Springtime, Gold Coast, Convertible – what a combination! To make life even better the convertible is a BMW powered by the most powerful engine in the range, the new 440i unit. Sometimes road testing can be a bit of a chore, it certainly wasn’t last week with the hot Bimmer sitting in the garage just asking to be fired up.
And fired up it was, with several trips to the scenic hinterland behind the Coast during the week – to keep us away from the weekend roads crowded with wandering tourists.
In case you haven’t looked at BMWs for a while; the German marketing guys and gals have decided all its sporty models should have an even number in their title. So the 4 Series convertible is the replacement for the 3 Series. The ‘4 tag is also given to the BMW coupe and the Grand Coupe.
Midway through 2016 BMW refreshed 4 Series model range for the ’17 season, with upgraded petrol engines, sharper pricing and new model designations. While the 420i and 420d variants remain the same, they are joined by new 430i and 440i models, replacing the previous 428i and 435i variants.
The long bonnet look is partly due to the 4 Series having an almost upright grille, but also because of a shorter front overhang and longer wheelbase. Joining the headlights to the kidney grille emphasises the width of the 4 Series, as does the wide front track. Strong style lines along the flanks lead to a stubby tail.
The vertical slots at the ends of the front bumper aren’t just there for style, they’re there as part of the aerodynamic package. Air is drawn into these slots, passes over the front wheels, and is finally extracted through the boomerang shapes slits in the front guards.
Though the exterior of the new 4 Series is different to the 3 Series, there are strong similarities in the dashboard area. Clever reworking of the style lines, colours and materials do give the 4 Series a different appearance, though.
The infotainment screen is wide and easy to read, however we would prefer it to be deeper (top to bottom) to get a longer view ahead when using satellite navigation.
BMW’s latest iDrive system is simpler to use than in the past and is largely intuitive in the way you work your way through the menus.
The ConnectedDrive Freedom with the convenience of Concierge Services and internet is an excellent system and it’s worth taking the time to learn what it can do for you.
The Harman/Kardon surround sound system with 16 speakers is brilliant.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The 440i engine is the latest edition of BMW’s brilliant 3.0-litre turbo-petrol straight-six engine and has peak power of 240 kW (up15 kW on the 435i). Torque is the real measure of an engine and for the 2017 it’s up by 50 Nm to 450 Nm.
When fitted with the eight-speed sports automatic transmission, the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint is 5.4 seconds in the 440i convertible. Due to the added mass made necessary by the removal of the roof, it’s slower than the others in the 4 Series, the coupe runs just 5.0 seconds in the 440i the taller Grand Coupe is a tad slower at 5.1 seconds.
On a spring day with the top down we would happily trade that 0.4 seconds to 100 km/h to be riding in the open-top Bimmer.
A six-speed manual is a no-cost option. Given that its acceleration is slower than the automatic it isn’t being taken up in any real numbers. Then again there’s always the satisfaction of DIY shifting.
The 4 Series models have an ANCAP rating of five stars. Compared with the outgoing 435i the new for 2017 BMW 440i has a head-up Display, lane change warning, surround-view camera with top and side Views, adaptive LED headlights, high-beam assistant and active cruise control with stop-and-go function.
The front seats are reasonably large and comfortable, though the bulky transmission does steal some foot width in the front. The 4 Series convertible is probably best regarded as a two-plus-two, but with a bit of juggling it’s close to being a four-seater.
Engine response is very good, with turbo lag being minimised by some clever engineering. Once the engine is on-song it provides excellent push in the back that’s likely to have you asking for more and more chances to use it.
The auto is generally in the right gear at the right time and we didn’t really feel the need to use the paddle shifters all that often.
It comes as no surprise that the sporting BMW’s road grip is tremendous, and that the near-perfect chassis balance is guaranteed to bring smiles to the face, particularly with the Sport mode selected.
Steering feel is very good as it transmits messages from the front wheels in a way that lets the driver adjust the car’s direction to perfection.
In the ‘Comfort’ setting the ride is pretty good, though the BMW ‘4 is inclined to bottom out at times on rough Aussie roads. Sport mode made things a bit on the jiggly side at times. Tyre roar on roads that weren’t all that rough was certainly noticeable.
Wind intrusion is minimal and conversation doesn’t require you raise your voice levels overmuch. We were more than happy to keep the roof down for long trips.
BMW 4 Series 400i convertible is a brilliant tourer in all conditions, and if you drop the door on a pleasant evening and go cruisin’ it’s hard to think of a better car. Yet that’s only half the story, this is also a high-performance machine which provides thrilling driving if you fang it around on your favourite empty roads in the hills.
AT A GLANCE
420i 2.0-litre petrol two-door convertible: $85,855 (automatic)
430i 2.0-litre petrol two-door convertible: $96,855 (automatic)
440i 3.0-litre petrol two-door convertible: $117,615 (automatic)
420d 2.0-litre turbo-diesel two-door convertible: $88,155 (automatic)
M4 3.0-litre petrol two-door convertible: $161,615 (automatic)
M4 Competition 3.0-litre petrol two-door convertible: $165,615 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local BMW dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (BMW 440i 3.0-litre petrol two-door convertible)
Capacity: 2.979 litres
Configuration: Six cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 240 kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 450 Nm @ 1200 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 180 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4638 mm
Wheelbase: 2810 mm
Width: 1825 mm
Height: 1384 mm
Turning Circle: 11.3 metres
Kerb Mass: 1750 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 57 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Three years / unlimited km