Just south of the German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and tip-toeing the Austrian–German border lies the magnificent Zugspitze, which at 2,962 metres above sea level, lays claim to being the highest peak not just amongst the Wetterstein mountains in which it resides but in all of Germany.
Flanked by Germany’s three glaciers including two of Germany’s largest, the Northern Schneeferner, the Höllentalferner and the Southern Schneeferner, you would think that standing right on top of the Zugspitze with mountain capped ranges surrounding you presents quite the sight to behold, And you’d be right. It’s an amazingly breath-taking experience. An amazingly breath-taking experience that no words, no photographs and no video can ever hope to capture because some things in life just need to be experienced at their point of origin.
I’d hypothesis the same can be said about many other aspects of life. A beautiful cut of A5 Wagyu in Japan, a lovingly selected glass of Bordeaux in an Italian vineyard and leading to where I found myself just a week ago, piloting a pair of BMWs in Germany where the roads, the scenery and even the culture of the land from where these machines are born set the stage to elevate one’s driving experience.
Everyone, welcome to Bavaria. The land of the Zugspitze, Pretzels, Weisswurst sausages, Weissbier and beautiful Oktoberfest frauleins in drindls. It also happens to have unrestricted autobahns, stunning mountain passes, pitch-black rain-soaked country roads, all experienced in a day’s worth of driving in two of Bavaria’s finest. The first of which, is the BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe.
First unveiled back in 2014, the first-generation 4-Series Gran Coupe, the “F36” in BMW anorak-speak, while a sporty yet elegant and versatile vehicle was visually not much different from the 4-door sedan upon which it was based. The same definitely cannot be said of the latest 2021 “G26” model which with its noticeably sharpened up lines and aggressive front-end shows the M440i is now firmly a part of the more upmarket Coupe family.
These design touches are not just simple nips and tucks from the sedan either as the Gran Coupe gains sleeker frameless windows, sharper and more pronounced shoulder lines, flush door handles and a tapering roofline finished with a lip spoiler. While horizontal lines play a big part in visually extending both the car’s length and width, a series of vertical lines at each corner is penned in to highlight the Gran Coupe’s muscular hunkered down stance, further accentuated with the use of 19″ Style 861M wheels.
The new 4 Series Gran Coupe might have gained some extra girth all around (143 millimetres longer, 27 millimetres wider and 53 millimetres taller) from its predecessor, BMW’s new design language have crafted a more striking and sportier-looking vehicle than the one that came before.
Those extra dimensions all around also translate to a wider track width of 1,595 millimetres up front and 1,623 millimetres at the rear (an added 50mm and 29 mm from before) as well as a slightly lengthier wheelbase of 2,856 millimetres, 46 millimetres longer than the predecessor’s and 5 millimetres more than its 4-door sedan sibling.
While the added size does translate into a slightly more capacious cabin, the benefits of the extra track and wheelbase over the already very accomplished 3-Series are felt most in the Gran Coupe’s driving dynamics. Aided by numerous other improvements to its chassis like a set of bespoke struts all around, an active air flap control system comprising flaps at the top and bottom, air curtains and an almost completely sealed underbody optimising the Gran Coupe’s aerodynamics.
On our M440i xDrive, adaptive M suspension was also fitted to further enhance its versatility in ride characteristics that coupled with its brilliant eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission and very vocal B58 straight-six Twinpower Turboed engine promises quite a drive.
A promise made good with a rapid jaunt through one of Bavaria’s most scenic drives, the Oberjoch Pass. A beautifully addictive string of road consisting of numerous twists and turns as it meanders through the alps. As lovely to drive as it is to behold, the almost 8km long Oberjoch Pass with its 105 bends and 15 hairpin turns made for an exhilarating drive in our M440i as it crackled, popped and thundered its 374 horses through the mountain pass, egging you on with a healthy dose of 500 Nm of torque ready to be unleashed at the exit of every corner further aided by its 48V starter-generator giving you an extra jolt of power off the line.
Even with our M440i’s xDrive drivetrain and slightly soft winter tires, the Gran Coupe’s sporty rear-wheel-drive biased nature shines through each and every time you give the loud pedal a good wallop, provoking the M Sport differential equipped rear end to cheekily step out for a brief moment even with all safety systems engaged before slinging you rapidly into the next corner once all 4 wheels have hooked up.
There is, unfortunately, a caveat to that extra track width in the form of the perception of size when behind the wheel because, on tight roads like the Oberjochpass, the extra width does make its presence felt when you’re faced with oncoming traffic and sometimes makes placing the car slightly difficult and at times daunting. Unfortunately leading to this poor writer having a brief bust-up with a kerb. Sorry BMW.
On wide-open roads like the Autobahn though, the M440i Gran Coupe xDrive is a real delight with its fantastic ability to sit comfortably at 200km/h with an impressive ride quality in all but the most aggressive driving modes. Overtaking is also a doddle with the soulful and sonorous straight-six eager to spin itself up effortlessly to speeds way beyond Singapore’s local limits. Stopping power comes on strong delivered via a set of M Sport four-piston fixed callipers up front and single-piston floating callipers on the rear quickly anchoring our hard-charging Gran Coupe down to sensible speeds when a stray Econo-hatchback ventures into the overtaking lane.
While the xDrive didn’t make drivetrain characteristic felt on our “enthusiastic” drives across the alps, having the safety net of an all-wheel-drive platform to channel over 370 horses onto the road was a Godsend on our return leg at the end of a day’s journey through 2 hours of almost pitch-black rain-soaked German Highways and B-roads. A journey made all the more interesting as we got to experience first hand not just the stability of the xDrive platform but also how BMW’s futuristic Laserlights performed in these sketchy real-life situations as they cut through the rain magically dipping and raising their (Laser)beams flawlessly adapting to oncoming traffic and road conditions.
To say the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe is a versatile machine is almost an understatement because here is a sleek, stylish BMW with space to comfortably sling 5 adults and their luggage (470 litres expandable to 1,290 litres) across continents in speedy cool comfort with a full suite of technological toys to play with and at the same time deliver a punchy engaging drive for those who seek a greater element of joy on their journeys.
Here is, the most complete BMW 4-Series yet. I only wish you can fully experience the full prowess of its engineering the same way we did, on the beautiful Bavarian roads from whence it was born. Until then, the latest BMW Gran Coupe is now available at Performance Motors Limited and Performance Munich Autos showrooms in 420i M Sport, 430i M Sport Pro and M440i xDrive guises.