Swift-folding, thickly-insulated roof. Back seats big enough for humans. Drives almost as well as the (excellent) coupe
Narrow boot entrance, slow seats, hearing other people comment on your grille
What is it?
BMW’s new soft-top. And that’s the story here: a cloth roof. The last two generations of this car (one the last to be badged ‘3 Series’, the other the first to carry a 4 Series badge) deployed three-piece folding metal roof mechanisms, sacrificing weight, packaging and some style in the name of better aerodynamics, refinement, and security.
For the new 4 Series Convertible, BMW has had a change of heart, and returned to the classic fabric roof, though it’s a lot cleverer than they used to be. Capable of retracting in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, there’s no excuse not to be making the most of all three and a half days of British summertime.
Why the change in roof design?
The new top is apparently 40 per cent lighter than the old folding hard-top roof, despite incorporating a heated glass rear window that separates entirely from the rest of the roof as it motors in and out of place. When lowered, the folded-up roof lives in the upper part of the boot, which is obviously smaller than the 4 Series Coupe’s as a result.
An excellent spread of engines are available at the other end. There’s a pair of four-cylinder turbo petrols good for 181bhp or 254bhp, or the 187bhp 420d diesel. The diesels and top of the range petrol have 48-volt hybrid boost, but there’s no plug-in or pure-EV version.
BMW is still well and truly ‘in’ on diesel, so above the 420d there are 430d and M440d options, both with all-wheel drive, good for 280bhp and 335bhp respectively. These both enjoy 11bhp of 48-volt hybrid boost charged on the overrun and when braking. This system is also plumbed into the petrol M440i, which develops a meaty 369bhp.
Drive is sent to all four wheels (with a rearward bias) via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This M440i xDrive is the version we’ve tested, but we’d driven the 420d and 420i coupes and found them to be fine machines. Truly, if we’re in the twilight years of the internal combustion engine, BMW is bowing out with some of the very best ‘real-world’ motors.
What if I need to go, like, really really fast?
Big fan of powerful engines? Really dislike your hairdo? Then you’ll be needing to upgrade to the M4 Competition Convertible, which comes as standard with a twin-turbocharged straight-six, four-wheel drive and 503bhp. It’ll scorch from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and run on to a limited top speed of 174mph, and so it should for a price tag of some £82,000.
How much is it and what are the rivals?
More humble 4 Series drop-tops start at £45,800. This M440i version is yours for £59,645. It’ll rival the ageing Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet and Audi S5 Cabriolet, as well as a smattering of soft-top Porsches.
The 4 Series Coupe is a deeply well-sorted car, but cabrios are a different animal. Dynamics matter less, and style comes to the fore. Is this a car that you yearn to be seen in, publicly endorsing BMW’s controversial beaver-face styling direction? If so, you’ve got lots to look forward to here.
What's the verdict?
Just as the 4 Series Coupe is the best mid-sized sporty-lux coupe, the 4 Series Convertible is a class-leading drop-top. It hits every base: it’s refined top up or down, the engines are fabulous, it’s spacious and reasonably practical, well-finished and can be festooned with all the gadgets and assists you’d expect.
While heavy and not exactly agile, it is an obediently assured thing to drive, should the mood take you. It’s a very complete machine, then – the only objection you’re likely to have is to the looks, which BMW insists have gone down a storm with its customers who bemoaned the fact the old 4 Series didn’t look different enough to their bank manager’s 3 Series. You certainly can’t say that’s an issue any more.