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The 2021 BMW M440i Cabriolet.Photography by MARK RICHARDSON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

There’s been a lot of criticism this year of BMW’s large new grille, so aside from this mention, this review of the M440i Cabriolet is mostly going to try to ignore it. Yes, it’s the face of the vehicle and, yes, most commenters don’t like it. Let’s move on.

After all, if you’re shallow enough that you would reject your potential true love solely because he or she has an exceptionally large nose, then be off with you. Go spend your money on a Mercedes or remodel your kitchen, or whatever it is that gives you happiness.

In the meantime, the new M440i Cabriolet is still the only way to get a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform in a BMW 4 Series car, with the exception of the more-specialized M4. The hard-top coupe is only available with rear-bias all-wheel-drive (AWD) and the convertible will also move entirely to AWD for the 2022 model year, so if RWD is important to you, now’s your chance.

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The look of BMW’s large new grille has received a lot of criticism this year.

BMW says most Canadians prefer AWD for tackling our slippery winters, despite the extra cost and weight of the drivetrain. RWD does add a feeling of always pushing, not sometimes pulling, to a performance car that some enthusiasts prefer, though most people would never notice during normal driving.

The cabriolet costs $7,800 more than the coupe, but it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison because of the coupe’s AWD. In the U.S., customers can now pay US$2,000 to upgrade to AWD, so the removable roof is realistically a $10,000-plus option.

The big news for the cabriolet is that the roof is now a soft-top again, after two generations of a 4 Series hardtop convertible. The advantages of a soft-top are that it is lighter and can be stored in a smaller trunk space, while the disadvantages are that it can make for a louder ride and is seen as less secure against thieves with a knife. In truth, it would have to be a very sharp knife indeed to slice through the BMW’s thickly-padded fabric.

This new roof is 40 per cent lighter than its hard predecessor, and it frees up an extra 34 litres in the trunk. It’s operated electrically, of course (this is a BMW), and takes 18 seconds to open or close at speeds up to 50 km/h.

Tech specs

2021 BMW M440i Cabriolet
  • Base price/As tested: $72,750 / $87,450, plus $2,480 Freight and PDI, plus $595 Retailer Administration Fee
  • Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six
  • Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed automatic, RWD
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.3 City, 7/7 Hwy., 9.1 Comb.
  • Alternatives: Audi S5, Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG


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The roof is now a soft-top again, after two generations of a 4 Series hardtop convertible.

We’ve already agreed to not talk about the grille, also known as the snout or pig nose. The rest of the car is gorgeous, irrespective of the roof being up or down. It’s low and wide, and the relatively shallow headlights help deflect from that-which-shall-not-be-named. At the back, the trunk no longer has the slight bulge needed for its hard-top predecessor, and when stowed away, the fabric roof is entirely hidden from sight. Very South-of-France, and very attractive, especially with the tester’s “Frozen Portimao Blue” paint, which was a $4,900 option – ouch.


The tester was upholstered with cream-coloured – sorry, “Oyster Vernasca” – leather that would deter most owners from ever allowing food or drinks inside the car. The seats were comfortable but not overly so, though perhaps I didn’t spend enough time adjusting them to be just-so.

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The eight-speed automatic is operated with paddle shifters that blip through the gear changes like a video game.

There’s not much room for adult legs in the rear seats, even with the front seats slid forward, but it’ll do in a pinch. Second-row passengers won’t want the top down anyway because it gets pretty blowy back there, like any convertible; in the front, the drive is far more civilized when the roof is lowered, and a wind baffle that fixes into place above the rear seats will keep the cabin air totally still. When the roof is up, the ride is not much louder than the hard-top coupe.


This is the crux of the matter. The M440i sits in the middle of the performance ladder for the 4 Series, and it is the more powerful of the two 4 Series convertibles. The basic $62,100 430i Cabriolet makes 255 hp from its turbocharged four-cylinder, while the turbocharged six-cylinder of the M440i produces 382 hp. There’ll surely be an M4 Cabriolet coming that makes more than 500 hp, but it’s not been announced yet.

The M440i feels like a larger car than you might expect, and it is a little larger overall than its previous generation. It’s not quite so flickable around tight corners as it used to be (though the RWD helps compensate for that), but it’s got plenty of power for all occasions. Its 369 lbs-ft. of torque peaks at a very practical 1,800 rpm and holds its own up to 5,000 rpm, which means it takes a claimed 5.2 seconds to reach 100 km/h from standstill.

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The M440i sits in the middle of the performance ladder for the 4 Series, and it is the more powerful of the two 4 Series convertibles.

There are plenty of electronic adjustments for how that power is applied, with settings for the steering, throttle and transmission. The eight-speed automatic is operated with paddle shifters that blip through the gear changes like a video game.

You can also set the car for Eco Pro, though why any owner would do this except to placate his or her passenger, I have no idea. BMW claims an official average fuel consumption of 9.1 L/100 km; my own average was a significantly more greedy 12.6 L/100 km.


It’s all here, though you might have to pay extra for some of the options you really want, like adaptive cruise control or a 360-degree camera view for the central display screen. Don’t bother with the optional heads-up display – it’s very good, but becomes invisible with polarized sunglasses.

This is officially a “mild hybrid” because there’s a 48-volt electrical system in the powertrain that allows the engine to turn off when it’s not under load, or idling. It doesn’t really save much fuel, but it does make for smoother, almost imperceptible starts when the pistons fire back up.

The M440i includes semi-autonomous driving, and it’s exceptionally clever because it judges if you’re holding the thick steering wheel by the touch of your fingers on the leather, not by the movement of the wheel itself. The system will only allow 15 seconds or so before it beeps at you to hold the wheel, which is just enough time to reach for your coffee. That’s okay – most owners will never use the system unless they’re stuck in traffic.


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There's reasonable space for a convertible, but most cargo will be thrown on the back seat.

There’s reasonable space for a convertible. The fabric top takes less storage space than before, though it still has to go somewhere. Most cargo will be thrown on the back seat but if you do use the trunk, there’s a clever flap that comes down to demarcate the area for the roof’s storage. If the flap is down, you can pack underneath it and the roof will still go up or down; if the flap is folded up, it creates more space in the trunk but the roof cannot be lowered into that space.

The verdict

The M440i Cabriolet is a lot of car for a lot of money. BMW never apologizes for the cost and it doesn’t seem to hurt sales; it’s the price you’ll pay for comfortable and powerful top-down motoring. It’s not a clear winner over the Mercedes or the Audi, but it’s certainly not a clear loser either. For most owners, it will come down to customer loyalty and the sales experience at the dealership. Just try not to think about the grille.

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