2021 BMW 440i Convertible
The 2021 BMW 440i is all new, and it represents the latest generation of the venerable 3-series BMW, which dates back to—OMG, can it have been that long ago?—1977. The original E21 320i, which was available only as a two-door coupe back then and is a favorite of mine, added significantly to BMW’s nascent popularity in the U.S. during its run, and it remains popular with enthusiasts today.
The following E30 generation of the 3-series moved the sales needle even more, due in part to its prominent positioning in the 1986 cinematic phenomenon, “Pretty in Pink”, and the 3-series has been a mainstream vehicle here ever since.
In 2014, BMW decided to rebadge their two-door 3-series models as 4-series, and now we live in a world where there are 3- and 4-series BMWs built on the same platform.
Last year, the 4-series further distanced itself from its 3-series sibling with a new and controversial grille. The automotive press is split on it—I’d say they’re 60% negative and 40% positive—but I like it.
That grille was on the 440i convertible that I tested recently, and I think it works on the 4-series coupe and convertible, as well as the ultra-sporty M3 sedan, where it also resides (I’m not a fan of the big grille on the 4-series Gran Coupe, by the way). But I can understand the negativity. Do I think it looks like beaver teeth, a 1950s Edsel, or any number of other pejorative descriptors I’ve read? No.
The rest of the 440i’s exterior looks crisp and modern, as you’d expect. The car is around the size of a Ford Mustang, which is the right size for its target customer: a 50-ish man or woman in their peak earning years who doesn’t need to do a lot of ferrying kids hither and yon. The styling features a blend of curves and creases that just work, and the squinting head- and tail-lights emphasize the sleekness of this design. I’m not a BMW fanboy, but I think it would take a clear anti-BMW bias not to call the 440i convertible handsome.
Interestingly, luxury convertibles have moved full circle when it comes to their tops. In the 1960s all convertible tops were cloth, and it stayed like that until retractable steel tops became popular in the late 1990s. It seemed like those tops might take over completely, and then about 10 years ago cloth tops made a comeback, and now retractable hardtops are gone.
Inside the 440i, everything’s just where you left it the last time you drove any modern BMW. An iDrive wheel sits on the center console and controls all of the functions on the central screen, except now you can also do everything that iDrive does using your finger, because it’s a touchscreen. And the gauges, which look mostly the same, are now virtual.
The materials and surfaces look and feel lux, except for a few exceptions here and there. And sitting in the 440i is a very pleasant experience thanks to the excellent tech and careful attention to detail in the selection of those materials. It used to be that only Audi seemed to care about making interiors that looked and felt like they were worth the extra money, but now every mainstream luxury automaker does too.
Driving the 440i is equally pleasant. It’s seriously quick thanks to a 382hp turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine that now has a 48-volt mild hybrid assist (its 0-60 time is 5.1 seconds). However, electrically assisted steering (that’s too light for me), a suspension that’s set up to favor ride quality over handling, and, mostly, a curb weight of 4171lbs mean that this BMW is more comfortable cruising into town for dinner than attacking your favorite back road.
Pricing starts at just under $65,000 for the 440i convertible, but choosing the four-cylinder 430i convertible saves around $11,000 and doesn’t really lose you that much (mainly the rich in-line six sound and some performance).
As always in a German car, adding options or option packages, which are numerous, can result in a much more expensive car than you’re expecting. It’s never a good idea to configure a vehicle like this after a couple of glasses of wine.
Fuel economy is 23mpg city and 31mpg highway (the 430i version is 24/33, not that much better).
BMW’s 4- and 3-series cars are perennially popular, and they continue the legacy of some wonderful predecessors, particularly the E21 and E30 models that many of us remember fondly from our youth. While the 440i convertible is heavier and less nimble than those classic BMWs used to be, it’s still an excellent car that will appeal to successful professionals who don’t need to haul kids around.