The M440i Convertible offers an exceptional driving experience.
In a world of crossovers, it is certainly pleasing to find a manufacturer that still builds cars. But not just any kind of car, but ones that are sharp looking, luxurious, and offer an exhilarating drive. BMW may have embraced utility vehicles just as enthusiastically as the rest of them, but the company has not given up on coupes, convertibles, sedans, and wagons. We recently drove a 2021 M440i Convertible, an excellent example of an “ultimate driving machine.”
The storied “M” performance sub-brand is a proven hit for BMW. Introduced in the 1970s, this motorsport moniker takes the not-so-ordinary models and makes them extraordinary. Specifically, the M line is found on nearly every model except for the X1 crossover, 7 Series sedan, and electric vehicles. These enhanced models feature modified engines, transmissions, suspensions, interior design improvements, advanced aerodynamics, and exterior upgrades. BMW extensively tests these models on Germany’s famed Nürburgring racing circuit.
As for the model at hand, the M440i builds on the compact 4 Series line, comprised mostly of coupes and convertibles, and a liftback. The main sedan line in this range is the vaunted 3-Series. The two separated in 2014 when BMW created the 4 Series line.
Highlights of the 2021 BMW M440i
BMW offers the M440i xDrive in Coupe and Convertible configurations. The coupe models include the M440i xDrive Coupe ($58,500), M4 Coupe ($71,800), and the M4 Competition Coupe ($74,700). A $995 freight or destination charge is extra. As for the convertible, BMW offers the M440i Convertible only – there is no M4 variant. This rear-wheel-drive model costs $64,000 and is the subject of this review.
BMW has a flair for styling. Indeed, that’s especially evident in the design of the front fascia. The look is bold, but polarizing – the now larger twin-kidney grilles simply transforms it, although some see it as a subtraction. Regardless, it represents the face of contemporary BMW, thus we think enthusiasts will look at many other attributes in their decision-making as well.
Be forewarned before shopping BMW as the color choices beyond the standard non-metallic Alpine White will cost you more. There are seven metallic paint schemes for your selection, adding $550 to the base price.
BMW gives customers a choice of a standard black roof or a moonlight black roof ($150). The moonlight roof is lighter, but both are dark. Although the look is decent, we think BMW could have done better here by either matching the color of the roof with the body or by offering a hard-top option. Most definitely, the cost would rise considerably with the latter option, therefore the look stays. But still…
Two packages for the choosing.
Just as BMW charges extra for certain colors, roof, and wheel options, the automaker makes available a pair of package upgrades for personalization. The Premium Package ($2,500) adds ambient lighting, a heated steering wheel, and heated front seats. Also, this package brings in Live Cockpit Pro with its fully digital 12.3-inch screen and navigation. Lastly, a head-up display rounds out the offerings. The second package choice builds on these five items and adds adaptive headlights with laserlight technology to ensure the best illumination as allowed under current U.S. laws. You will pay $3,700 for the Executive Package.
One-offs for the choosing.
In addition to package opportunities, some of the items within the package are available separately. Further, there are convenience items to consider, including front seat neck warmers ($500) to keep heads warm on cold days when you simply must drop the top. You will also find wireless charging with a Wi-Fi hotspot ($500) and an exquisite Harman Kardon surround sound audio system ($875).
No manual transmission.
It is hard to imagine a BMW car without a manual transmission. Unfortunately, that is occurring more and more in U.S.-bound models that come with an automatic transmission only. The reason? Customer demand is too low to justify building them. That’s too bad because the silky-smooth shifting 6-speed gearbox we are accustomed to having is not offered with the 2021 M440i Convertible. In its place is an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. This means the transmission may be operated manually thanks to steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
What makes the M440i great are several things, beginning with its potent engine. This twin-turbocharged inline-six displaces 3.0 liters and develops 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. That is powerful enough to move this convertible from 0-60 mph in 5 seconds. With the top down, it seems faster than that and with a top speed well above three digits, it is a racer as well as a looker.
The days of the 12-volt electrical system may be going away. That is because manufacturers such as BMW place much value in advanced electrical operations. This model has a 48-volt system and it is tasked with managing the car’s on/off system. It is also a mild-hybrid arrangement that charges the battery while driving and lowers overall emissions.
The standard M Sport Brakes include four-piston front calipers and single rears. The result is superior stopping performance under most conditions. Yes, when the mild-hybrid system takes over at low speeds, the brake feel changes with it.
BMW fans know that the suspension systems offered are second-to-none. We like the standard system enough to be satisfied with it, as it strikes a great balance between sportiness and smoothness. But opting for the available Adaptive M Suspension system ($700) is a worthwhile investment. Here, the system utilizes Dynamic Damper Control and air cushioning on the rear axle that are tuned to deliver enhanced sporty driving capabilities. If there is a single spend-up feature to consider, this could be it.
How best to describe BMW and luxury, particularly pertaining to the model at hand? We think “balanced luxury” is the best descriptor. In other words, this BMW’s cabin is functional, usable, and streamlined. It does not rely on overwrought center console stacking, a busy dashboard, or confusing switches and knobs. Instead, every detail has a purpose even if it seems relatively minimalist in scope. On the other hand, BMW is quite explicit in paying attention to the details, with rich and comfortable leather seats for starters. The metal trim is thick and patterned as are the knurled knobs. The contrasting colors are pleasing to the eye. In other words, there is little about the cabin to distract, but enough to offer a warm and sensory pleasing experience.
On the Road
Warm weather means the M440i’s top drops frequently. And when it does, all it requires is one finger on a switch and holding it in place as the roof automatically disconnects. Then, as the roof drops, the trunk opens to receive the roof. At the same time, the windows drop and everything falls neatly into place within 15 seconds. Also, you can reverse this procedure in the same timeframe. It is an easy arrangement that simply requires no other attention from the driver. Yes, we loved it!
With the room down, the BMW invites you to move out. Here, a push of the button activates the engine, which lets out a roar. Shift the transmission into gear, head out, and depending on your local road conditions and restrictions, you’re ready for some fun.
While the M440i is a great looker and crawler around town, this convertible begs for the open road. With nothing to hold the driver back, head to your favorite twisty roads to put this model through the paces. Take note of the lack of turbo lag and how swiftly the engine responds.
We know that BMW likes to describe itself as the “ultimate driving machine.” Notwithstanding the loss of the manual option, the M440i upholds that mantle as expected. This convertible hungrily advances down curvy roads, staying firmly planted and centered. The steering is beautifully weighted and it negotiates each road angle with deftness. Attacking corners is where the fun quotient rises considerably. On rural roads, simply ease up on the accelerator and the BMW flows into the corner naturally, pulling out just as quickly.
For some odd reason, the convertible is rear-wheel-drive-only, while the coupe offers a choice between rear- and all-wheel drive. No matter, the superior driving manners of the convertible keep this vehicle stable.
If you are shopping the M440i, your mind and budget are likely aligned. At this price point, there is little to hold you back, although we must say that the standard model without upgrades is excellent.
Even so, we recommend the Executive Package and the adaptive suspension system. Heck, opt for the neck warmers if you live wherever cool air is common and your lust for a top-down experience is strong. Why be denied the fun when temperatures are not cooperating?
All in all, the BMW M440i Convertible offers an excellent driving experience. We certainly miss the manual transmission, but what’s left is most certainly a people pleaser.
Please note: We’re no longer including manufacturer specifications with our reviews. Instead, we encourage you to visit the company’s website for the current information, which is subject to change.
See Also – BMW M235i: Not Your Typical Coupe
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