A sleek and elegant beast, the new BMW 440i Gran Coupe appeals to a wider audience.

It can be hard to shake off a reputation built up over decades. Think of a Hollywood action hero who suddenly wants to star in comedies. Such a re-invention has to be handled well and does not always go smoothly.

The same can be said for consumer brands that want to break out of their traditional image. BMW is one such car brand trying to change its perception as a stuffy, upmarket old-man’s car to appeal to a younger and trendier crowd. Mercedes-Benz and Audi are also shuffling down the same road.

Like other manufacturers, BMW has been blurring the lines between SUVs, coupes and sedans, to appeal to a wider audience. These days, it can sometimes be hard to tell what model you are looking at, given the new names that car brands come up with.

At first sight, it might be hard to discern the BMW 440i Gran Coupe model. While the signature kidney front grille and headlamps carry BMW’s current design language, the 440i closely resembles the styling of the 3-Series Sedan. That is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the car exudes a certain sedan-like sportiness within its big frame. This is helped by the chunky M-styled 18in rims which complement a fine-flowing aerodynamic body.

Interior-wise, there are ample amounts of soft leather, high-end metals and materials on board, as can be expected with BMW. Electronic gadgets and driver assistance are plentiful but not overbearing. The manual handbrake looks slightly dated in these days of electronic parking brakes, but generally everything is where it should be.

Now for the drive. Start the engine up, slip it into Sport mode and hear it growl. The turbocharged 3l straight-six engine bellows out 326bhp with a super-sized torque of 450Nm. This power comes smooth and assured, thanks to a very effective eightspeed ZF gearbox.

In Sport mode, the car just glides along the road. There are other modes, of course — the Eco mode is worth a try to see what you can get out of the fuel tank. Together with its Start-Stop function, the “combined fuel consumption” of 6.8l per 100km is impressive for a big car that delivers such power. The only issue to bear in mind is the non-conventional gearstick formation. Unlike the more commonly used P-R-N-D sequence, this model has the Park function in the form of a button on top of the stick. Those unfamiliar with this set-up may mistakenly put the car in Reverse mode instead, which could lead to a costly accident.

As an overall package, there is not a lot of stiff competition for the BMW 440i Gran Coupe when it comes to this level of sportiness, fun and drivability in a fourdoor car. Drivability technically refers to the smoothness and steadiness of a car when accelerating, but it can also indicate how practical the car is, how well it drives in all environments and how comfortable the interior is.

Based on those criteria, the Gran Coupe is a sure-fire winner in this class. A potential buyer might ask why they should spend almost $300,000 on the 440i Grand Coupe when an equivalent BMW 340i costs about $20,000 less. The best way to answer this question is to take both for a spin and make up your own mind. But for what it is worth, the Gran Coupe allows you to get more connected with the drive and more power, while offering a much more accessible boot as an added bonus.

So, who is it aimed at? Definitely not the younger, entry-level, first-time Beamer owners. Rather, it is for those a bit higher up the food chain, looking to show off their wealth without being crass. The Gran Coupe is subtle in its design and performance, and as a status symbol.

BMW 440I GRAN COUPE
 $290,800 including COE
Engine: 2,998cc, inline-six, turbocharged
Power/torque: 326bhp/450Nm
Fuel consumption: 6.8l/100km
0 to 100kph: 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 250kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 755 (Nov 21) of The Edge Singapore.