Drive: BMW offers a throwback to personal luxury cars with the 2021 M440i xDrive Coupe

Remember the personal luxury car? Drivers of a certain age fondly recall the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Toronado, Chrysler Cordoba, Pontiac Grand Prix, Ford Thunderbird and Buick Rivera, to name just a few examples of an automotive segment that was wildly popular in the 1960s and '70s. Such cars still find their way onto the American road today. Prominent among them is the 2021 BMW M440i xDrive coupe.

The main difference between the BMW and those personal luxury cars of long ago is performance. While some were quite fast, they weren't in the M440i's league. It's rated at 382 horsepower, with a mild-hybrid boost that makes it a little faster as well as more fuel-efficient. BMW says it will rocket to 60 mph in a mere 4.3 seconds. The cars listed above took upward of three times as long to reach 60.

Like BMW's acclaimed 3 Series, to which it is closely related, the 4 Series is a midsize car. There, the similarity largely ends. The 4 Series is available as a 2-door coupe or soft-top convertible. The base model, the 430i, starts at $45,600 and comes with a turbocharged 255-horsepower inline Four, with rear-wheel drive. Our M440i started at $58,500 and reached $70,470 with options.

It may come as a surprise to some, but there's some pretty serious competition in this segment. The Monte Carlo, Thunderbird and the rest may be long gone, but there are some fine choices out there - notably, the Audi A5, Infiniti Q60, Lexus RC and Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe. All can transport four adults in luxury, though not a little discomfort for those relegated to the back seat; and all have comparatively roomy trunks.

Our M440i had just about every possible luxury feature, including a few that never really occurred to us - such as a seat-and-shoulder belt that pops out of the upper right-hand corner to meet the driver's right hand halfway, rather than requiring a long reach. Our BMW also had all the infotainment goodies and safety enhancements: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, navigation system, blind-spot monitor, and optional Extended Traffic Jam Assistant and on-street parking information.

The car's performance was, in a word, spectacular. Many of today's cars, including some with sporty pretensions, have extremely light steering resistance. The BMW's steering response has some real heft to it, greatly enhancing road feel.

While the M440i requires premium unleaded gasoline, its fuel economy is on the high side: 22 mpg city, 31 highway. A Lexus RC we drove five years ago was rated at just 25 mpg on the highway. These numbers have improved somewhat since then, but at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, the comparable version of the RC falls well short of the M440i.

2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe

Price: $70,470

Engine: 3.0-inline mild-hybrid Six, 382 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic with paddle shifters

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 3,977 lb.

Suspension: Double-pivot-type front suspension with spring struts and anti-roll bar; 5-link rear suspension with cast-aluminum upper transverse arms

Wheels: 19-in. double-spoke cerium gray

Tires: P225/40R19 front, P255/35R19 rear, performance

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 12 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 15.6 gallons

Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

For reasons unknown, BMW stylists decided to do away with the familiar kidney-shaped grille sections and replace them with something that looks more like a heart. Placed against the sublime beauty of the car's lines, its stylish, functional interior, and its undeniable performance attributes, the new grille falls somewhere between an unfortunate oversight and a defect.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.