The BMW 4 Series is a two-door first and foremost, and thus, we are still working our way up to the reveal of what’s sure to be the volume seller of the lineup, the G26 4 Series Gran Coupé. In the meantime, with the two-door already unveiled—to a less than accepting audience—and the M3 and M4 also revealed in fixed-roof hardtop form, it’s now time for the all-new droptop Four to make its debut.
So, what are we working with? To address the elephant in the room, the new 4 Series wears the same bold front end designed seen on the rest of the 4 Series lineup, the new M3 and M4, and concepts such as the i4 and iNext. Like it or not, BMW has committed itself to the design, and the 4 Series convertible is merely the latest model to come fitted with the front clip. Underpinnings are based on BMW’s current modular and primarily rear-drive architecture referred to as CLAR, which is shared with everything from the 3 Series and X3 to the 7 Series, X7, Z4, Supra, and many others.
The hardtop of the F32 has been replaced by a soft top (more on that in a bit) while the chassis itself has been reinforced and braced in the appropriate areas for a 4% increase in torsional rigidity. In contrast, the underlying engines are the same B58 six-cylinder and B48 four-cylinder as before, but with increased output that matches the rest of the BMW lineup thanks to 382 horsepower in the M440i and 255 in the 430i. Both models will hit the market exclusively in rear-drive form, but xDrive, a $2,000 option, is slated to become available next summer. Curiously enough, the M440i can be had in rear drive form, while xDrive comes standard on the M440i coupe.
Take the contentious front end out of the picture, and the 4 Series convertible continues the same design language we’re still getting used to on the G20 3 Series and the new 4 Series coupe. We’ve already explained it on this site, but body lines have been massaged and shifted, and BMW seems to be trying a new kind of surfacing that is prominent in certain areas, but remarkably subdued in others. Age-old design elements are giving way to new signature items, and the droptop Four is no exception. It’s muscular where it counts, in areas such as the as the flared fenders and both of the ends, but the side profile is remarkably restrained in comparison, with some of the same defining creases and cutlines seemingly falling away to reveal a more cohesive—but borderline shapeless—look.
BMW has gone back and forth when it comes to hardtop convertibles. The E93 3 Series convertible of a few generations back, which can largely be considered an ancestor of the new 4 Series convertible, used a hardtop, and so did the outgoing F33 4 Series. The 2 Series, and generations of 3 Series from previous decades used soft tops, not unlike the droptop 6 Series, and the 8 Series which replaced it. The Z4 used soft tops and hardtops in previous generations, but is back to fabric for the current G29. The fabric convertible roof for the new 4 Series brings a number of benefits with it. Compared with the old hardtop, it’s 40% lighter, while it’s also more aerodynamically efficient with the new 4 Series convertible boasting a drag coefficient of 0.28 compared with 0.30 and 0.31 for the outgoing F33. The interior it shields from the elements gains headroom, while the roof itself can be extended or retracted faster than before, with closure occurring in just eighteen seconds, and at speeds of up to 31 mph. If that’s not enough for you, it also saves 1.8 cubic-feet of storage space in the trunk when not in use. The new convertible is 4% stiffer than before, according to BMW, an improvement made possible by bracing and reinforcement added in places such as the transmission tunnel, rear floor, engine bay, rear axle, and even the side skirts and front end—removing the roof from a car really changes things.
As is described above, there are two engine choices for the U.S., the B58 six-cylinder-powered M440i and the B48 four-cylinder 430i. The M440i uses the same version of the B58 3.0-liter six as the M340i, Z4 M40i, and the 2020 X3 M40i, which happens to be the most powerful non-M gasoline six-cylinder available from BMW right now, thanks to 382 horsepower from 5,800 to 6,500 rpm and 364 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 to 5,000. The 430i is equipped with the second-highest output variant of the B48 2.0-liter four, which offers up 255 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,500 rpm, and 295 pound-feet of torque from 1,550 to 4,400.
Both models use the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which has only gotten better over the years. According to BMW, the 430i can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, while the M440i can do it in five flat. Acceleration figures for xDrive-equipped models has not yet been made public, and although it adds weight, the increased traction tends to make up for the difference in terms of acceleration, and we expect them to be a bit faster. The top speed of both models is electronically limited to 130 mph, but adding performance tires increases it to the expected 155 threshold.
Looks aside, the serious question many BMW CCA members will be asking is, “how does it drive?” We’ll have some sort of idea in the coming months, but if the G20 3 Series is any indication, the new 4 is likely more connected and in touch with the road, with dialed up responsiveness and precision. Even if the improvements are marginal at best, things are, at the very least, moving in the right direction as far as the driving experience is concerned.
The new 4 Series will begin with the 2021 model year, with pricing that starts at $54,095 (including destination) for the 430i, and $64,995 for the six-cylinder M440i. Adding xDrive may be a wise choice for the M440i, and this will add another $2,000 to either model. Deliveries are scheduled to begin during March of next year, while xDrive cars will start showing up in July.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]