New 2020 BMW 4-series: convertible joins coupe

Published: 30 September 2020

► All-new BMW 4-series is here
► Available as coupe or convertible
► Priced from £40k

BMW’s 4-series range has grown to include a new convertible model and, this time, it’s a soft-top.

The four-seater drop-top looks identical to the coupe 4, save for the roof obviously, and uses the same engine range as the coupe too. The engine range starts with two four-cylinders and two six-cylinders, (420i, 430i and M440i petrol and a 420d diesel) with a 430d and M440d coming later in 2021.

BMW says that using a soft-top roof configuration is 40 per cent lighter than the old metal folding one, opens or closes at up to 31mph in 18 seconds.

New BMW 4-series: the looks

Our first hint of the new 4-series’ design came from the Concept 4 that first debuted at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show to many a grimace and moan by hacks like us. Click here for Domagoj Dukec’s defence on the original concept.

4-series rear quarter

Fast forward nine months and the production model is here. As expected, the latest 4-series has taken on a high percentage of the Concept 4’s design cues from front to back including clean surfacing at the sides and swooping rear light clusters. BMW makes a point that it intends to really set the 4-series apart from the 3-series saloon here, and we’re pretty convinced it’s achieved it.

‘We have taken a step forward with design,’ head of project management, Peter Henrich, told CAR. ‘Our internal mission statement was simply: ‘wow’. It should be a bold statement, but not something fussy. Designed as once piece, and a form that people naturally turn their heads to. Expressive kidney grille, beautiful silhouette, and really designed without compromise, so that the design department could create exactly what they needed to create. And it is part of our strategy to give the different vehicles and an even more specific individual character, the 4-series more extrovert and the 3-series more elegant.’

4-series grille

Along with the regular specification, there’s an M Sport trim level with the spicier design elements pictured. As with most BMW models, there is also a massive catalogue of M Performance parts to spec.

Anything new inside?

This is where novel details between this and a 3-series saloon are rare. The overall design is the same as the 3 saloon in terms of layout and materials, and BMW’s iDrive 7.0 operating system features.

4-series interior

Tech like a new-generation head-up display, an expanded level of safety assistance and the brand’s reversing assistant parking kit are available and a new, cloud-based map system for super slick route calculations is standard via the 10.25-inch infotainment screen. Apple CarPlay and now Android Auto are also included.

Engines and spec details, please!

BMW says the 4-series’ centre of gravity is 21mm lower, has spot-on 50/50 weight distribution and a rear track that’s 23mm wider than the 3-series.

Five powertrains will be available at launch: a 420i/420d, 430i/430d and pokey M440i xDrive. BMW is introducing 48v mild hybrid assistance – tech that supposedly adds 7bhp of e-boost – to the diesel engines and hot straight-six petrol in the M440i model. All models will use an eight-speed auto, and two more diesel options are planned for March 2021. Want a full electric 4-series? You’ll have to wait for the i4 due in 2021.

4-series rear tracking

For that hottest of 4-series this side of a new M4, 369bhp is sent to all four wheels via a sport-calibrated version of that eight-speeder.

If you want your 4-series to be the lap record holder around the business park, kit like M Sport suspension with firmer dampers, adaptive suspension, performance brakes and an M Sport rear differential are all on the options list.

BMW 4-series Performance parts

BMW may have only just revealed the new 4-series, but the M Performance parts for the divisive Coupe are already here. There’s no information on what they are exactly, but a selection of pictures show the 4-series with all its carbonfibre toppings.

As you’d expect, the M Performance bits appear to be the usual mix of lightweight carbonfibre and gloss-black trims, flaps and skirts and most of the accessories modify the corners of the car; from the front air-intakes, to the exhaust tips and diffuser. 4-series owners can also spec a bold black line down the side of the Coupe, which we think actually works very well with its fluid lines.

Speaking of the M4…

It’s been revealed as a coupe for now, and you can read about it here. An M4 convertible will arrive in the summer of 2021.

‘It will be great,’ Henrich told CAR. ‘The M company that develops the vehicle, they are quite independent, they have the freedom to get the best out of the car, but conceptually, product strategy wise, when we work very closely, working out what engineering makes sense.

‘The pre-requisites that are needed are of course engineered in. It’s not like an external company that must take the base car and just make the best out of it. They are involved, and we are thinking M with the base architecture right from the beginning.’

BMW 4-series: price and release date

The first cars will arrive in October 2020 with a 420i M Sport costing you £39,870, rising to a toppy £53,875 for the M440i xDrive model. As for the convertible, the first ones arrive in March 2021 from £45,875.

BMW Concept 4: a designer’s defence

Concept 4 front

Even by recent BMW standards, this near-production-ready preview of 2021’s 4-series has an unpredictable twist, with a kidney grille so drastic it’s like dropping a California Reaper chilli on your Michelin-starred lunch. CAR spoke to Domagoj Dukec, head of BMW brand design, to get his take on the polarising look.

Dukec explains that the design can be traced back to 2017’s i Vision Dynamics concept, which had the same outline of a tall, slim kidney grille, albeit blanked off.

‘The i brand helps us to reinvent and see how far we can go with our icons. You have to make a big impact like a water bomb – you want to shock people.’ Dukec highlights the criticism drawn by the i3 and i8. ‘The reactions were all kinds, but that’s okay because you have to see how far you can go. There is no right or wrong in design – you will never have 100 per cent of people say “wow”.’

Concept 4 grille

But what about the Concept 4’s grille?

‘With the kidney, we made a big difference, which is on one hand very BMW, but different to all our other cars. The first kidneys were always vertical – it happened with the 328 or even more recently the E28 5-series. For this core product, the 4-series, we wanted to make something that doesn’t feel like just a coupe for those who can’t afford an 8-series.

‘We didn’t want to lose our identity but I believe we have very strong design icons. You can see how much you can change the kidney because it’s so unique – there’s no other grille like it. It doesn’t mean that every car is getting a bigger kidney, it depends on the status of the customer and their expectation.

‘If you want to make recognisable design, you have to do this, to polarise. Because good design is about a very strong and unique character; it’s not about beauty.’

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By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches