Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 BMW 440i xDrive Cabriolet

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This BMW 4 Series Cabriolet slipped into its parking spot at the local marina on a fine sunny day like it was custom-designed to be there: in open air mode, clad in a aquamarine colour that’s new for this year (officially “Snapper Rocks Blue Metallic”), the hardtop convertible’s bright white leather matching the fibreglass hulls of most of the boats nestled into nearby slips.

Boats ready for their well-to-do owners (to varying degrees) to take them out to soak in the sunshine, some looking for thrills, others out for pure relaxation, either with friends and family, or on their own.

The thrills part of that equation is especially true for this particular 2018 BMW 440i xDrive Cabriolet, where not only does the 440i indicate the top-line engine of the 4 Series Cab line, but thanks to the optional M Performance II package, power is boosted up from the 440i’s standard 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque by a healthy 35 hp and 39 lb-ft, courtesy of a performance exhaust and a strangely ambiguously named “M Power Kit”.

It’s not quite a $90K M4 Convertible, but it’s not far from it – in performance or, sadly, price.

Style here is key – top up or down, inside or out

With any convertible, though, let’s not kid ourselves: style is key, no matter the price. For BMW’s 4 Series Cab, née 3 Series Cab (before the changeover to even-numbered numerals for most two-door BMWs), it is now one of the few four-seat convertibles on the market to offer a folding hardtop, after former rivals from Lexus, Volvo, and Infiniti left the market.

So it mostly looks like a stylish 4 Series coupe for most of the time, with no mismatching black fabric or roof ribs visible when the top is up, which is the vast majority of time for most Canadian droptop owners.

If you crave sunshine – a fair assumption for any convertible owner – one of the traditional ironies of droptop ownership is that when the top is up, you don’t even have a sunroof-sized shot of vitamin D to help brighten your mood. Does that add to the soul-enriching tonic of folding that sunlight obstruction away? Perhaps. But some convertibles now offer half-open modes or glass panels to combat the fact that it’s actually darker inside most convertibles than many regular cars, though the 4 Series Cab is, unfortunately, not one of those.

Considering this car’s $92,830 as tested price, that’s a true shame – you could get a folding hardtop Volkswagen Eos with a clear panel sunroof for about half that price, though the Eos is another hardtop convertible four-seater casualty of the past few years.

Inside, the white Merino leather seats bring a high-end touch of class to what is a stylishly attractive but not quite sumptuous interior. The first M Performance option package added to this car includes M details on the steering wheel, with others on the twin exhausts, blue brake calipers, and double-spoke 19-inch wheels (the M Performance II option is the one that boosts power).

Good mix of comforting luxury, and easy top-opening ability

Those charming white seats welcome you into a largely comfortable interior, with neck vents in the seats that may have debuted on a Mercedes-Benz, but are now starting to appear on all luxury convertibles worth their Gucci credentials. Two buttons just below the iDrive controller unit bring warm air to the back of the necks of each front seat occupant, at various velocities, just like heated seats – pure heaven on those cool, fall days when you want to admire the colours up north.

However, I happened to be driving this car over a heat wave, so while I tested those buttons briefly to make sure they worked, I also looked for any cooling function in those neck vents and the seats themselves – no luck on either, as it turns out. Umm, BMW, when buyers receive cooled seats on top-line Kias that cost half as much (or less), they should at least be on the options list, if not standard.

The cost of the top and its Cirque du Soleil-worthy display of mechanical gymnastics to stack its three panels up and backwards into itself and then into a well in the trunk is likely significant, and it is also a great spectator sport. One made especially handy when it’s done while you’re walking up to the car, which by my watch, took 27 seconds to complete from the outside.  

The ability to open or close while you’re in Drive at up to 50 km/h is also super handy when a light turns green at mid-cycle, or when you’re just approaching your driveway, though I did worry for the long-term longevity of those mechanical struts going through their motions while going over potholes or road bumps. Regardless, both the key fob opening and the functioning top in Drive (which is now almost universal in convertibles) help maximize top-dropped time, which is really why buyers pay the extra $15K or so over a 440i xDrive coupe. 

Owners will likely get used to the top’s push forward to peel back and lift to close motion, eventually, but after more than 15 opening and closings over the course of a fine week, this still seemed backward to me. 

Elsewhere inside the car, the rear seats were super snug for adults, but at least useful for those with children under 10 – mine both appreciated the strong Wi-Fi signal as well, which reportedly was notably faster than my phone’s hotspot ability.

