DETROIT (when it was warm) – The BMW M4 Competition Convertible piles a heaping amount of performance into a convertible body shape. In many cases, the convertible version of a coupe is toned down and made to be a less intense package. Not so the M4 Convertible, which maintains a hell-bent focus on performance.
There’s only one version of the drop-top M4, and that’s the Competition variant with xDrive all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic. Perhaps BMW is right to skip the manual — enthusiasts are more likely to want a coupe anyway — but limiting the Convertible to all-wheel drive is an odd move. Perhaps BMW has customer data showing the curious desire for poor-weather traction and drop-top motoring (or getting as many badges tacked onto the back of your M4 to impress the neighbors), but there’s also no denying the performance benefit xDrive brings to the M4 when the weather isn’t dominated by blizzards and atmospheric rivers.
We found it to be a handy system on the racetrack, and even with the added weight, the M4 Competition Convertible bests a rear-wheel-drive M4 Competition Coupe to 60 mph by two tenths of a second. BMW claims this Convertible does a 0-60 mph run of 3.6 seconds, and from the driver’s seat, there’s no doubt it can match that time over and over. Launches with the rear-drive M4 are always subject to wheel spin, but the AWD Convertible blitzes off the line with zero delay or fuss — lose the Convertible’s weight, and an AWD M4 Competition Coupe is an additional 0.2 second quicker.
On the topic of weight, when similarly equipped, the Convertible adds 327 pounds to the M4. That’s enough to really notice in a car that weighs 4,306 pounds. Despite this weight gain, BMW managed to reduce roof-related weight by 40% for the new generation by switching back to a soft top after two generations of retractable hardtops (we’re counting the old 3 Series convertible here). You’ll have the choice between a black or “Moonlight Black” top, with the latter designed to mimic the shimmer of metallic paint in sunlight. Putting the top up or down takes approximately 18 seconds, and you can do so at speeds up to 31 mph.
We’ve made it this far without addressing the M4’s styling, which, according to who you talk to, is either aggressive and fun or abhorrent and bad. The same large nostril kidney grille is attached to the Convertible as you’ll see on the Coupe. The side profile mimics the Coupe’s, and you’ll know it’s an M out back thanks to the signature quad exhaust and blacked-out M Competition badging. It’s all rather sleek and subtly sporty everywhere you look besides the front, but that could be said about a lot of BMWs these days.
As is the case with many coupes made into convertibles, BMW compensates for the loss of rigidity that inherently comes from removing the roof. To do so, the M4 Convertible is equipped with a model-specific torsion strut package at the rear of the body. The rest of the chassis is standard M4 Competition fare, and it’s also fitted with BMW’s Adaptive M suspension.
The end result is a convertible performance car that behaves very similarly to the coupe it’s based on. That means the M4 Convertible can happily be both a tolerable daily driver or a hardcore performance car — its breadth of talents is that wide. Set the various drive mode targets to their full comfort settings, and the M4 cruises along smoothly and with little drama. You can even make it downright peaceful in the cabin with the roof up if you put the exhaust in its quiet mode (but that’s no fun).
Where the M4 Competition Convertible shines is when the roof is off and you’re pounding around a lovely road on a sunny summer day. In this environment, it rivals the Coupe on the fun-to-drive scale. And yes, the enthusiast who desires maximum performance will still prefer the lighter feel of the coupe, but the extra involvement of being engrossed in the outside world and this six-cylinder’s booming exhaust note does a lot to make up for the added weight. You’ll feel the extra poundage in tighter corners and under braking, but it’s not prohibitive to having fun. The roofless M4 is still very much a high-intensity performance car with the chops to put a smile on any performance fiend’s face.
As we alluded to, losing the roof means more exhaust noise. That’s a plus, but maybe not enough to sway us entirely. Sure, the inline-six sounds alright, but we wouldn’t go so far as to call it great. You’ll get a chorus of crackles and pops on the overrun and with downshifts; the noise builds in octave as you wind it up the rev range, but at no point does it prod with a wow factor. The 503 horses and 479 pound-feet of torque smack you back against the seat with violent authority, and the wind whipping through your hair amplifies the drive, but this convertible doesn’t offer the sort of life-changing experience one might get from other performance cars past or present.
The same new steering exhibited in the M3 and hardtop M4 is onboard this variant. It’s going to surprise with its lightness at first (even in Sport), but it’s a big improvement for BMW. Overly heavy steering is a scourge that affects many cars, but not this M4. Outside of the carbon-backed massively-bolstered seats found in our test car, the M4 Convertible is an easy vehicle to live with during the daily grind, too. You can insert the wind deflector to make conversations possible at highway speeds with the top down. Plus, top-up driving is surprisingly luxurious for a soft top. BMW uses numerous layers of insulation, a flush glass rear window and a smooth top surface to aid in this luxury effort, and the result is a satisfying one. It’s unlikely you’ll miss the hardtop.
When you open the trunk, it may not look like much at first glance, but look deeper and you’ll see that the cargo area is still suitable for small luggage. Even the rear seats are large enough for adult passengers in this generation of 4 Series, so you can bring three friends along for the convertible thrill ride. And it sure can turn into a thrill ride if you decide to swap the all-wheel-drive system into 2WD (rear-wheel drive) mode. Doing so requires deactivation of stability control — sure would be nice if ESC could remain activated — which turns the previously AWD M4 from a stable, neutral car on the road to one that is consistently trying to bite your head off. Just be sure the first time you try this “everything off” mode isn’t leaving the local cars and coffee.
The upcharge for going with a Convertible over the M4 Competition xDrive Coupe is a hefty $7,000. If you didn’t want the automatic or all-wheel drive, though, the regular M4 is $15,000 cheaper. BMW charges a lot for stepping up to the Competition model with xDrive, and it makes us wish yet again that the M4 could be had in a pure rear-drive manual transmission-equipped form. That’s really the biggest issue we have with this seemingly odd roof/drivetrain pairing. As it stands, the cheapest you can step into a 2023 M4 Convertible is $90,695. After the various options boxes were checked on our tester, the price rose above $115,000. That’s more expensive than a base BMW M850i xDrive Convertible, and keep checking boxes, and you’re going to be into base Porsche 911 Cabriolet territory.
BMW’s most natural competition would be a Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Convertible, but that model is MIA for the 2023 model year as we all await what the upcoming CLE-Class will bring from the AMG side of things. There’s the Corvette Convertible, Jaguar F-Type Convertible and Porsche 718 Boxster variants to consider, but all of those are two-seaters. It also must be said that all-wheel drive makes the M4 a viable all-year car. A couple others like the Corvette and 718 Boxster — particularly in GTS 4.0 spec — are better drivers, but these alternatives have their own downsides. It ultimately leaves the M4 in a neat, little niche of providing sports car performance in a reasonably practical, luxury convertible package. That’s a small bucket to choose from if the bogey is around $100,000, which makes us happy that the M4 Convertible is as vibrantly explosive and good to drive as it is.