BMW 4 Series Convertible 430i M Sport Pro Review
Eternal Sunshine Of The Topless Kind

Words and Photos by Clifford Chow
28 Sep 2021
 

Perhaps the most lively D Segment drop-top available

The wind in your hair, or the freshness of the crisp early morning air, or how about a healthy dose of sunshine? These are the little things which you can savour even more when on the move. Cabriolets are a rare breed here in sunny-side-up Singapore, but if you are one of the few who love to let a little light in, and who are not afraid to flaunt it, there are a few luxury choices that could suit you. We have the Audi A5 Cabriolet, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet, and we also have this. The BMW 430i Convertible.

Of late, the Bavarian marque has received quite a bit of flack for its polarising front grille design on the 4 Series range. But I will tell you that this would be one of those cases where it looks better in the flesh than on paper, and the styling grows on you. The upright grille pays homage to the 328 Roadster which appeared in the 1930s. I personally feel that the overall styling of the new 4 series excites, and there is a little bit of a link to Singapore, since Christopher Wehner, who had recently completed his tenure here as Managing Director, BMW Group Asia, had a hand in the car’s development, while in his previous role as Vice President of Product Management for the BMW Mid-Size Class Products.

One of the significant decisions made was to ditch the hard folding roof that was trendy at the time of the previous model, and this was for a few reasons. For one, the solid roof would need more space to stow into the boot crevice, and in most cases, there has to be a compromise on the outward design; take for instance the previous generation Lexus IS Convertible, with a huge ugly tumor for a boot lid. The other reason why BMW had gone for a fabric roof, is also because it is lighter by 40 percent, and does significantly less to unbalance the car when not deployed. BMW has also ensured that the 4 Series Convertible has been significantly stiffened, mainly to the middle of the car’s body, with attention paid to the transmission tunnel. 

And so if you are a fan of a well-balanced drive, this long-winded paragraph is for you.

Inside

The convertible’s interior has plenty in common with the 4 Series Coupe that it shares a mother with, meaning that the dash design is neat, with clear and easy to locate switchgear. Taking centre stage, is a 10.25” Control Display powered by BMW’s Operating System 7. The infotainment supports touch and iDrive toggling, as well as voice activation, where you can call on the personal assistant to adjust the air-conditioning, roll up the windows or even switch over to ‘Sport’ mode… the last which is my favourite showboating function. Apple and Android devices are supported, and there is also a wireless charging pad to keep your mobile device juiced up. Our test car, which is the higher-powered 430i, also gets a premium Harman Kardon Surround Sound system.

A 12.3” BMW Live Cockpit Professional instrument display allows for a good degree of customisation, but you can be almost certain that you would adjust this just once and leave it. I like that it is easy to find the right driving position, especially for one (me), who prefers to sit a little lower in a car. The front seats are supportive with adjustable bolsters to help keep you in-place. With its long doors, I appreciate that BMW also included seat belt extenders (as opposed to leather straps on the seat shoulders) that activate once you are seated and close the door. 

As it is a convertible, there is a space compromise when compared to the coupe for rear passengers. The rear seats are more upright, as the area behind it has to accommodate the folded roof, meaning that the convertible is more of a 2+2 seater. While being limited in space, I am impressed by the user logic built into the 4 Series convertible. Once you fold the front seat in-place after climbing into the rear, they are designed not to get in the way of your knees, and will give you sufficient wriggle room.

The Drive

The 4 Series Convertible is offered in two turbocharged 2.0 litre power options. The 420i, and our test car, the 430i. In the 430i, the 2-litre in-line four develops 225bhp and 400Nm, the latter maxes out at 1,550rpm. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission.

In my opinion, 430i would be the excellent choice between the two, since it is simply more entertaining. But with the added grunt, you can expect to cough up upwards of $50 additional grand. Costs aside, this includes the all-important adaptive M suspension that gives the best of both worlds, in terms of a softer drive when you choose to cruise, and becomes firmer when ‘Sport’ mode is dialed in. Speaking of ride quality, there is a downside, since BMW has chosen to equip both 4 Series Convertible models with runflat tyres (interestingly, the Z4 does not have these), which significantly robs the car of its ride comfort.

Acceleration feels brisk with the higher-powered engine, but even with your foot down, what goes down to the rear wheels never seems at all overwhelming. While it is no Z4, the 430i Convertible feels amazingly competent and balanced around corners. Simply give the throttle a healthy dab while exiting a bend, and you will be able to milk a good dose of entertainment out of the car.

With the roof up, I am amazed by how comparably quiet its interior can be when compared to its coupe sibling; where in most cases, only the sound of higher-frequency vehicle noises would find their way through the window seals. In ensuring that you would not need to stop the car when the weather turns, the roof can be deployed in all of 18 seconds while on the run, to speeds of up to 50km/h.

The M Sport Package Pro um…. package, which is standard here on the 430i (optional on the 420i), is also equipped with a ‘Sprint Mode’ function, which activates upon a prolonged pull of the left-hand shift pedal; where the gearbox is programmed to drop into the lowest gear possible, for quicker acceleration. Other inclusions of the package include the brand’s Shadow Line trim, and fancy M seatbelts. 

There is one gripe I have though, and that is I would have preferred an exhaust that is tuned with a sportier note, since you would be driving with the roof down; however this is less of a fault of the manufacturer, as many European brands have been coaxed to lower the noise their vehicles produce. The Active Sound Design, which is also standard with the M Sport Pro package, is designed to what is missing through the audio system where mechanical, suck and blow sounds have left off, with an uptick in noise when the car is placed in ‘Sport’ mode.

The 430i comes well-equipped with many of the features that you will see on current day BMW models. One of my favourite highlights is its ‘Reversing Assistant’ which takes the difficulty of backing out of tight spaces, by tracing the path you took, to distances of up to 50m. Those who are keen on getting the most out of the 430i can also opt for the electronically-controlled variable locking rear differential, which improves on the car’s cornering abilities.

Our Thoughts

Perhaps the most lively D Segment drop-top available, the 430i is entertaining to drive. A good portion of this is attributed to the swapping over to a fabric roof.

In Summary

We Like

Probably the most fun BMW drop top to drive after the Z4. Fabric roof makes a significant difference. Great infotainment unit.

We Don't

More than $50 grand extra puts a damper on the higher-powered 430i variant.

Verdict

Perhaps the most fun you can get under the sun in this segment.

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