2018 BMW M4 Convertible Test Drive Review: Best Casual M Car?

Test Drive

In a mixmash of ingredients that shouldn't work together, BMW bakes perfection.

I’m not gonna lie: M cars are not my forte. I grew up in a piddly little town where Mustangs, Camaros, and even hopped up pickup trucks ruled the streets. But as I’ve grown older, wiser, and more in tune with the finer things in life, I’ve come to appreciate BMW’s formula for making its cars some of the best to ever roam the earth—M cars especially. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from thoroughly enjoying all the maniacal things rednecks do with their V8s, and when these two loves of mine converge—well, I can’t help but be thoroughly smitten.

When I went to BMW Test Fest at The Thermal Club in California and spotted this purple, droptop BMW M4, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. This wasn’t you typical silver executive car flying under the radar. Instead, it was if someone from BMW had seen a third-generation Camaro convertible in purple and immediately said to themselves, “Ah, I can build that!” Sitting on gold wheels and wearing a large M Performance Parts sticker across the top of its windshield, this particular 2018 BMW M4 Convertible was far from understated. German sensibilities? Not here. (Though, I suppose if you can get into David Hasselhoff, you can paint up a purple M4 for a laugh now and then.)

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If it were just for those ingredients, I wouldn’t be interested, but that massive sticker meant this M4 had been fettled with using dealer-order pieces from the M Performance Parts catalog. Further challenging my self control, the M4 was made all the more appealing thanks to a proper six-speed manual. Before we talk about the rest of the car, let’s dig into this whole manual situation first. It’s fantastic that BMW is still willing to fit a stick to a car that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have one. Yes, it was an M4, but it was a convertible M4—the M car you may only drive quickly 5% of the time while you spend the other 95% of it cruising Rodeo Drive.

It was a match made in heaven. Thanks to BMW’s rev-matching system, which predicts the gear you want next and matches engine revs to suit, the M4 Convertible was a cinch to drive. Not lairy. Not a pain in stop-and-go traffic. And it possessed absolutely none of the characteristics one associates with a high-horsepower sports car fitted with a third pedal, like a heavy clutch or gearbox you need to weight train to use properly. As this M4 wore the Competition moniker, its beating heart—a 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-6—didn’t make the standard 425 horsepower. Instead, output was cranked up to 444 hp, though torque remained the same at 406 lb-ft.

That’s enough to grunt rocket this four-seat convertible to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds if you time your shifts right. Adding an optional M Driver’s Package lifts the 155-mph electronically limited top speed to 174 mph. A set of M Carbon Ceramic Brakes brings it all to a stop in a hurry. Gosh. Atop all that, the M Performance Parts fitted to the M4 is nearly as long as my forearm: M Performance Rocker Panels, Carbon Fiber Rear Diffuser, 19- and 20-inch staggered wheels and Michelin Pilot Cup2 tires, and—the most important addition of them all—a M Performance Exhaust System.

I mention that last one with glee because with a manual convertible, going down a cog or two and punching the accelerator with the top down produced a sound that could bring someone closer to God. It was loud, but not obnoxious. Bass and treble were in harmony, accentuated by a lift-off overrun that made me want to hammer the throttle and immediately back off repeatedly. However, even with the Competition Pack, the M Performance Parts goodies, and the M4's eager inline-6, the 2018 M4 Competition Convertible wasn't punishing. Far from it. During our short jaunt from The Thermal Club to the entrance of Box Canyon and back, not once did my co-driver or I complain about the ride.

Yes, the M4 is stiff, but the M4 Convertible has a rigid enough chassis to provide a solid base for handling America's less-than-amply-funded roads, and its suspension didn't give up too much in the comfort department to keep its rubber stuck to the tarmac. Upon returning home, I found myself reminiscing about this M4 and who might buy it. As much as I love the Jaguar F-Type, I think I'd have this M4 Convertible instead. For the Brit to make even near the same amount of power as the German, you'll be out at least $93,000. The M4 Convertible starts at a much more reasonable $77,200. That's without all the goodies we tested here though.

For this particular car, the Competition Pack adds $4,250, M Carbon Ceramic Brakes another $8,150, the staggered wheels a further $5,495, and the exhaust an eye-watering $4,935. Just those options alone send this M4 Competition Convertible sailing past the aforementioned F-Type, and that's before you add an even further $17,630 in carbon-fiber bits, BMW Individual paint and interior treatments, and an Executive Package that adds full LED lights, cameras, and a head-up display. Folks, this 2018 BMW M4 Convertible Competition costs—wait for it—$117,660 before freight and taxes. That's Porsche a la carte option territory.

Personally, I'd option this car with the Competition Package and call it a day, because as much as I enjoy these visually offensive cars and applaud people who own them, I prefer them to take up space in other people's driveways. Also, if you're just cruising most of the time, carbon ceramic brakes are a massive waste of $8,000. Still, if you want warranty and to make an M4 uniquely yours straight from the factory, there's no better way to do it—just be prepared to pay. Individuality comes with a price.

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