- bmw has rolled out its next-generation 4-series convertible, most notable for the addition of a fabric top replacing the convertible hard top.
- remarkably, the new top is just as easy to use and 40 percent lighter than the old hard top.
- the 2021 4-series convertible will go on sale in the u.s. in march 2021 for the rear-wheel-drive models and july for the xdrive all-wheel drive versions, priced starting just over $54,000.
at first glance, the 4-series convertible may seem like a provocation. after all, it has the same vertical-kidney design that has riled up people on social media since the 4-series coupe and the m3/m4 siblings were unleashed on the public. in real life, we think the new design works rather well. and this may be a minority opinion, but purists who have trouble with the front end may be won over by the fabric top, which, when closed, arches beautifully over the center section of this impressive convertible for a more elegant look than its predecessor.
the romance of a convertible is undeniable. an open-top car is a luxury, a car for special occasions, desirable as a way to drive into the sunset or to your favorite café. and it needs a fabric top. when the retractable hard top arrived, it was a fascinating technology, and visually it worked on a two-seater like the mercedes-benz slk. on many larger convertibles, however, it created a bulging trunk—and the metal parts still ate into the luggage space. a fabric top is easier to package, and it looks better. no wonder bmw has chosen to revert to it with the new 4-series convertible, which of course is closely related to the current 3-series.
the new fabric top is thickly padded, which means that from within, you could mistake it for a coupe when you keep it closed in bad weather. the top is 40 percent lighter than the previous model's hard top, and it can be electrically opened or closed within 18 seconds and up to a speed of 31 mph. moreover, trunk space has grown by 1.2 cubic feet to a full 9.0 cubic feet, while the rear end looks more sleek than before.
looking across the full lineup, bmw's 6-series has become the 8-series, and that means there is room for the 4-series to expand. it stands on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, and it has become an overall larger car in all directions. the interior is taken straight from the 3-series, and there is plenty of room not just in the front, but also on the rear seats, which now are big enough to be comfortable even for extended trips.
the 4-series has a lower center of gravity than the 3-series, its steering is tuned for agility and responsiveness, and despite the added weight of the open-top conversion and the necessary body stiffening, this convertible should match the extraordinary dynamic capabilities of the sedan it's based on.
engine choices for americans
in europe, the 4-series convertible comes with a large selection of four- and six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. as always, the u.s. market gets a sample of the more powerful gasoline engines. the entry-level motor is the b46 2.0-liter four, rated at 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. above that, there is the m440i with its b58 3.0-liter straight-six, rated at 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. both powertrains can be specified with rear- or all-wheel-drive, while a zf-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission is obligatory.
however, we eventually expect to see an m4 convertible. if bmw follows the example of the m4 coupe, it will be available with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission and rated at 473 and 503 horsepower, respectively.
the 4-series convertible is fitted with bmw's latest connectivity and infotainment features, which means you can manipulate the vehicle's dynamic settings in multiple ways, while the navigation is fed real-time traffic information and connectivity with mobile devices works seamlessly with apple carplay and android auto capability, and a head-up display is optional.
when the bmw 4-series convertible launches, it will compete directly with the audi a5 and the mercedes-benz c-class and e-class convertibles. as the most recent and contemporary entry, we fully expect it to find its place at the top of its class. pricing begins at $54,095 for the 430i convertible and $66,995 for the m440i convertible. all-wheel drive is a $2000 option on both. the rear-wheel-drive models will hit dealerships next march, while the xdrive models come in july 2021.