Convertibles can be difficult to rationalize. Their open-air freedom usually comes at the expense of some other desirable trait, such as comfort or handling due to the complexities of removing the roof. BMW’s path to building a better convertible meant adopting a folding hardtop – which it did for the past two generations of the 4-Series, however, that system’s complexity, weight, and, worst of all, awkward looks, have spurred BMW to give the soft-top another chance with this new 2021 generation. Has the science of the fabric roof improved so that it meets the expectations that come with being a luxury car? BMW thinks so, and this 430i Convertible is out to prove it.
The soft-top’s most notable win is where it matters the most for a convertible – styling. Its black fabric provides a contrast to the painted body sides that makes the Convertible immediately recognizable while its sloped rear window and large “c-pillars” evoke a classic coupe shape. And as good as the car looks with the top up, it takes just 18 seconds for it to become stunning. While it shares the same exterior as the 430i Coupe, the Convertible’s lines make it appear longer and give it more presence. The window line becomes the defining curve with its gloss-black painted trim and flows over the large flat rear deck, tracing where the roof seals against the body. As an added bonus, the raised character line minimizes the grille’s domineering shape – something the Coupe couldn’t avoid.
The interior is familiar to any other recently updated BMW on the showroom floor, and while it’s made of high-quality materials and with precisely fitting controls, it’s not particularly alluring. Its details, however, are easy to appreciate, especially at night where the crisp strips of LED lights provide a calming ambient glow, and its practical features such as heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and a heat vent integrated into the seatback below the headrest enable a comfortable top-down experience well past sundown.
Taking a drive through canyon roads – where the rock walls look and feel closer than ever before – is an awesome feeling, but most days aren’t going to provide that opportunity and the $67k BMW needs to live up to luxury-car level of comfort. While it can’t match the 430i Coupe for quietness, the fabric top is still impressively good at insulating the passengers from road noise while the excellent suspension tuning delivers a comfortable and controlled ride. The rear-wheel-drive example and its M Sport rear differential, adaptive suspension, and M Sport brakes make this rear-wheel-drive example entertainingly frisky around curves which was a bit of a surprise after first experiencing the steadfast all-wheel-drive version.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder is common with the Coupe and its low-end torque (after a hint of lag) quickly digs the car out of a corner and runs quickly up to redline where the transmission delivers fast upshifts. Driven with more sanity, the powertrain shows a few weaknesses such as a notable engine shake on restarts and the transmission’s struggle to deliver a linear acceleration from a stop as it engages with the engine – making the torque-converter unit feel slightly like a dual-clutch gearbox. That being said, the engine is also incredibly efficient and with increased trunk space (large enough for a couple of suitcases), the 4-Series Convertible makes for a great weekend getaway car too.
The Convertible’s ability to essentially deliver the same everyday comfort and performance as the Coupe is impressive but it doesn’t come without a cost – about an $8k premium. Driving the 2021 BMW 4-Series Convertible isn’t about putting up with compromises anymore, rather, it should be seen simply as another premium extension of the 4-Series lineup – one with a gorgeous view.