Chicago might not be the best city to own a convertible, but the beautiful and short summers make the perfect setting for a top-down drive along the Lake Michigan’s shores. And when that top-down is the new 2015 BMW M4 Convertible, things are bound to become even better. Our second encounter with the new M4 cabriolet took place last month, nearly a year after I went to Munich to test it on the famous Autobahn, and on the curvy and fun backroads around BMW’s hometown.
Sporty, fast and practical
Just like its four M3 Convertible predecessors, the BMW M4 employs all the typical M bits from the German automaker’s wizards in Garching, the home of the famed ///M division. Following the same recipe as before, the new M4 Convertible is based on the 2+2 two-door 4 Series hardtop, hence the M4 moniker – a non-so-subtle move from the iconic M3 name. The sporty cabriolet is made from the same cloth as its M3 Sedan and M4 brothers – aggressively aerodynamic bodywork, raced-tuned suspension, and a powerful and refined engine. But choosing the wind-in-your-hair approach over the closed-up M4 Coupe comes with a hefty price: nearly 440 lbs (200 kg) heavier, a figure that might not be noticeable in city or highway driving, but it will certainly “stand out” on the track. Not that many people buy the cabriolet for track days…
The three-piece folding metal roof can be operated at speeds up to 11 mph (18 km/h), an impressive engineering feature for a roof of this size. It takes 20 seconds to fully retract the roof and despite using the metal top, at least for now, the new M4 Convertible offers about 20 liters (0.7 cubic feet) more trunk capacity compared to the previous generation E93 M3. With the top up, trunk space is about 13 cubic feet; you’ll sacrifice almost half of that to put the top down, with 7.8 cubic feet remaining. Or in my test, that translated to about a carry-on bag and a couple tiny bags around it. A load-through feature lets longer items protrude into the rear seat area, for example, your precious golf clubs.
Since I love to use my test cars the same way I handle my own, trips to the grocery store or to the tennis courts were part of my week-long loan. Turns out loading in 6-10 grocery plastic bags is not as bad as it sounds, as long as the top is up. Putting the metal cover down and I had to resort to the back seat for more storage room. A small price to pay for the “inconvenience.”
A monster of a sports car
As with the M4 Coupe, the convertible is powered by a 3.0 liter twin-turbo, straight six-cylinder engine that pumps out 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The pedal will take you all the way to 155mph – not recommended in the U.S. – and sprints from 0 to 62 mph will come in about 4.6 seconds, three tenths of a second slower than the coupe. As most with most press cars, the M4 Convertible came with the dual-clutch transmission and the wheel-mounted paddles that make Chicago traffic more bearable.
Thanks to the hardtop design and the lack of B pillars, all of the windows are large and offer great sight lines – the driver’s ability to see outside the vehicle. Other than that, it looks identical as the coupe brother – beautiful and aggressive lines running on the side of the car, and an aero dynamic front-end that reminds us the car means business. Inside space is great for two people and a small child in the back, anything more than that becomes a challenge and a hassle. The driver-oriented dashboard reminded me once again why BMW has some of the best driving positions in the business and that feel of connecting with your car is still there.
But how does it handle in every day driving?
Aside from being one of the first M4 Convertibles on the Chicago roads, the sporty cabrio stands out every time you see it in your rear view mirror. Its wideness, adaptable suspension and super grippy Michelin tires make for a solid every day commuter. Put the top down, rev that engine, play some music…wait, that’s what I used to do in the 20s, now being much wiser and older, I prefer a more soothing experience with soft music in the background and more time spent admiring the beauty of Chicago’s architecture and lake shores. BMW has given the M4’s steering three settings – Comfort, Sport and Sport+; the same adaptive suspension as the M3 and M4 Coupe. The options give you structural rigidity when you need it and, like going crazy exiting highway ramps or cornering some hard-to-find backroads (that’s pretty much the best you can do in the flat Midwest).
Throttle response can be changed as well and it is recommended based on the driving situation you’re in. For stop-and-go traffic, switch that button over to Efficiency and the transmission’s Sequential mode dialed into its softest setting. Your passengers will thank you for that. Out onto the open road or through twisties (the few that exist around here), the M4 Convertible does better with a more aggressive style of driving, so essentially I went 180 degrees on the previous settings putting a dumb smile on my face.
Fuel economy isn’t something M4 buyers should be overly concerned with, but the M4 earns EPA ratings of 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. At over $70,000 decently equipped, fuel prices don’t matter as much.
One thing that I loved during nocturnal drives was the optional vents beneath the head rests which heat your necks when the top’s down. A neat feature that could be useful when Chicago’s fall will settle in.
Put it all together, it is really hard to find any faults with this type of cabriolet. The car caters to a specific group of buyers and all the other noise around the engine sound (no pun intended) or the softer steering than its predecessors is just overhead. The M4 Convertible does exactly what it’s supposed to do, it compromises exactly where it should while delivering a BMW-like experience. If you’re in California or Florida, the M4 cabriolet is a no-brainer and I would certainly choose it over the coupe just because I can put that top down more often. Oh, and I wouldn’t track the car so in my book, I would get the value of an M3/M4 with a hair-in-the-wind experience.