BMW M440i Convertible: Quick Drop-Top Cruising Encouraged
This refreshed BMW convertible gets more fun under the hood, in the lighter M trim.
The reasonable BMW convertible has been a staple in the Munich outfit's lineup since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and has seen several upgrades to its driving performance, top operation, and--let's not kid ourselves--price point. Over these decades, the open-air version of the iconic BMW 3 Series transitioned to being known as the 4 Series, and in 2021 BMW gave the model a complete makeover.
Positioned against the convertible offerings of the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class, BMW's 4 Series has some stiff competition with some better looks. Earlier in the year, I reviewed BMW's entry-level 430i coupe, and while I wasn't in love with the exterior appearance, I thought it was a fun driver, with a cabin that spoiled its occupants. With a drop-top offering now available, I wanted to see if this BMW was more enjoyable, especially with lots more power under the hood.
The Notable Specs
Similar to the 48V EQ Boost system Mercedes uses in its E450 models, the BMW M440i convertible supplements its 3.0-liter inline-six with an electrified chunk of horsepower and torque to lighten up stress on the engine while filling in any gap in the torque. The BMW M440i convertible's peak horsepower is 382 @ 5800 - 6500 RPMs, and torque spreads its maximum 368 lb-ft from 1800-5000 RPMs. Through an 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive (all-wheel-drive is optional), and launch control, the M440i drop-top can scoot from 0-60 MPH in five seconds flat, and has a limited top speed of 130 MPH, but will bump up to 155 if you opt for the raised speed limit and summer performance tires (18-inch run flats come standard).
Built on the same platform as the 2021 4 Series coupe and 3 Series sedan, the new 4 Series convertible now employs a power soft top, rather than the heavier and more costly retractible hardtop BMW used over the past couple generations. Having to stow the top somewhere, cargo volume dips from 13.6 cubic feet with the top up to 10.6 when the roof is lowered. Curb weight for the BMW M440i Convertible is 4,171 pounds, with a 50.5/49.5 weight distribution. EPA fuel economy estimates are 23/31/26, which aren't bad, considering the M440i is a somewhat heavy convertible.
Base price for the BMW M440i Convertible is $64,000. After adding Dravit Grey Metallic paint, the dynamic handling package with 19-inch performance non-run flat tires, parking assistance, the executive interior package, neck warmers, moonlight black soft top fabric, wifi hotspot, and the upgraded Harman Kardon audio system, this tester's MSRP hit $74,670. That figure is about $15,000 more than the less powerful BMW 430i coupe I reviewed earlier this year.
A Fun Daily Convertible
Boasting a twin-turbocharged and hybrid-assisted six under the hood, the BMW M440i is quick in any condition, releasing a smooth flow of torque whether you're clean with your throttle inputs or if your right foot resembles Thor's hammer. The ZF 8-speed automatic is seamless in its shifts, and I prefer the rear-wheel-drive selection rather than the all-wheel one, allowing the wheels to steer with more agility while fighting against less axle weight.
With three customizable drive modes, including comfort, sport, and eco pro, BMW allows you to dial in the M440i convertible to your liking. For gentle cruising around town, I used the custom eco pro mode to keep the engine more efficient, but used the sport settings for the steering and suspension. Ride quality was only a bit firm while the adaptive dampers kept the 4 Series neatly composed. A hint of electric assistance serves the 4 Series' steering rack, but it's still nicely tuned to be responsive and easy to control. If you've got smaller hands, the BMW default sport steering wheel is a bit thick in the rim, and is almost too much for my hands.
I praised the BMW 4 Series coupe for being a solid chassis that was refined enough for a car in this luxury class, yet still competent in the bends, and in convertible form, the M440i is stout. When driving with the top up, the cabin is quiet, thanks to an extensively lined soft roof. Visibility is marginally compromised do to the soft top being large where you'd expect C-pillars on a coupe, but the glass rear window is still large, and the rear side windows maintain some outward line of sight.
Cabin treatments carry the same look and feel across nearly every BMW currently on sale, and it's a tidy setup that may be a little dated or plain to some luxury car drivers. The instrument cluster can be customized to adjust if you see your navigation screen, audio selection, performace indicators, or fuel economy, but I'm not in love with the tachometer and speedometer design. There need to be clearer designations for the speed indication, and the font size and placement are too similar for every data point.
iDrive incorporates wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing you to stash your mobile on a wireless charging pad ahead of the nicely functional cupholders. Toddlers in car seats will be the only human occupants in the back seat, as the legroom is a bit compromised in the BMW M440i convertible. On the cargo storage front, the boot space is good when you have the top up, and I'll get to the top-down challenge later.
Worthy Of An M Badge?