Dynamic performance a strong suit, but not quite a sports car

The 440i is a great-sounding 3.0L turbo six engine to begin with, but the M Performance Exhaust truly is a marvel. Not only does it add another octave of aural roar when moving up to Sport and then Sport+, it also keeps the burble quietly refined on the highway when in the car’s default Comfort mode. This power and sound kit is available in the US from BMW on an aftermarket basis for US$2,850, so the package’s C$2,900 price when new seems a screaming bargain overall.

Plus this freer flowing exhaust also helps (slightly) with that M Performance pack power bump up, contributing to the car’s higher 355 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque.

That extra M power pack brings the 440i xDrive’s 0–100 km/h time down to 5.2 seconds, compared with the stock 5.4-second run of the normal 440i Cab, which in turn is a second quicker than the 430i Cab with the four-cylinder engine.

So there’s no doubt a rush when mashing the throttle to the carpet, especially when using the eight-speed automatic’s paddle shifters to bring the revs up to where the power and torque peaks (both around the 5K mark). Shifts happen nice and quick, especially in Sport and Sport+, where it warns you it offers limited stability aid. 

As equipped, this particular 440i luxury convertible could make the benchmark acceleration dash from rest to highway speed in quick sporty (but not sports) car company, and within about a half-second of the harder-core BMW M4 Convertible, which starts just north of $88K.

Again, that’s just slightly less expensive than the as-tested sticker on this tester, so if all out dynamic excitement is your main priority, the M4 droptop may be your bag, as its performance lines up nicely against similarly performing but pricier Porsche 911 models.

Given the 440’s power and performance potential, its fuel efficiency is very respectable compared to its rivals: its official overall average of 10.2 L/100 km seems slightly pessimistic, as I managed to best it by quite a bit at 8.9 L/100km, with lots of highway driving.

If your performance priority is how you do on the golf course: trunk room is fairly sizeable, though not quite as caddy-ready as its main C-Class Cab rival. The 440i could fit some golf bags, but likely not all, which is another advantage to having a back seat. Still, even with the folded hardtop filling up much of the trunk, I still managed to fit in $120 worth of No Frills groceries.

Unfortunately, the trunk doesn’t open up to those rear seats, but those back seats do fold down to reveal a foldable wind blocker that can be set up to help maintain carefully set coifs. But the fact that you can’t power it up while driving, plus the fact that it takes up both back seats when in place, makes it a fairly clumsy way to lessen drafts. 

Fun and great-looking car, but value equation is the big question mark

The 440i xDrive Cab is an all-wheel-drive performance machine that could easily provide all-weather appeal year-round: fast, good-looking, fine-handling – if a touch stiff for some on these low-profile run flat tires – and practical, for a two-door convertible. Its hardtop roof is truly its ace card, compared to the C-Class and Audi A5 convertibles. But the lengthy list of options to spec it to the power and equipment levels that so impress is also where the value equation becomes questionable – especially with the M4 Cab looming there at that well-loaded price point.

Engine Displacement 3.0L
Engine Cylinders I6
Peak Horsepower 355 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque 369 lb-ft @ 1,380–5,000 rpm
Fuel Economy 11.9/8.1/10.2 L/100km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 220 L
Model Tested 2018 BMW 440i xDrive Cabriolet
Base Price $71,050
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,245
Price as Tested $91,830
Optional Equipment
$18,435 – Premium Package Enhanced (Alarm System, Universal Remote Control, Comfort Access, Auto Dimming Exterior Mirrors, Lumbar Support, Air Collar, Park Distance Control front and rear, High-Beam Assistant, Surround View, Head-Up Display, SiriusXM Satellite Radio Tuner, Harman/Kardon Sound System, Multifunctional Instrument Display, BMW ConnectedDrive Services Professional) $6,000; M Performance Package (19" M Light Double-Spoke Alloy Wheels, Performance RFT (19x8.0, 225/40 R19 front and 19x8.5, 255/35 R19 rear), M Sport brake, Adaptive M Suspension, Variable Sport Steering) $1,900; M Performance Package II (M Performance Exhaust, M Power Kit) $2,900; Driver assistance package (Active Blind Spot Detection, Driving Assistant, Speed Limit Info) $1,500; Smartphone Connectivity Package (Apple CarPlay Preparation, Wireless Charging w/Extended Bluetooth and USB, WiFi Hotspot, 2 USB ports, ability to connect two phones via Bluetooth, passenger Bluetooth microphone) $750; Individual Merino Leather Interior $1,990; Adaptive LED headlights $1,500; Active cruise control with Stop and Go $1,000; Metallic Paint $895