The redesign of any automotive icon is often met with a mixture of anticipation and angst, with updates typically bringing a combination of welcome improvements and less appealing changes.
Redesigned for 2021, the BMW 4 Series is a perfect example of this. The compact car, available as a coupe and convertible (anda reprised Gran Coupe sedan for 2022) has grown slightly, with more power and numerous updates inside and out. Styling changes are largely evolutionary with one notable exception in the form of a larger, more prominent grille.
Response to the new nose has been mixed, inspiring plenty of discussion in reviews and online forums that can best be politely described as controversial.
We recently tested a 2021 BMW M440i convertible and found it an enjoyable and entertaining package overall, snout aside. Slotting between the base four-cylinder 430i and the performance-focused M4, the M440i is powered by a turbocharged six-cylinder engine with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. In convertible models, the suspension is tuned more for cruising than enthusiastic driving, which suits the open-top car well.
As much as we enjoyed our time with the new M440i, there are some areas we feel could be improved. For Automotiveng complete evaluation of the BMW M440i convertible, For a quick look at what works and what doesn’t, read on.
Here are four things we like about the BMW M440i convertible and three things we aren’t as enthusiastic about:
2021 BMW M440i convertible | Automotiveng photo by Christian Lantry
The M440i uses a six-cylinder engine in the BMW tradition — in this case, a 382-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter unit combined with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system said to boost acceleration and fuel economy. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the combination is smooth and quick throughout the power band, with plenty of low-end grunt and reserve power for passing. Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 26 mpg combined, not too shabby for a powertrain with this kind of punch.
With the optional adaptive M suspension, our test car struck an agreeable compromise between cornering capability and ride comfort. In Comfort mode, the suspension absorbed road imperfections without fuss, even equipped with optional 19-inch wheels and summer performance tires. Sport and Sport Plus modes are available for more aggressive driving, tightening up the suspension, steering and transmission response. 2021 BMW M440i convertible | Automotiveng.ng
The redesign brings a fabric convertible top in place of the retractable steel roof in the previous 4 Series convertible. Benefits of the change include a weight savings of about 40%, BMW says, which makes for a lower center of gravity. It also grants a modest increase in trunk space due to its more compact design. The top’s smooth, quiet operation took about 20 seconds going up or down during our testing.
BMW’s iDrive multimedia system is standard in the M440i, and we found it easy to use with logically laid-out menus. Either of the standard 8.8-inch or optional 10.25-inch center displays double as touchscreens, giving you the choice of tapping the screen or using the console-mounted rotary knob to make selections on the fly.
2021 BMW M440i convertible |Automotiveng.ng
Most of the interior materials used in the M440i have a high-quality look and feel, and most controls are logically laid out and easy to use. That makes even minor flaws look all the more glaring, however. The matte-finish wood trim on the center console may be the real thing, but it somehow comes off looking like plastic. And the drive-mode selection buttons are located behind the shifter, making them hard to use without taking your eyes off the road.
With its four-piston front calipers, single-piston rears and ventilated discs all around, our test M440i had plenty of power to quickly bring things to a stop from speed. But for all their performance, the brakes felt touchy and made for some less-than-smooth stops.
BMWs normally don’t come cheap, and our tested M440i was no exception. A starting price of $64,995 (including a $995 destination charge) lands between the competing Audi A5 cabriolet at $61,645 and Mercedes-AMG C43 at $66,550. But both of those convertibles come with all-wheel drive, which remains an extra-cost option on the M440i. At $75,000, our test car was decidedly pricey, and that was without BMW’s available hands-free lane centering, which would have run another $1,700.