I like a coupe. Always have. My wife didn’t like coupes much. Until she spent some time with me in the 2018 BMW 440i xDrive coupe which has undergone a mid-cycle facelift.
A little trip to north central Saskatchewan and the Elk Ridge Resort on the border of the Prince Albert National Park brought about her epiphany. (Not in the Biblical sense, but in the ancient Greek (meaning manifestation, striking appearance) now defined as the moment you suddenly feel you understand or become conscious of something very important.
To begin with, she loved the 440i appearance which is unarguably lovely and the interior done in black Extended Merino leather with entertainment from a Harman/Kardon audio system is a comfortable environment. (Even the rear seats are roomy once you slip past the front seatbacks.) But she’s liked other coupes’ looks too. It’s big doors that raise her hackles – she says they’re hard to close or open. For some reason that didn’t occur here. Score one for BMW ability to balance form and function. Another neat feature is the seat belt “presenter” that pushes the belt to within easy reach.
The coupe’s sleek looks don’t hurt either. It gets attention everywhere we go.
BMW Canada sent an optioned-up 440i xDrive for evaluation and my immediate impression is that the facelift works especially when combined with some tweaking of internal bits and the addition of a boat load of optional goodies.
As standard, the suspension has been retuned to create a more sporty driving experience. Dampers are more aggressive and stability control, traction control and ABS have new programming. The electronic power steering has been recalibrated.
The additions include M Performance II package ($2,900) with M Power kit and M performance exhaust that boosts output of its turbocharged 3.0L in-line six cylinder engine to 355 horsepower from 320 and 369 lb. ft. of torque from 330. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but there’s plenty of get up and go getting to all four wheels through the silky smooth 8-speed automatic transmission and xDrive system.
And the sound! Who needs an audio system, even one by Harman/Kardon, when the exhaust sings such a lovely tune? It’s not overly musical, but the growl is music to MY ears.
Premium Package Enhanced ($6,000) brings driver assist/convenience items like alarm system, universal remote control, comfort access, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, lumbar support, front and rear park distance control, high-beam assist, surround view, head-up display, satellite radio tuner, BMW ConnectedDrive Services Professional, and full digital instrument display.
There’s one problem. While everything else is present in the test vehicle, the digital display is not. The instruments are analog. The anomaly, says BMW, is because the test car is a very early production model which did not have the digital display. Later examples with the package do have digital display.
The Driver Assistance package ($1,500) brings active blind spot monitor, driving assistant and speed limit information while a $750 smart phone connectivity package adds Apple CarPlay prep, wireless charging with extended Bluetooth and USB along with Wi-Fi Hotspot.
The company tossed in stand-alone features like individual Extended Merino leather for $1,900, adaptive LED headlights (an illuminating experience) for $1,500 and active cruise with stop and go for $1,000.
All this fits nicely to produce a package that will allow four people to travel in high-class comfort on any kind of trip, long or short.
The direct route to Elk Ridge is pretty routine: wide, only slightly curvy pavement through Saskatchewan’s boreal forest. We have a dinner reservation and hunger drives us to use the shorter route.
The 440i interior is quiet – very limited road or wind noise – but traffic is sparse, so there’s some power systems playtime. Hammering the throttle to get by slowpokes produces that exhilarating exhaust growl and a huge increase in velocity in a short distance and rapidly receding traffic tortoises.
We make it to Elk Ridge, home to a superb 27-hole championship golf course, in time to keep our reservation. We’re seated by a window overlooking a scenic pond. Service is quick, friendly and knowledgeable, the menu choices delectable and the wine list extensive.
The return trip south is a lot more fun for the avid driver. The “scenic route” from the park town site of Waskesiu is narrow, twisty, hilly and lined with tall trees.
This is where I discover the terrific responsiveness of the power steering which, while electronic, doesn’t isolate me from feeling the road. The car goes where I point it when I point it.
The pavement is old and rough in spots, but the suspension handles it all without disturbing my passenger and sharp curves are handled without body roll.
Oh my this is fun and it’s comforting to know that should I get too over-confident, the electronic nannies are there to keep us out of the ditch.
“The ultimate driving experience” is alive and well.
2018 BMW 400i
Trim level: xDrive coupe
Price before taxes: $73,990
Configuration: front engine, AWD
Engine/transmission: 3.0 L bi-turbo 6 cyl./ 8-speed automatic
Power/torque: 355 hp/369 lb-ft
Fuel economy ratings: 9.6 L/100 km combined (estimated)Warranties: four years, 80,000 km comprehensive
Competitors: Audi A5 coupe, Cadillac CTS, Lexus RC F, Mercedes-Benz E 400 coupe
Elk Ridge Resort