2021 BMW M440i Convertible Review: Escape Artist

bmw-m440i-convertible-2021--04-angle--exterior--front--gray.jpg 2021 BMW M440i convertible | photo by Christian Lantry
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Senior Editor Mike Hanley is a father of three boys; he reviews new cars, admires classic cars and has embraced the minivan lifestyle. Email Mike Hanley

The verdict: When you need to get away from it all, the redesigned 2021 BMW M440i convertible is comfortable for cruising, sporty in corners and classy all the while.

Versus the competition: The 4 Series convertible’s switch from a retractable hardtop to a power-folding soft top aligns it with luxury competition from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, and the M440i’s focus on comfort over maximum performance is sensible for a droptop.

The M440i is the mid-level performance car in the 4 Series lineup, slotting between the base 430i (powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine) and the high-performance M4 (twin-turbo inline-six-cylinder engine). The M440i’s inline-six has a single turbocharger and works with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The 2021 430i and M440i are available in coupe and convertible form, but the M4 is coupe-only for 2021 (an M4 convertible arrives as a 2022 model). For more details on each version, check out the BMW 4 Series specs comparison.

Related: 2021 BMW 4 Series Convertible Drops Its Cover, and Its (Soft) Top

The 2021 M440i convertible starts at $64,995 (including a $995 destination charge) and comes with rear-wheel drive. A handful of stand-alone options and BMW’s Executive, Parking Assistance and Dynamic Handling packages increased our test car’s price to $74,670.

How It Drives

The M440i is no M4, but its 382-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder still packs a performance punch, with plenty of low-end torque and reserve power for high-speed passing. The six-cylinder teams with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the duo is good for an EPA-estimated 23/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined. The automatic is quick to kick down when you want more power, but shift paddle response is sluggish — even in the car’s sportier drive modes.

Our M440i had the optional adaptive M suspension. Ride quality was good in the car’s Comfort mode even on older, pockmarked pavement. Our test car had low-profile summer performance tires on optional 19-inch wheels, but the suspension soaked up road imperfections, preventing them from disturbing the cabin.

When the roads are in better shape or you’re pushing the car harder, there are Sport and Sport Plus modes that firm up the suspension and alter other aspects of the driving experience, like transmission response and steering feel. The differences aren’t dramatic in Sport, but transmission shift points are markedly more aggressive in Sport Plus.

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The M440i’s braking system has ventilated discs, four-piston front calipers and single-piston rear calipers. The brakes shed speed easily, but the pedal is a little touchy at times.

Convertible Commentary

BMW says the 4 Series’ new power soft top is around 40% lighter than the previous retractable hard top, which helps lower the car’s center of gravity. The top’s operation is quiet and smooth, and BMW says it takes 18 seconds to lower or raise (it took about 20 seconds for us). The top is operable up to 31 mph.

With the top and side windows up, there’s a little more noise in the cabin from nearby cars than you’d hear in a coupe, but the difference is minimal on suburban streets. There’s some wind and tire noise at highway speeds when the top is up, but wind buffeting is light with the top down.

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Top-up visibility is mixed. The lack of B-pillars creates an unobstructed view over your left shoulder, but a small rear window and the soft-top fabric conspire to make larger blind spots when looking over your right shoulder before changing lanes or backing up. The reduced rear visibility is offset by helpful rear and 360-degree camera system views, the latter of which is optional.

The soft top is more compact when folded than was the retractable hard top, BMW says, which increases trunk space slightly. The lowered top takes up the upper half of the trunk, but you get this space back when the top is raised and the collapsible partition is out of the way.

The Interior

The M440i’s cabin will feel familiar if you’ve been in a newer BMW lately. The dashboard design is all-new, and our test car had an optional fully digital instrument panel and 10.25-inch center screen, but there’s still a strong visual connection to the previous 4 Series.

Most of the interior surfaces are finished in high-quality materials, but the matte-finish wood trim on the center console had a plasticky appearance that was out of place in a nearly $75,000 luxury convertible. The car’s drive mode buttons, positioned aft of the gear selector on the center console, also aren’t the easiest to use without looking.

The power-adjustable driver’s seat includes side bolster and lumbar adjustments, along with a manual seat cushion extender. It’s comfortable and not overly restrictive, and options like seat heaters, a heated steering wheel and a neck-level heating system should help extend convertible season in the northern U.S. The two-person backseat, however, is snug for adults, with minimal legroom and an upright backrest.

The standard iDrive multimedia system’s onscreen menus are easy to navigate with the system’s console knob controller, but both the standard 8.8-inch center display and the optional 10.25-inch one are touchscreens, so you can tap the screen to make selections, too. This is especially useful when using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, as both interfaces are optimized for touchscreens.

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Safety and Driver-Assist Features

The 2021 BMW 4 Series convertible hadn’t been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as of publication, and it’s unlikely IIHS will test it in the future; the only current convertible it has tested is the Ford Mustang.

The M440i’s standard active-safety features include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high-beam headlights. The optional Driving Assistance Professional Package adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, front cross-traffic alert and BMW’s Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, a hands-free driver-assist system for limited-access highways. The convertible also has a rollover protection system with two pop-up roll bars behind the rear-seat head restraints.

Value in Its Class

The M440i convertible’s $64,995 starting price falls between the $61,645 Audi S5 and $66,550 Mercedes-AMG C43 cabriolets (see their specs compared). The M440i convertible is rear-wheel drive, while both the S5 and C43 have all-wheel drive. The C43 costs more to start, but its standard equipment includes features that are optional on the BMW, including heated front seats, a neck-level heating system, a digital instrument panel, a 10.25-inch center display and a premium stereo.

Our M440i was pricey at nearly $75,000, and even then, it didn’t have BMW’s hands-free driving system. That would have added $1,700 to the already-high total.

If the M440i’s pricing — or its controversial grille design — isn’t a deal-breaker for you, it’s worth a test drive if you’re shopping for a luxury droptop. Its combination of power, luxury and style is highly appealing.

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