LAST year, BMW revised the engine range of its 3 and 4 Series models, with the former lineup getting a facelift as well. It's now the Coupe's turn for a small visual and mechanical tweak and, understandably given the range's sales success (400 000 of this generation sold globally), BMW has not messed with things too much.

Exterior styling revisions include new front and rear bumpers, as well as LED headand taillamps, while the interior benefits from an upgraded steering wheel. Mechanical changes include updates to the steering system, traction control and ABS, and a stiffer suspension setup with less travel in the damping. The intention here is to make this already dynamic coupe an even more engaging car to drive in the twisties. The 440i carries over the N55 turbocharged 3,0-litre straightsix engine with its boisterous 240 kW and 450 N.m of torque, figures that are delivered to the rear wheels via the familiar eight-speed Sports Steptronic torque-converter automatic transmission developed by ZF. Across the urban roads we were initially driving on, and with the vehicle shod with winter tyres, it was difficult to gauge the extent to which the above-mentioned tweaks have harnessed the 4 Series' driving characteristics. However, later on the country roads surrounding the Bavarian city of Munich, these revisions were more obvious.

Despite the fact that winter tyres offer compromised grip on dry roads, the 440i remains sharp, agile and responsive. The stiffer suspension works well with the 440i's low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution to make the vehicle as entertaining as ever. The car's familiar playful characteristics remain, with a well-balanced chassis able to pivot on its axis through tight corners. Both the ABS system and traction control manage a neat trick of being as effective as ever, although now far less intrusive; rather than intimidate, this revamped 440i inspires confidence in its driver. Even BMW enthusiasts will be hard-pressed to see and feel the changes made to the 4 Series. Although we won't be able to say conclusively until we test one back in SA, subjectively at least, the 440i's performance feels much the same as the previous car. Rather than an out-and-out sportscar, the 440i remains a laudable compact GT.