Overall rating: 4/5
It's difficult not to be impressed by the new BMW 4 Series Convertible, as it does everything its predecessor did, only a little bit better, and with more style. However, in the bid to offer a more luxurious and elegant car, BMW has dialled down the driver appeal of its open-topped model. Will buyers care?
In the metal 4.5/5
We've docked half a star here purely because it's a bit of a faff to get luggage in and out of the boot when the roof is folded open. Otherwise the 4 Series Convertible is considerably more attractive than the 3 Series it replaces. The new car's cause is helped no end by increases in width and length, while BMW has managed to lower it too. Roof up or down it looks simply great.
The interior is a treat too, with tactile materials used throughout and high quality fittings and switchgear. The increase in dimensions means there's more space for rear passengers and luggage alike while the wind-cheater that sits behind the front seats may now be stowed out of sight in the rear seat backrest. There are loads of tempting options as ever, but it's worth going for the new 'Air Collar', which blows warm air onto the necks of the front seat occupants. There are three settings, though the highest could be more ferocious.
Driving it 4/5
One thing to take into consideration when reading this section is that we don't feel we gave the 435i Convertible's chassis a thorough test. The driving route through the Valley of Fire Park in Nevada featured some truly epic roads to go with the dramatic landscape, but the speed limits were ludicrously low - and 'enthusiastically' enforced... Hence it wasn't a challenge for the car. Nonetheless, we did realise that it was actually rather a nice place to while away the hours, cruising along with the roof down and the sun shining. Which is, let's face it, probably the point of such a car.
On the few occasions we could open up the familiar turbocharged six-cylinder engine the car felt pleasingly fast rather than downright sporty. The exhaust note is even muted at high revs, which car nuts won't like. Backing that up, the 4 Series turns out to be distinctly less sporting to drive than its coupé sibling, no matter which of the sporty Sport modes it's put into.
However, while it's bad news for those that love driving for the sake of it, the 4 Series Convertible is several leagues ahead of its predecessor in terms of comfort, refinement and relaxation. That should help it steal a few Audi A5 Cabriolet and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet buyers.
What you get for your money 4/5
Prices start at €55,090 for the 420d SE Convertible, which sits in Band B1 for tax and will do 55.4mpg (better with the optional automatic transmission). It's the only diesel model, though other trim levels are Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport. Petrol options are the 428i (four-cylinder turbo with 245hp) or the 435i as tested.
BMW reckons the 4 Series Convertible is significantly better equipped than its predecessor, coming with front and rear parking sensors, heated electric front seats, leather upholstery, Xenon headlights, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB, cruise control and iDrive with a 6.5-inch colour display screen - all on the entry-level SE version.
As with other models in the BMW range, Sport and Modern trims add themed aesthetic packs inside and out. Luxury does the same, though also with the Business Media Package as standard. The M Sport cars have the most extrovert appearance.
Though style usually comes above practicality when buying an open-topped car, it's good to see BMW hasn't totally given up on making it easy to live with the 4 Series Convertible. It retains its predecessor's folding hard-top roof concept, though with considerable improvements. The three-piece design folds away in about 20 seconds at speeds of up to about 15km/h and it's acoustically quieter when in place. Luggage space is 370 litres with the roof up (20 litres more than before) and 220 litres with the roof down. To make it easier to access bags in the boot when the roof is stowed there's a button that vertically shifts the folded roof out of the way. Neat, if a little over the top.
By any normal measure, the 4 Series Convertible is a fabulous car. It looks fantastic, is comfortable, refined and of very high quality. BMW has ensured that it eclipses the 3 Series-badged predecessor in nearly every attribute. All except the driving experience. We don't believe that will hamper sales too much though.