triple whammy | 

Alan Murphy travels to the home of BMW to drive three of the marque’s potent new cars

BMW 440i

BMW 440i

The new M240i xDrive is a real driver's car

The new M240i xDrive is a real driver's car

X4M Competition

X4M Competition

Alan Murphy

BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupé €84,495

I'll admit that during the initial presentations at this BMW test day in Munich, I was so looking forward to driving the new M240i and X4M Competition that this car almost flew under my radar.

It's not that it's underwhelming, but I think an aircraft carrier would struggle for attention when parked next to the X4M in Sao Paulo yellow and the new M240i in Thundernight purple.

BMW 440i

BMW 440i

So I was almost disappointed when Mr BMW handed me the keys to the M440i xDrive Gran Coupé for my first drive of the day.

However, this is a beautiful motor car, especially in the Aventurine red and shadowline package on my test machine.

That oversized kidney grille has divided opinion in the world of motoring geeks, and it's the first thing that grabs your attention as you walk to the car.

I quite like its futuristic Gothamstyle vibe and, with those black accents, 19-inch wheels and smart rear end with tiny spoiler and bold diffuser, it gives an overall impression of strength and sportiness.

Inside is classic BMW M fare. Soft-touch materials, luxurious leather, sporty M accents and clear, modern instrumentation and centre touchscreen are at the heart of the driving experience.

BMW has kept its iDrive 7 in this machine (the new iX3 and i4 electric cars use OS8) and it offers an excellent interface with mobile devices. Fire the engine up and you're greeted with the smooth hum of the three-litre motor, but blip the throttle and you get a rasping hint of the car's more sporting nature.

My driving route took me through a selection of sweeping Bavarian backroads, small villages and unrestricted autobahn and while a couple of hours behind the wheel isn't enough to fully explore a car's capabilities, this Gran Coupé really impressed.

As well as sounding great, power delivery is silky smooth and linear all the way up to the limiter and for country road driving I found the eight-speed auto gearbox is best explored in manual sport mode for crisp, precise changes.

The 374bhp on tap really shoves this car along, whether it's from a standing start, overtaking or blitzing the autobahn.

This BMW B58 six-cylinder engine is one of the finest powerplants around today.

Steering and the M Adaptive suspension can be changed between Sport and Comfort modes and overall the car has a very sophisticated feel. It's taut and precise on the country roads, but can switch to subtle and relaxed at the push of a button for longer cruising.

The only criticism I could offer is the steering can feel a little light and doesn't quite engage you with the car as well as it might.

With five seats and plenty of boot space, plus the utility of the liftback tail and folding rear seats, this car really excels in all areas of drivability, comfort and practicality.X4M Competition

BMW X4M Competition €158,855

X4M Competition

X4M Competition

FROM the Sao Paulo yellow colour to the 510bhp output from the engine, everything about this car is outrageous.

Outside, from the stance, big wheels, quad exhausts and styling, this car has an in-your-face attitude.

Sit inside, and the two red M buttons on the steering wheel and cosseting M Sport seats confirm that you're in for some proper fun.

Fire it up, and the exhaust note from that six-cylinder engine is just glorious - and it only gets better once you get under way.

Mr BMW suggested a specific route that would give a good overall indication of the car's capabilities.

He also warned that the M2 button was currently configured to deactivate all driver aids, including DSC. Now, to me 'do not press the red button' in a German accent translates directly into 'you must press the red button immediately'.

As the car went sideways at the first hint of a roundabout, I knew I'd made the correct choice. The roads opened up, the autumn sun shone and the Germany countryside was soon going past me at a fair lick.

Despite its size and weight, the designers have obviously put a lot of work into keeping the X4M's centre of gravity as low as possible and the car is remarkably agile and stable as a result.

Over these rolling, twisting roads, the only time it really showed it size and became a handful was under heavy braking on an undulating surface.

Buzzing up and down through the eight-speed gearbox is a driver's delight, with instant response and a lovely popping and burbling soundtrack as the revs rise and fall.

On the autobahn, the rolling acceleration in all speed ranges was rapid and effortless and the sight of this yellow panzer closing rapidly in rear-view mirrors cleared the outer lane like Moses parting the Red Sea.

The only real issue I had was the suspension felt a little lacklustre at times and was at odds with the rest of the car's razor-sharp character.

However, some exploration of the configurable M2 button settings as I was stuck in some traffic revealed the previous driver had set the suspension in Comfort mode instead of Sport.

A grievous error. I was tempted to do a u-turn and retrace my route, but time was against me and there was one more car that I really wanted to drive...

BMW M240i xDrive €70,485

The new M240i xDrive is a real driver's car

The new M240i xDrive is a real driver's car

Called the 'Ultimate Drifting Machine' by the BMW team in Munich, this new M240i xDrive has some very big shoes to fill.

With the legendary M2 discontinued (hopefully not for long) this car is seen by many as its successor. No pressure, then...

The new 2 coupé has been redesigned from the ground up and takes many of its styling cues from the 2002 of old, and the result is a beautifully crafted car from every angle.

BMW hasn't introduced the controversial frontend styling on this model and its wide kidney grille, narrow lights, triangular air intakes and long, bulging bonnet give the car a purposeful, aggressive look.

The flared rear wheel arches are still there, while the rear end and roofline have been redesigned to give the car a modern and very dramatic profile.

The driving force is courtesy of the same brilliant three-litre six-cylinder powerplant in the M440i, and its 374bhp packs quite a punch in this chassis.

Inside, it also feels quite similar to the M440i and the dash, iDrive and centre console have that familiar premium feel. Once I cleared Munich's afternoon traffic and hit those country roads, the car was a revelation and was a confidence-inspiring joy to drive.

Swooping bends and tight turns were dispatched with tyre-squealing ease, while crests and dips left it completely unruffled even under the hardest braking I dared on roads that were becoming damp in the autumn evening mist.

It really flattered my driving and the car took in its stride all my ham-fisted efforts to get it out of shape.

As with the M440i, power delivery was smooth and effortless thanks to the fat power curve and sharp gearbox in manual mode, all delivered to the tune of that delightful six-cylinder soundtrack.

For me, the steering felt perfectly weighted and there seemed to be endless traction thanks to the xDrive system constantly working its magic.

With no time to muck about with the car's settings and sensing I'd pushed my luck enough for one day, the car's drifting credentials remained untested...

However, it's clear that the 2 Series coupé is still the driver's car it was intended to be. Expect full test drives over the coming months.

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