The 2021 BMW M440i Is a Symptom of a Larger Problem

Strange things happen when you get old. Knees go weak, vision becomes an issue, and weight shows up in new places. The concept of the sports car has gotten old too. BMW knows that. The concept of the sports car has started to show its age. Vision has been muddled by corporate bylines and slogans, and weight has shown up in unexpected places. Fortunately, the 2021 BMW M440i is trying to turn the clock back.

The BMW M440i should be a capable sports coupe

The controversial beaver-tooth nose of modern 3 and 4-series BMWs seen on the M440i
The M440i still feels at home on a twisty road | BMW

On paper, the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive should be a capable sports coupe. It has a turbocharged inline 6 cylinder motor. It makes 382 hp and 364 lb-ft of torque. And it has rear-biased all-wheel drive. Moreover, the interior is a lovely place to sit. I say that because I was fortunate enough to sit in one. Not only that, but some lunatic at a BMW event actually let me drive the thing. So thanks, BMW of North America.

That said, it’s clear BMW still knows how to make a car feel special. Even sans manual transmission, the eight-speed auto holds gears well at speed and reacts somewhat intuitively during hard driving. Most importantly, the 2021 BMW M440i feels like a BMW product. I got out of peak BMW, the E46 M3, and into this, and experienced similar sensations. It’s so, so fast. We hear 400 hp so often we forget how much that is. Finally, the AWD system really does feel rear-biased.

Changing rules have kneecapped the sports coupe

The rear end of the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive
A 440i looks better going than coming | BMW

However, there’s also a lot holding the M440i back. Namely, the M4 and M3 models, which of course have to be that little bit better and a lot more special. Fair play to BMW; Porsche has to do the same thing with the 718 and 911 models. But honestly, the sheer mass of the thing holds it back. The 2021 BMW M440i weighs nearly four thousand pounds. Sports cars are supposed to be light, tossable things. This is not. It feels as if it’s fighting out of every corner, held down by modern sticky tires and electronic wizardry.

But it’s not BMW’s fault. Frankly, it isn’t anyone’s fault. Pedestrian safety has to improve. It was abysmal back when sports cars were light and tossable. Now, cars must have things like a frontal protection system, or ADAS. These things add weight and a lot of it. At the end of the day, pedestrian safety must come first.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much BMW can do

BMW's logo seen on the hood of a black vehicle in the rain
Some still yearn for the BMW of yesteryear | Artur Widak via Getty Images

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It’s unfortunate, but it’s also a reality of the world we live in. BMW can still make a great sports car, but they have to do it with a lot more fat to trim. And at the end of the day, BMW and other brands can only trim so much fat before a car becomes illegal to sell because of its poor crash safety. The world will keep turning, and eventually, someone will find a way around that. When they do, BMW is going to make something incredible.