The 2019 BMW M4 cabriolet represents the swan song of this convertible hardtop sports car while we await the next-generation model. Although not the pure performance machine represented by the coupe, this cabriolet offers its own worthwhile take on fun, frivolous driving – if you can stomach the price.
It’s surprising how much more I enjoyed driving the 2019 BMW M4 cabriolet than its coupe sibling. Part of that comes down to the different silhouette presented by the retractable hardtop. Rather than the thick haunches of its closed-roof contemporary, the briefer bubble of the cabriolet’s greenhouse looks cleaner with the top up. Hit the switch to drop the steel into the trunk and the lines of the car come alive in a way that the coupe simply can’t match. The longer wheelbase also helps give the M4 cabriolet an elegance that is lacking in the M240i convertible, making it the sweet spot in the open-air BMW lineup.
My test vehicle was equipped with the Ultimate package – $26,000 worth of options that included the full gamut of safety gear available from BMW for the M4. This means everything from a surround-view, top-down style camera to blind spot warning to lane departure warning. Don’t want to spend one-quarter of the car’s purchase price on a single mammoth group of equipment? No worries – you can order most of what you need through a series of smaller, more affordable ($1,250 to $4,500) packages.
You can look at convertible practicality in one of two ways. From a certain perspective, removing the roof abolishes any limits on what you can haul inside your BMW, assuming you take care to protect the seats and pay attention to local overpass height restrictions. In a less generous take, the M4 cabriolet’s trunk space is definitely restrictive compared to that of the coupe, and struggles to handle more than an overnight bag or two, or even a few sacks of groceries, which will be a problem if using it as a daily driver.
You also won’t want to be sitting in the rear quarters with the roof down, so you’ll be leaving friends behind and the kids with a sitter when the weather is nice.
User Friendliness: 6/10
Much about the 2019 BMW M4’s control set is simple enough to understand, as it centres around a tried and true version of the iDrive infotainment system, as well as a reasonably uncluttered gauge cluster. Unfortunately, there’s one major sticking point for any car featuring the optional seven-speed automated manual transmission like my tester’s: The shifter.
BMW’s use of a strange hybrid auto/manual gear selector causes no end of confusion in regular driving. Tap the console-mounted stalk to the right for drive, and again for manual control over gearshifts. Pull it over to the left and then up for reverse. Leave it in the middle for neutral – and here’s where it gets tricky, because there’s no park on the grip. No, to engage park the car must be turned off. But pushing the ignition button once doesn’t do the deed; it needs a second tap to make sure all systems are shut down, at which point park is selected.
Also be sure not to depress the brake pedal when hitting the start/stop button that second time or the engine will fire up, forcing the sequence to be started over. Leave it in neutral and use the parking brake? Not on BMW’s watch. Trying that results in a car that won’t lock because it’s “not in park.” It’s confusing at best, and future M models won’t have this particular shift logic, but you’re stuck with it for 2019.
There’s little lacking in any M4 equipped with the Ultimate package, and, depending on budget and proclivities, the cabriolet can be customized with all manner of equipment that focuses on whatever you’re trying to enhance – luxury, styling, performance – about its character. That being said, it’s a bit behind the competition in terms of tech due to its older platform, something that didn’t bother me in the slightest (fewer gadgets, fewer gizmos), but may mean more to someone dropping substantial coin on a luxury convertible.
One area where the BMW M4 cabriolet comes across as overly complex has to do with its M-specific drive modes. There are two buttons on the steering wheel – M1 and M2 – that can be programmed to represent preferred suspension, steering, and shifter settings; making for quick and easy access. The range of buttons and controls on the console and shifter are, however, a bit of a pain to sift through, let alone understand precisely how they all work together. It’s a case of over-configuration that is endemic to modern BMW performance models.
Having already spoken my piece about the shifter and the hoops you have to jump through to unlock the car’s full potential, it’s a great place to be once you do. My Ultimate package car included the Competition package, which boosts output from the car’s turbocharged 3.0L inline-six-cylinder engine from 425 hp to 444 hp (along with 406 lb-ft of torque). Again, both of these figures lag behind more recent offerings from the likes of Mercedes-AMG, which may matter to some buyers, but I found the engine to be more than sufficient despite the extra weight of the convertible mechanism.
With the suspension soft and the top down, the BMW M4 cabriolet offers a pleasant and coddling tub within which to soak up the great outdoors. Turn on the neck warmers to fight off winter’s chill, and you’ll enjoy an unfettered view of the scenery passing by. Roll up the windows on the highway and the sound inside the cabin is reasonable for conversation, an ambiance that’s only enhanced with the top completely sealed, the layer of steel between you and the outside world providing coupe-like composure.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Due to its substantial heft, checking in at nearly 1,900 kg, the 2019 BMW M4 cabriolet does not comport itself in the same manner as a focussed sports car. Rather, consider the cab to be the reckless look-at-me option in the BMW M portfolio, especially with the raucous cackle of its available titanium exhaust system singing out directly behind your head. The lack of piped-in engine noise (unnecessary in a convertible) makes this the best-sounding of the M3/M4 bunch, which addresses a primary complaint made against both the coupe and sedan that share the cabriolet’s drivetrain.
Does the seven-speed gearbox occasionally lose its way when lazily rolling forward from a stop, making it sound as though you’re roasting the clutch while pulling out of a parking space? Erm, yes. There’s also somewhat of a drone-like lug in top gear with the vehicle set to full-comfort mode that makes it feel as though the M4 is chomping at the bit to get off the highway and tackle some secondary lines on the map. All of this is forgiven when prowling through town with the vehicle’s least-socially acceptable persona on full blast, earning you contempt from pedestrians and making your passenger wish they’d worn that ski mask you offered them back at the house.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
The BMW M4 cabriolet is rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 14.5 L/100 km in city driving and 10.5 L/100 km on the highway, for an overall figure of 12.7 L/100 km. I saw just under 18 L/100 km with the vehicle set to loud-and-fast nearly all the time, which is better than I expected from such a heavy, powerful car.
For 2019, you’ll pay $89,000 for the base M4 and well over $100,000 if you go Ultimate, with the example I drove landing at $118,900. It’s certainly not the least expensive way to blow your hair back, and given that the M4 is nearing its final journey around the sun before retirement, it’s perhaps not the best bang-for-the-buck out there in the luxury performance segment.
If you’re willing to reset your expectations in terms of fit, finish, and features, consider a Ford Mustang GT convertible, which delivers similar power and handling at a substantial discount, as the value bogey for the BMW. The prestige may not be there, but the performance certainly is.
The 2019 BMW M4 cabriolet is an easy-on-the-eyes open-top noise-maker that’s quick in a straight line, reasonably sharp in the corners, and comfortable during the daily drive. As a pure performance play, it may not match some of its rivals, but it’s much nimbler than the (more expensive) BMW M850i convertible without sacrificing much in terms of comfort or features.
|Peak Horsepower||425 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||406 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||14.5/10.5/12.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||368 / 198 L top down|
|Model Tested||2019 BMW M4 Cabriolet|
|Price as Tested||$121,245|
$29,900 – Ultimate package, $26,000; M double-clutch transmission, $3,900