BMW M440i xDrive Convertible review - Mercedes-AMG C43 rival takes aim. Fires. Wins.
BMW continues its rich vein of form with the latest M440i model, even with one that doesn’t have a roof
You have to ask what took BMW so long? Both the 2-series and 8-series convertibles have always only been equipped with fabric roofs, so too the latest Z4, so the switch back from a folding metal roof that the E93 3-series introduced feels like an obvious move, especially when BMW claims a 40 percent weight reduction. In BMW’s world of efficient dynamics that’s a chunk of kilos worth saving.
With its new roof closed, and to these eyes at least, the new M440i xDrive convertible also looks a much cleaner, more cohesive design than any four-seater open-top car with a metal folding roof has ever managed to look; it’s simply less disjointed and heavy-handed.
There’s more headroom for the front passengers, and there’s more boot space compared to its predecessor regardless if you take your chances with the British weather and run with the roof open or closed. You can even fold the rear seat center-back for through loading. Very practical.
While the new fabric roof might reduce some of the kerb weight (it’s still a portly 1890kg), the additional front and rear bracing to compensate for a lack of fixed roof add a few kilos, so too the four-wheel-drive powertrain installed on this range-topping M440i xDrive model. All in, it’s 150kgs heavier than its coupe equivalent.
Thankfully, whatever it is they have put in the water in the last few years at BMW M has resulted in another M Performance badged BMW that is much more a driving machine than a marketing department exercise in badge application. The M440i xDrive, even one with an opening roof, remains several miles ahead of its competitors.
The primary source of this goodness comes from the turbocharged, 3-litre straight-six motor, which retains the 48V mild-hybrid system and produces 369bhp and an identical level of torque. And while it’s no S55 as found in the superb, and current eCoty-winning M2 CS, the B58 here remains a gem in BMW’s ICE crown. And I promise I won’t mention engine codes again.
It does everything you’d want a BMW straight-six to do. It purrs when you’re mooching around, gliding on the torque and letting the auto box (sorry, no manual because not enough people have bought them in the past), seamlessly shift about its eight ratios, but delivers the performance goods when you wind the driving modes up through their Sport settings. In a world that has seemingly fallen out of love with the internal combustion engine, BMW is still very much enjoying the relationship.
As you’d expect there’s a marginal drop off in sharpness, with body control not as solid and if you’re enjoying a favourite road that’s a bit of a challenge. It’s not as quick to react to directional changes and the feedback’s not as clear when you start to approach its limits. It’s not night and day difference over a coupe, but if you drive them back-to-back you’ll notice what you’re missing out on between the convertible over the coupe.
Saying that, convertibles are less about lap times and more about enjoying the moment and soaking it all up. Of which the M440i xDrive is a rather pleasant place to be. Roof closed it’s tranquil with no distracting wind noise to disturb you and with it down the buffeting is minimal and every heated surface from seats to the steering wheel to the neck scarf are cosseting and welcome, and worth the £1350 BMW charges for its Comfort Pack that includes them. With the roof open on poor surfaces you’ll detect some shuffle through the structure if you’ve loaded the chassis, but even across broken surfaces at regular speeds there’s little more disruption through the cabin than in a coupe.
In any other M440i xDrive model you jump in and activate your preferred driving mode, which includes one or two Sport settings, but in the convertible leaving everything in Comfort feels perfectly acceptable for this most unlikely of agreeable cars. Yes, lesser powered models in the line-up will offer a very similar experience, but it would mean missing out on this wonderful powertrain, which in our book is worth the entry price alone.
Price and rivals
£58,980 is a lot of money for a car that sits in the middle of a manufacturer’s model hierarchy, but the cost of cars makes little sense today, and being near the top of the 4-Series tree means you’ll want for nothing (not that this prevented our test car from being stuffed with over £9,000 of options). But still, nearly £60,000…
Rivals? Audi’s A5 convertible Edition 1 with a 45 TFSI, 265PS, two-litre four-cylinder engine and quattro four-wheel drive will set you back £55,695 or £63,145 for a Vorsprung Edition with the same powertrain.
If you’re quick you might still find a Mercedes-AMG C43 Edition convertible in the dealer network ahead of its replacement arriving next year, so you might also be able to chip something off its £62,305 price tag.
Of course, if it’s four-seat (at a push), open-top motoring with the security that four-wheel drive can often bring you could look at a used 911 Carrera 4 convertible. Just saying.