by Jay Traugott
The second-generation BMW 4 Series Convertible has officially arrived with more power, style, and overall performance than its predecessor. This is the German automaker's newest way to experience blissful driving as the wind strikes your face. The only other drop-top BMW currently sells is the Z4, but that's a two-seater with limited mass appeal. The 4 Series Convertible is different in both size and overall approach. It can fit up to four passengers and offers a more comfortable daily driving experience than the track-focused roadster.
Above all, BMW promises the new 4 Series Convertible offers improved handling and more cargo space than before. It also weighs less thanks to greater use of lightweight build materials. But perhaps the biggest change is the roof itself. The hardtop has been replaced with a soft-top. Will this satisfy buyers? Chances are it will because BMW is known for responding to customer requests.
See trim levels and configurations:
Like its 4 Series Coupe siblings, BMW designers set out to give the convertible a more striking exterior design that also improves overall aerodynamics. But it's the much-maligned kidney grille that people will notice first. Extending all the way to the bottom of the front bumper, the new grille features a three-dimensional mesh structure while two large air intakes flank the front bumper. Standard LED headlights housing U-shaped daytime running lights complete the more aggressive front end appearance.
At the rear, L-shaped LED taillights and vertical apertures at each side of the bumper complement the front intakes. Opting for the M Sport Package adds a unique rear bumper and side window moldings finished in high-gloss black. The also optional Shadowline Package tacks on a high-gloss black finish to the front grille and exhaust tip trim.
Compared to its predecessor, the new convertible is 5.2-inches longer, 1.0-inches wider, and 0.1-inch higher. Its wheelbase has also increased in size by 1.6 inches while the front track is 1.5-inches wider.
For BMW, it's all about the driver. The cockpit is exactly the same as that of the 4 Series Coupe and 3 Series Sedan. An 8.8-inch central touchscreen display is standard while a 12.3-inch digital driver's display is optional. Opting for the Live Cockpit Professional increases the touchscreen to 10.25-inches. The iDrive 7 infotainment system is also standard as are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, navigation, and BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant.
Open-pore wood oak grain trim is also standard while aluminum trim is standard for the higher trim M440i and M440i xDrive. All trims can be optioned with additional wood trims and aluminum with a mesh effect.
And, of course, there's the matter of the roof. The new soft-top is about 40 percent lighter than the old hardtop and frees up 0.2 inches of headroom. It also has multiple insulation layers and a flush-fitting glass window. Opening and closing happens at the push of a button and takes just 18 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. The rear seats, while small, can accommodate two adults. Cargo capacity increases by 1.2 cubic feet for a total of nine cubic feet. A standard rear-seat-pass-through and wind deflector are standard.
Under the hood lies the same engine lineup found in the 4 Series Coupe. The 430i and 430i xDrive have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while the M440i and M440i xDrive come with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with 382 hp and 369 lb-ft. All variants make use of an eight-speed automatic transmission, with the M440i benefitting from a new Sprint function that activates the Sport settings for the throttle response, exhaust note, and gearshifts. The M440i also gets a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that provides energy recuperation and storage.
Slicing off any coupe's roof typically reduces structural rigidity. To help counter this, engineers reinforced the transmission tunnel and added a rigid rear floor plate at the rear. This results in a static torsional rigidity increase of four percent compared to the outgoing model.
The suspension has also been beefed up with additional bracing such as connecting the front shock towers to the bulkhead. The optional M Sport suspension provides an even more thrilling driving experience. Shaving weight was also a priority. The hood, front fenders, and doors are made from aluminum, saving 44 pounds from the front end alone.
The 2021 BMW 4 Series Convertible will have a starting price of $53,100, a $7,500 increase over the coupe. Adding the xDrive all-wheel drive system brings the price up to at least $55,100. Meanwhile, the more powerful M440i and M440i xDrive begin at $64,000 and $66,000, respectively. The RWD models will go on sale in March while the AWD xDrive versions will become available in July.
Like the 3 Series Sedan, the 4 Series Coupe and Convertible are typically considered the segment benchmarks. In the case of the 4 Series Convertible, this segment is shrinking. Its most direct rivals continue to be the Audi A5 and S5 Convertible as well as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Convertible. Convertibles have become a niche market, hence the relatively limited number of choices. Rivals such as Lexus, Infiniti, and Genesis have no immediate convertible plans for this specific segment.
The most popular competitors of 2021 BMW 4 Series Convertible: