There are few things in life as satisfying as a hitting the open road in a convertible on a warm and sunny day. Feeling the wind in your hair, sun on your head and shoulders, your favourite tunes playing through the speakers, and with a near unobstructed view of the world around you while enjoying your favourite roads can actually induce driving nirvana. I know. I actually experienced it three years ago while driving a Boxster on a perfectly awesome late fall day. I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since.
Most people think of convertibles as small, sporty two-door coupes with barely enough space for two people and an overnight bag or two. And while that is the most traditional view of open-top motoring, there’s no shortage of four- and five-passenger convertibles on the market that allow you and your family or friends a similar experience.
My week with BMW’s M4 Cabriolet didn’t result in that ever-so-elusive déjà vu moment, unfortunately. It did, however, give my two-year-old son an opportunity to experience his first convertible drive with daddy and mommy – a great memory we’ll never forget.
The M4 Cabrio is essentially the same as its M4 Coupé counterpart, sharing the same 425-horsepower, 3.0L inline-six (S55) engine with 406 lb-ft of torque, and the choice of a six-speed manual or optional ($3,900) seven-speed M double-clutch transmission.
There are key differences of course. For starters, pricing for the cab starts at $84,500 – a $9,500 premium over the coupe. Curb weights are also different – 1,839 kilograms for the cab versus 1,626 for the coupe – though BMW has managed to keep the M4 silhouette relatively intact.
On the plus side, the retractable hardtop roof is fairly quick to open and close. It neatly folds up and tucks itself away inside the trunk and, while that takes up a large chunk of the cargo space back there (370 litres becomes 220 with top down), BMW has devised a way to be able to access what little space remains via a button that raises the whole assembly eight or so inches to regain access to the void beneath the top. The coupe’s lack of rear headroom is no longer an issue as the aggressively raked rear glass on the M4 simply goes away on nice days. There is enough legroom in the rear for an adult to sit comfortably; and, for front-seaters, BMW has integrated vents beneath the headrests to blow warm or cool air on your neck, depending on the temperature outside.
On the down side, the cab drives noticeably heavier that the hard top version, and feels a touch more sluggish. The difference in 0-100 km/h times is telltale – 4.1 seconds to the cab’s 4.4. The suspension is also a bit chattery on the rebound stroke – something the coupe doesn’t exhibit by my recollection – which is likely the result of additional chassis reinforcement the cabrio versions need. To compensate, however, you can completely change the attitude of the car vis à vis the many adjustments you can make to the car (steering, suspension, transmission, traction and stability), and you can program two of your own mixed-and-matched presets into the M buttons on the steering wheel.
You can get a less powerful 4 Series cab and enjoy the open air for a lot less (the standard 4 Series Cabriolet starts at $58,200), but if you’re a performance junkie, only the M4 will do. There’s nothing wrong with that. The next step is the almighty M6 cabrio, and if you can afford the near $130,000 sticker price, you can enjoy the open-air soundtrack of a 600-horsepower V8 instead. At 4.2 seconds from 0-100 km/h, it won’t get you there any faster though.
As for recreating that perfect motoring moment, I feel like I’m stuck in the script of the Edge of Tomorrow, only I don’t have the ability to travel back in time.