The M440i convertible employs a milder setup versus the full-fat M4, but by no means is it slow. Supplemented by a 48V mild-hybrid system, the already quick turbo straight-six will seamlessly surge when you wish to deploy its power. Toggle the sport or sport plus drive modes, and the M440i will quickly remind you that there's still plenty of fast kit on tap. Exhaust valves open, engine mapping gets racier, throttle and steering response quicken, and dampers firm up. Expect a fair amount of artificial engine sounds pumped through the speakers when you've got the top up, but you'll still hear a good bit of that boosted inline-six when your right foot is applied. For maximum enjoyment, lower the power-folding soft top, and allow the real noises to fill your ears as the wind flows through what hair your 40-something head may have left.
While it's a conventional automatic transmission, the ZF-supplied 'box is sharp and offers lightning quick shifts with minimal interruption. In sport or sport plus modes, you'll notice more pronounced downshifts, and I had more fun managing gear changes myself using the paddles, allowing me to play with the wide plateau of boosted torque on tap. Coping with eliminating speed, the M Sport brakes are competent, sporting bright blue calipers, but if you're flogging the M440i along longer sessions, you're going to get a bit of fade due to the mass you're carrying.
Chassis rigidity may have taken a dip because BMW chopped off the roof, but the open air M440i is still capable in the curves. The topless setup does allow for a hint more body roll, but the M Sport differential confidently manages rear end grip. I highly suggest opting for non-run flat rubber like my tester did. Supplied with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S compounds, the M440i will be more than capable in any non-winter condition. BMW's sport plus drive mode was near perfect for fun routes, but the M440i convertible is more composed when you stick the suspension in comfort, allowing a bit more travel while reducing any mid-corner jitters.
As a complete package, I'm impressed with how well the M440i convertible played along fun roads, and think it's power-to-price ratio is more than sufficient. Of course if you want more performance, BMW offers a 503-horsepower M4 option with a notable increase in money spent.
The Good Highlights
While I called the BMW M440i convertible's cabin a bit plain, it's still quite intuitive and utilizes real buttons and knobs for all the controls you regularly adjust. Nothing is overly complicated, and everything is right where you'd expect it. I'm a sucker for the cool appearance of red leather seats and door inserts against a black-dominated interior, and the setup in the 4 Series convertible is nicely executed. BMW's seats are still among the most comfortable, supportive, and mildly stylish you can get too.
Overlooking the grille treatment, and the 4 Series does have some cool exterior details. The LED headlights that are included in the executive package have angular daytime running lights, carrying over the angel eye look BMW has employed for decades. I'm also a fan of the M440i's subtle brushed gray theme on the side mirrors, grille trim, and model designation, giving this lighter M trim level an understated appearance upgrade.
Folding top operation is easy and near silent with the flip of a center console-mounted switch, allowing you to move it either direction at speeds up to 30 MPH. Definitely spend the extra $150 to install the moonlight black soft top, which has a nice linen look. Also tick the $500 option box to add headrest mounted warmers, to gently grace your neck when you crave drop-top cruises on milder nights.
A Few Negatives
As I complained about the 430i coupe I tested, the new styling language for BMW's 3 and 4 Series is downright awful up front. The new massive front grille setup is beyond polarizing to many, and turns me away quite quickly. I wish BMW would have stuck with more conventionally-sized kidneys up front. Because it's based on an existing coupe platform, the 4 Series convertible retains the back seats, but the space for human occupants is nonexistent. You could easily toss your laptop bag or backpack on the seats of this BMW, but that's about as useful as they'll be.
To store the convertible top, cargo space had to be sacrificed. The boot is reasonably sized when you have the top up, but if you plan on dropping the top, you have to release the top's storage compartment manually, which eats into the storage capacity. Any plans you had of toting a pair of roller bags and travel gear are greatly reduced. When the top is up, and the roof storage box is raised, the cargo volume is pretty good.
BMW's iDrive system is not my favorite infotainment setup in this class, and while the display has gotten bigger, with an easy touchscreen, the software still isn't great. When the soft top goes down, things get worse, as that large display becomes a reflective panel. Not only is a sunny angle going to blast from the corner of your eye, but the display will become impossible to see if you wish to make any audio or navigation adjustments.
A Cool Convertible, But The M Is More Than You Need
To me, the BMW 430i convertible is the way to go. It may only have 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque on paper, but that's more than sufficient to get a fun little luxury convertible moving, and will save you a ton of cash. I don't think most BMW convertible drivers are as motivated by outright performance, so the extra power and cash might be wasted.
In an open-air BMW, I think you should be more focused on enjoying a nice top-down cruise along a scenic road without worrying about how fast you arrive at your destination. If you insist on getting more power from your BMW convertible, and are a sportier driver, the M440i definitely won't disappoint.