2021 BMW 4 Series Soft Top Convertible Review By Larry Nutson`
2021 BMW 4 Series Convertible
The soft-top returns
By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
I had learned some time ago that BMW was bringing back a soft top on its 4 Series convertible. This got my attention as I have always liked a soft-top convertible’s classic profile and the two-tone effect of the body color and top material.
The first 3 Series convertible was introduced 35 years ago. Along the way, BMW, as well as other automakers, followed a trend and soft-tops were replaced with retractable hardtops. Some designs looked good and well proportioned. Others, not so much. BMW was one of the better designs, in my view.
In addition to the overall design improvement, so I think, the soft-top brings to the 4 Series convertible additional benefits include weight reduction, greater cargo space and a lower center of gravity for improved handling.
Years ago it was not uncommon to see a top-up convertible being driven at highway speed with its top ballooning into a raised curve shape. Design techniques have improved tremendously. The new 4 Series uses large panel bow elements with a honeycomb-design construction, a flush-fitting glass rear window and multiple layers of insulation. There is no longer a single layer of topping material that makes for a cold interior cabin. The fabric is pulled taut when the roof is closed, giving the car a coupe-like appearance with a classic fabric top convertible feel.
The 4 Series soft-top roof color choices include standard black and an optional Moonlight black (on the car I drove) which gives the fabric a metallic shimmer, especially in direct sunlight.
The soft-top is also approximately 40 percent lighter than the previous generation’s hardtop. The smooth surface, when closed, improves aerodynamics and reduces wind noise. The effective insulation allows for quicker heating of the cabin in colder temperatures. Another benefit of the fabric top is an extra 0.2 inches of headroom when compared to the previous hardtop.
Opening and closing the soft-top takes 18 seconds and can be performed at up to 31 mph. The remote key Comfort Access system which is standard on the M440i models and optional on the 430i models can also be used to activate the top.
The folded soft-top is more compact than the previous hard-top and increases cargo area to 9.0 cu.ft., an increase of 1.2 cu.ft. A safety mechanism prevents it from being lowered if the trunk area is filled. A pass-through door in the rear seat allows for longer items to be carried inside the car.
A wind deflector can be fitted in the rear to reduce both wind noise and air turbulence. When not in use, the deflector can be stored either behind the rear backrest or in its fitted bag in the cargo compartment.
Now, about the overall new 4 Series convertible. It rides on a longer wheelbase and is longer overall, wider and a touch higher. Torsional rigidity has been increased with the new body design. Compared to the coupe, the convertible also has additional structural bracing. The hood, front fenders and doors are now aluminum.
The optional M Sport suspension (standard on the M440i) features firmer spring settings, stiffer bushings and mounts, firmer anti-roll bars and a greater negative wheel camber. Adaptive suspension is also available.
A new BMW kidney grille design is angled forward and extends to the bottom of the front bumper cover. New LED headlights and LED taillights mark the corners. The profile is a classic notchback look with the top up and wide and clean and muscular with the top down. Overall, the new 4 Series is well proportioned and elegant.
BMW describes the new kidney grille as striking and its size is needed to provide adequate airflow to meet engine cooling requirements. If you have followed BMW on social media you’ll know the kidney grille has generated lots of opinions. The opinions are most likely from the long-time BMW cognoscenti. The young folk might just find the new look of the 4 Series front end to be “dope”!
The 4-seat interior is redone with new sport seats, steering wheel, center console, center display screen integrated with the instrument cluster, revised switch locations, and gear selector. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as BMW’s voice control system. In the BMW style, everything is logically laid out.
A complete array of advanced driver-assist safety (ADAS) features are standard. Included systems are: lane departure warning with steering correction; frontal collision; pedestrian warning with braking function; blind spot detection; rear cross traffic alert; rear collision preparation, automatic high beams; and speed limit information. Additional ADAS features are optional. A rollover protection system is also standard. It’s triggered automatically by sensors to deploy two protective bars made from high-strength aluminum and fitted out of sight behind the rear-seat head restraints.
The 430i convertible is powered by a 255-hp twin-scroll turbo 2.0-L 4-cylinder. The M440i convertible is powered by a 382-hp twin-scroll turbo 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder. A new 48-volt mild-hybrid system is standard on the 6-cylinder. The 48-volt starter/generator unit is complemented by a separate 48-volt battery. The system both boosts performance as well as efficiency.
All 4 Series models are equipped with an 8-speed sport automatic transmission with launch control. BMW X-drive all-wheel drive is offered in both the 430i and 440i.
Besides standard launch control the M440i has a new Sprint function that’s activated by pulling on the left shift paddle for at least a second. This engages the SPORT settings for the accelerator response, exhaust note and gearshift characteristics.
Zero to 60 mph for the 430i is 5.9 sec. and it’s 5.0 sec. for the M440i. Depending on tire selection top speed is 130 or 155mph for both.
MSRP is $53,100 for the new 430i Convertible, $55,100 for the 430i xDrive Convertible, $64,000 for the M440i Convertible and $66,000 for the M440i xDrive Convertible. Pricing does not include a $995 destination charge. More information and details on the new 4 Series convertible can be found at www.bmwusa.com.
My drive experience in the new 4 Series convertible was in the M440i finished in Dravit Grey Metallic ($1,950) with Tacora Red Vernasca leather interior trim. Options fitted on this car were the Dynamic Handling Package ($1,300), Parking Assistance Package ($700), Executive Package ($3,700), Moonlight black soft top ($150), Neck Warmer ($500), Wireless Charging ($500) and Harmon Kardon surround sound ($875) bringing the total to $74,670 including destination.
I am a fan of BMWs. I like what they do. I enjoyed driving the M440i. The weather was hot, occasionally rainy and I do live in Chicago, so top-down driving was not all that frequent. Cruising a country road at about 40 mph is ideal convertible driving. My wife and I road-tripped across southern Michigan and the M440i is very pleasant and comfortable out on the open highway. The cabin is relatively quiet even with the soft top. Trunk room is often a bit of a trade-off with a convertible. However, BMW did a good job of providing more than enough room for two weekend suitcases.
As for the front grille, I would relocate the front license plate mount off to the side---or live in one of the nineteen states that don’t issue a front plate. And, about that optional neck warmer. Vents in the headrests blow warm air on the back of your neck. Wonderful for a cool-weather top-down drive with your love.
© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy