2021 BMW 430i Convertible
The BMW 4 Series traces its lineage directly to the original 3 Series — the 320i that arrived in the U.S. in the late 1970s — fueling the popularity of the BMW brand in the U.S. market. Although BMW only offered the first-generation 3 Series as a coupe, the line went on to add convertible and sedan versions in the 1980s, the iconic second-gen E30 on the way to becoming BMW’s best-selling model of all time. For 2014 BMW renamed the 3 Series coupe and convertible as the 4 Series to differentiate the 2-door variants, but then added the 4-door 4 Series Gran Coupe the following year to compete against the 3 Series — and cause confusion in the lineup.
BMW’s 4-Seat Convertible
The original 3 Series Convertible was the smallest BMW convertible, although today in addition to the 4-seat 4 Series Convertible BMW also offers the 2-seat Z4. For 2015 BMW added the smaller 4-seat 2 Series Convertible (which is no longer offered as a 2021 model), but BMW recently debuted the new 2022 2 Series Coupe, and a new 2 Series Convertible is expected to follow.
BMW provided us with a 2021 430i Convertible for testing, finished in Portimao Blue Metallic with black leather and contrasting blue stitching. The starting MSRP for the 430i Convertible is $53,100 and our test car also included a Dynamic Handling Package, an M Sport Package, a Premium Package and other options — as well as the metallic paint and leather — for a final MSRP of $67,220 including a destination charge of $995.
M Sport Package
At an additional $3,800, the M Sport Package adds 19-inch M double-spoke bicolor wheels with either performance run-flat or all-season tires, an aerodynamic kit, variable sport steering, M Sport suspension, a SensaTec dashboard covering, an M Steering Wheel, Aluminum Tetragon interior trim and Shadowline exterior trim. The $2,450 Dynamic Handling Package ups the wheel size to different style 19-inch M Double-Spoke wheels with performance non-run-flat tires, M Sport brakes with either blue or red calipers, an M Sport Differential and Adaptive M Suspension.
The Premium Package adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, front-seat lumbar support, a head-up display, Live Cockpit Pro digital instrumentation, ambient lighting and Comfort Access keyless entry for an additional cost of $2,300 for the package.
BMW offered a first look at the second-generation 4 Series at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show in the form of the Concept 4, which immediately created much discussion and controversy thanks to an extremely large, vertical dual-kidney grille that dominated the front view of the car. BMW had already added larger grilles to the X7 and 7 Series; even so, the large grille of the Concept 4 quickly became a controversial focal point of the car.
2021 4 Series Convertible
When the production 4 Series Coupe debuted last year the design had been toned down a bit from the Concept 4, although the overall look — including the prominent vertical dual-kidney grille — carried through to both the coupe and convertible to further distinguish the 4 Series from the 3 Series. The grille extends to the bottom of the front bumper and features a three-dimensional mesh structure. Slim LED headlights with U-shaped running lights flank the big grille, with lines of the sculpted hood radiating outward from behind it.
New Convertible Top
The 2021 BMW 430i Convertible features a new fabric convertible top — a change from the previous generation’s metal hardtop, although the new design is more of a hybrid that combines three hard panels of honeycomb construction covered by fabric to create a classic soft-top look. The new top design is approximately 40 percent lighter than the previous model, and the hard panels include layers of insulation for a quieter interior. The hard panels store on top of each other in an efficient Z-shaped stack. The fabric top pulls taught when closed to create a coupelike appearance.
Under the Hood
The 2021 BMW 430i Convertible draws power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder TwinPower turbocharged engine producing 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from 1550 to 4400 rpm — an increase of 7 horsepower and 37 lb-ft over the previous model. The 2.0-liter engine gets combined with an 8-speed sport automatic transmission.
BMW designers describe the interior of the new 4 Series as more modern, although to us it seems to harken back to a cleaner, simpler design aesthetic found in BMWs of the 1970s and ‘80s. The new interior emphasizes horizontal lines and spaciousness with electro-plated trim and lines extending into the door panels, as well as a high center console. A large screen contains the instrument cluster and central control display, with the tachometer on the right and reversed to counterclockwise to create more space at the center of the cluster.
Console and Center Display
Driving functions for the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible are grouped in the center console, including the Start/Stop button, a new selector for the automatic transmission, the iDrive controller and buttons for the Driving Experience Control switch. Entertainment, navigation and other vehicle functions are housed in the center stack under the center vents, with a large display screen above the vents at the same height as the instrument display. Our test car was equipped with BMW Live Cockpit Professional as part of the Executive Package, which includes BMW iDrive 7.0, a 12.3-inch high-resolution digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch digital touchscreen control display.
4 Series Design
Initially we were not big fans of the large vertical grille — definitely polarizing — but the 4 Series will not be mistaken for anything else, and the look is starting to grow on us. Although the jury is still out, it’s one of those designs that looks better in the wild than in the confines of an auto show under artificial lighting. That said, it seems BMW designers did not take into account the front license plate placement — still mandatory in many states — and the addition of that front plate does not help the car’s looks..
On the Road
The standard sport seats in the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible feel immediately comfortable, as do the driving position and overall layout of controls — although the thickness of the M steering wheel is a bit too chunky for our taste. BMW worked hard to improve the driving dynamics of the new 4 Series, so the 430i Convertible with the M Sport Package and Dynamic Handling Package is incredibly responsive and fun to drive. The car comes alive on winding back roads, and the sport suspension is firm but well controlled and not too harsh, even on rough surfaces.
The M Sport Package variable sport steering is responsive and direct with decent feedback for an electric-assist system, although it will never have the direct connection of an early-generation 3 Series. That said, the feedback is consistent and provides a good indication of the relationship between steering input and what the car is doing. The 430i takes a big step up from the previous generation to become a much more engaging car to drive, which puts it back in the running with the best in its class.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine provides plenty of power to make the 430i Convertible a blast to drive. The car is relatively quick, especially with maximum torque available at low rpm — although we were spoiled by driving the M440i xDrive Coupe earlier in the year with its 382 horsepower. Sport and Sport + modes make both the throttle and the transmission more responsive, but the car definitely has more of a grand touring feel than the lighter and more nimble 3 Series models from a couple of decades ago. We were saddened to discover that the exhaust note is a bit flat when driving with the top down — not quite what we expected given the sporty nature of the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible.
The 3 Series and 4 Series have grown in size over the years, and the smaller 2 Series is now more in line with proportions of the original 3 Series. The 4 Series has become more grand tourer than sports car, yet still a fun and satisfying car to drive. Unfortunately the 4 Series has also increased in price with our 430i Convertible test car coming in at $67,000, albeit with more than $13,000 in optional equipment. Although the new top is cloth, thanks to the hard front panels the interior feels more like a folding hardtop, and the new unit gives the car a coupelike look with the top up. The 430i is sporty, responsive and fun — and a good choice for drivers who seek an open-top experience in their BMWs.