Gray Bimmer convertible easy on the eyes, not the wallet …
Not much is certain these days, but for cars it is certain that gray is as hot today as a Kardashian bootie video.
Dull gray leads the way, appearing on Toyota pickups and now Ford’s Mustang Mach 1 and Dodge’s Durango Hellcat with names like Jet Fighter Gray and Destroyer Gray. Now comes BMW’s sleek M440i Convertible in Dravit Gray Metallic. No one seems sure what the name means, although an internet search shows that dravit derives from Hindu meaning malted or soft.
In any case, BMW’s Dravit Gray is a dark metallic chameleon color with green and gold flakes generously mixed into its deep gray finish. So the car can look gray, green or a bit greenish gold like a brilliant autumn afternoon. I warmed to the color, which is a $1,950 spiff to the $64,995 4 Series convertible.
The color is unique, as is the M440i. This four-seater is a driver’s car, a joy on the road, a hoot on the highway and as beautifully designed and assembled as a Rolex watch. Everything about the luxury sports convertible feels right and fits tight.
First, BMW moved away from its powered hard-top convertible to this even more attractive soft-top. Miraculously the canvass top folds and stows away in about 18 seconds and even retracts at speeds up to 31 mph. It works. This allows one to roll through the neighborhood and drop the top at a whim if you decide the summer’s heat and humidity aren’t going to ruin your ride.
The advantage to the softer top is that it weighs 40% less than a hardtop, and to be honest, it’s so well lined that noise levels in the cockpit are only mildly affected. Naturally with the top down it’s noisy as all get-out and drowns out the fine Harmon Kardon surround sound stereo, an $895 extra.
Further distinguishing the test car was its Moonlight Black soft top instead of the full-on black roof that’s standard. This is just $150 extra and adds a bit of glitz as the top looks somewhat reflective with a silvery sheen. I liked it.
Watch Mark’s review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rx0nLs7y3Q
Yet it’s the power, handling and ride that sells any BMW, that and its kidney-shaped grilles. This new 4 Series is getting bashed all over the internet for what some are calling its garish grille, the two protuberances seeming to be more in-your-face than past iterations. So what? It’s stylish, it’s fun and it certainly shouts BMW. Besides, if car watchers haven’t noticed, all the grilles are getting bigger, brasher and display giant brand logos. More disturbing here is how ugly the license plate looks covering the grilles.
Power freaks will enjoy the M440i. Under that sculpted hood is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6 that pulsates with 382 horsepower and delivers 364 lb.-ft. of torque. Distinguishing itself from, say a Mustang Mach 1, this twin-turbo bounds to 100 mph with a sweetly tuned exhaust whine that assures speed, but doesn’t menace or trumpet its accomplishments. Speed comes smoothly with the precision of the proverbial Swiss watch via a well-mated 8-speed automatic.
Additionally BMW uses a 48-volt mild hybrid electric motor to direct some of the electrical current away from the powertrain while also delivering a silky stop/start function when the car is at rest. Some stop/start systems feel a bit clunky as they re-engage once the driver’s foot moves off the brake pedal at a stoplight. Not here. This one is so quiet and smooth you soon forget it’s working.
Ride and handling are aces. Some sporty coupes and convertibles ride like solid-axle wagons of old, creating a ride that seems torturous. But the M440i is well controlled enough that you feel totally in tune with the road without it bruising your bum.
Handling is precise and somewhere between racer and sportster. Turn into a corner with confidence and a moderately heavy steering feel. No body lean, no chirping of tires even in high speed turns from the rear-drive BMW.
I was quickly spoiled too by the four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated of course, for better long-term performance under racy conditions. But my do these stop the 4 Series in a hurry and with great confidence. Front discs get 4-piston calipers too.
Adding to the fun are the multiple drive modes, easily accessed via buttons on the console. Sport tweaks the engine revs for more low-end power and firms the steering. Comfort is perfect for normal city driving and there are Eco and Adaptive modes too.
The test car added a $1,300 dynamic handling package with 19-inch sport wheels, which further aids grip and handling control.
