► Drop-top M4 driven in the UK
► xDrive only, rowdy straight-six
► No roof means more fun
Oh, to live in a country where actually owning a convertible would be worth it. Still, regardless of where you live, very few car makers are catering to the properly powerful sporting convertible these days.
That effectively means that the M4 Convertible is the last rowdy, stupid-fast droptop standing this side of a 911. Audi and Alfa don’t make RS5 and Giulia cabrios, and AMG is retiring the V8-powered C63. Sad face.
Even so, BMW’s taken the M4 Convertible seriously.
Well, for starters, the new roof mechanism is fabric again (the previous M4 Convertible was a hardtop), which is 40 per cent lighter and takes up less space than the previous generation, and lowers the centre of gravity. The roof folds or opens in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph.
BMW’s also tweaked the multi-link rear suspension to cope with the slight weight increase over the coupe, and taken a leaf out of Merc’s book and incorporated some air vents into the seats at neck height to help keep you toasty if you’re brave enough to drop the top in winter.
Elsewhere, it’s exactly the same M4 (and therefore the M3) that you can buy with a fixed roof, albeit available with xDrive all-wheel drive only.
It’s an absolutely fantastic driver’s car. It’s all very familiar behind the wheel for a modern M product, and feels very sturdy even when there’s nothing between you and the sky. Even right down to the utterly stupid (albeit optional) bucket seats on our test car pictured. You know the ones – they’ve got a bulge that splits your thighs apart (which happens to have quite a rude name among the CAR team). They’re impossible to get in and out of with any dignity, even if they’re supremely supportive when it matters.
In terms of how it drives, though, the drop-top M4 is still a true sports car with a fiercely sharp front end, ready and willing to change direction with a millimetre of steering input – it’s so alert you know exactly when to place it when driving hard. The ride is sports car firm, – even in its most cushy comfort mode – and enough to get your jowls wobbling on pockmarked roads, but means the M4 has impeccable body control.
And even if this M4 is all-wheel drive only, there’s a tangible rear bias to the way it deploys its considerable power. You just know it’s still very much up for a laugh if you poke it hard enough. It even rates your slides – via the M Drift Analyser – in such a critical manner it’s as if it’s egging you on to get the tail out further. Think Uber star ratings, but for the unhinged.
While it might be the still-very-brilliant machine the M4 always has been, it now exposes you fully to the torquey straight-six you now get to enjoy devoid of the main insulating barrier on the coupe. The engine sounds much more natural with the roof down, too – less Gran Turismo, more grand tourer – although you soon realise it’s best to keep it in the midrange. Allow the M4 to stretch to the redline and it gets coarse and thrashy – less boulevard, more farmyard.
It’s also a bit blustery. Yes, we know – duh. The only way to solve that is with an attachable wind deflector is available as a £350 option, but it completely rules out having people in the rear seats. Even if those people will be kids.
But gone are the days where a convertible was an inherently compromised car compared to its fixed-roof relative. The M4 Convertible manages to minimise the ‘yeah, but’ argument to just price – when comparing the convertible with the coupe, at least. But look at what else you can get that delivers this many thrills for less: nothing. A run-out special of the AMG C63 is £5k more than this, and a 911 Cabrio Carrera 4S is £20k more.
It’s thrilling and sharp to drive, and the roof-related compromises are next to non-existent – only adding another layer of fun to what is already a brilliant car. BMW’s pulled a blinder.