rightfully the benchmark in its segment, meaning it’s pretty damn good. The coupe is also quite handsome and I love its new hexagonal LED headlight signature, a modern interpretation of BMW’s iconic twin headlamps, but the car tends to blend in, especially in when dressed in neutral colors.
One of the issues my colleagues and I find with some BMWs including this one (especially ones without M badges), is that they’re just a bit too perfect. It feels silly to say that being too perfect is a flaw, but I like my cars with more personality because it makes them more fun. Not everyone feels that way, but from an enthusiast standpoint, there are cars in this segment that perhaps offer a bit more flavor.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe Review
The BMW’s near-perfection results in a car that has very little outward personality, which could lead some people to conclude that it’s boring. I wouldn’t use the term boring, however, but the car does feel very clinical from behind the wheel and that could be both a good thing and a bad thing.
Being clinical could be a good thing because the car is precise and predictable, which helps inspire drivers to be more confident behind the wheel. While not encouraging drivers to get full-on Fast and Furious, it does allow drivers to take a corner faster than they normally would or be a bit more aggressive when passing someone or getting up to interstate speeds.
The 440i xDrive is powered by an excellent turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine with 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque that sends power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual transmission is also available). Although on paper those numbers don’t look too impressive, the coupe is quicker than you’d ever need it to be, providing a rewarding turn of speed with just a whisper of turbo lag even in Comfort mode. Acceleration is effortless, as peak torque comes online at a low 1,380 rpm and is strong all the way to 5,000 rpm. Cranking it into Sport mode is even more rewarding with increased responsiveness and the BMW’s exhaust becoming more aggressive. The coupe begins to have some personality in Sport mode, but it still feels a bit detached.
As with most BMWs, the magic is in the steering and the chassis, which work together with the smooth engine to make a bona fide driver’s car. The suspension is the perfect amount of corner-carving stiff while still being comfortable over broken roads, and the steering, while not extremely communicative, is very precise and well weighted.
The German Interior
The interior is very much German, meaning it’s functional but there’s little flourish to be seen. Although there are some flimsy-feeling touchpoints (some hard plastics and the fragile seat belt extenders, for example), the interior still feels well-built and worth the price BMW is asking. The rear seats are also surprisingly hospitable. There are some oddities, such as the dead pedal that’s fancier than the gas and brake pedal and the trunk release button, which is tiny and difficult to locate, but the clinical persona carries over inside as well. That means it works well and is quite user-friendly, but isn’t as visually interesting as other cars in the segment.
A couple standout features are the optional head-up display, which is excellent at displaying all the relevant information, and the 360-degree top-down camera that makes the coupe easy to park. The steering wheel controls are also easy to use, and I grew to prefer using them over the convoluted infotainment system’s rotary knob. The system has been updated for this model year to be more user-friendly with simplified menus and configurable pages, and it does seem easier to use, but it still requires a learning curve to master. The voice recognition is also much better than before, which makes it easier to enter a destination in the navigation instead of using the rotary knob to scroll through letters or by drawing letters on the knob’s touchpad. Fast-charging USB ports, available wireless charging, and the ability to connect to the internet and act as a wifi hotspot are all useful features as well.
The controls for the adaptive cruise control are very user-friendly and are much easier to use than the controls in Mercedes cars, although the system itself doesn’t feel as smooth or advanced as its German luxury rival.
The Verdict: 2018 BMW 440i xDrive Review
After an experience at a fancy new restaurant like the one I mentioned before, it’s not that likely that I’d give it a second chance and have another meal there. Instead of this new buzzworthy restaurant, I’m more likely to go back to a little favorite spot of mine, where there are no lineups and perhaps it doesn’t get as much press as it used to, but the meal and service will be predictably good. This restaurant has proven time and time again to satisfy me and meet my expectations, so I always leave happy and feeling like it was money and time well spent.
Perhaps this is a better way to look at the new BMW 4 Series. It’s a solid car with a great reputation, and although it’s not as exciting as other options, it does deliver as a luxury coupe that drives really well. Although you’ve heard so much about it, it might be wise to manage your expectations with this coupe because it delivers exactly what you need it to without going over the top, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The 2018 BMW 440i xDrive doesn’t dazzle you, but it also doesn’t disappoint. Being the segment benchmark means that it sets the bar for others, but it doesn’t do enough to go above and beyond to surpass its own reputation and make it truly special.
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