Inside, the M440i goes all sexy with a Tacora Red Vernasca leather interior. Can you say Corinthian leather? Well this is a highly grained leather that doesn’t seem to heat up too much when exposed directly to sunlight. I left the top down during errands on some steamy sunny days and was pleasantly surprised not to roast my buns on return.
That red leather used on the seats also decorates the door panels, which feature black leather-feel tops. Likewise the dash is black. All trim is satin chrome from dash, to doors and door releases for a high-end look. An open-pore wood-like grain covers the console face. Ritzy!
BMW’s seats are well-shaped with pleasant hip and lower back support and are powered. Plus they will power forward with the flip of a handle on the seat backs for easier loading of passengers to the rear seat. Bottom seat cushions also can be extended for the comfort of long-legged drivers.
Front seats are heated, as is the steering wheel, the control button at the center of the steering wheel’s hub. I’d think cooled seats would be called for here too, a benefit in summer driving, plus I’d like to see a flat-bottom steering wheel to free up a little knee room and also reflect the convertible’s sporty nature.
Note, this test car DID have neck warmers in the seats to keep the chill from necks during top-down drives in spring and fall when temps could be chilly. Those cost $500 extra. So why not add cooled seats too?
Another add-on is a wireless phone charger for $500, which seems steep for something lesser priced cars are starting to include as standard or a slight option fee.
Dash layout is fine and works well for the driver, plus the test car had a head-up display. I found the 8 radio station pre-set buttons rather small, but at least they are available so you don’t have to play with the console knob to tune. In fact, a roller knob on the steering wheel allows the driver to scroll up and down the radio station list with ease.
Other add-ons included a $700 parking assistance package with active park distance control, a surround view camera with 3D view (amazing on a convertible), plus BMW’s park assistance plus system.
A $3,700 executive package added the heated seats and wheel, plus offered the head-up display, ambient lighting, adaptive LED headlights and Live Cockpit Plus with navigation system.
Gas mileage was good for a powerful convertible too. I got 26.2 mpg in about 70% highway driving. The EPA rates the car at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. No crossover or SUV can approach that, nor the fun and precision of this drive.
On the down side, you get a small 9 cu.ft. trunk, up 1.2 cu.ft. from the previous power hardtop model. Plus this speedster prefers premium (93) octane fuel, now approaching $4 a gallon.
Which leads us to price, another drawback but understandable for such a fine convertible. I mentioned its $60+ grand starting price above. Well, the test car settled at $74,670.
Considering this is based on the BMW’s small 3 Series that’s rich for my blood. Still, other options remain, including the BMW M430i coupe for $46,595 with its 255-horse I4 turbo. As with all the 4 Series models an all-wheel-drive system can be added for $2,000 and the 430 can be had as a convertible for an additional $7,500.
Folks needing more power can move up to the M4 Competition Coupe at $75,695 for starters, but it packs an amazing 503 horses and does 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Wow. A 6-speed manual is available on the “base” M4 Coupe ($57,495) with just 473 horses, if you prefer shifting for yourself.
Choices are vast with the 4 Series featuring everything from AWD coupes to convertibles ready for the track. The cost is high, but the performance is near priceless.
FAST STATS: 2021 BMW M440i Convertible
Hits: Sharp styling, super acceleration, excellent sporty handling and good ride. Easy lowering top, heated wheel and seats, multiple drive modes, wireless charger and neck warmers
Misses: Tiny trunk, prefers premium unleaded, price. Plus needs flat-bottom wheel and cooled seats.
Made in: Dingolfing, Germany
Engine: 3.0-liter twin turbo I6, 382 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 3,578 lbs.
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length: 187.9 in.
Cargo: 9.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 26.2 (tested)
Base Price: $64,995 (includes delivery)
Dravit Gray Metallic paint, $1,950
Dynamic handling package (19-inch 797M wheels), $1,300
Parking assistance package (parking assistance plus, active park distance control, rearview camera, surround view w/3D view), $700
Executive package (heated steering wheel, heated front seats, ambient lighting, Icon Adaptive LED w/Laserlight, head-up display, Live Cockpit Plus w/nav), $3,700
Moonlight black soft top, $150
Neck warmer, $500
Wireless charging, $500
Harman Kardon surround sound, $875
Test vehicle: $74,670
Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage