December 1, 2021

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Unique Car

2021 BMW 430i Convertible First Test Review: Meet the Mild Child

Do you consider yourself a BMW enthusiast? Y’know, the type to rattle off chassis and engine codes with the same alacrity as you do your own birthdate? If so, this test of the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible model might not be for you. If that’s the case, don’t worry: We’ve covered plenty of hot new Bavarians sure to get your straight-six in a sizzle, like the M2 CS and the new M3 and M4.

Still here? Keep reading if you’re of an open mind. Or, if you opened this test because you’re already cabriolet-curious, we’re happy to report the latest BMW 4 Series drop-top likely ticks just about every box you might desire for a car like this.

Forget the M

“A car like this.” It’s time to recognize that holding every car with a roundel on its snout to the antiquated and long-irrelevant standards BMW set forth 40, 30, 20, or even 10 years ago is foolish. In fact, it’s especially silly when the automaker consistently demonstrates a gradual identity shift toward that of a tech company rather than one obsessed with rear-wheel drive and manual transmissions.

We’re already in a time where BMW’s SUVs feel more cohesive and focused than most of its sedans, and we’re likely not going back. Aside from the non-Competition M3/M4, you can’t get a manual transmission in a 3, 4, 5, or 8 Series anymore, all BMW steering is now electrically assisted, and batteries are in and gas is on the way out.

Stings, doesn’t it? Here’s some lemon juice to smear on that scrape: Considering the brand, as it exists today, this 2021 BMW 430i Convertible’s Performance of Intended Function index is off the charts. Indeed, this is the perfect drop-top for a driver who is focused more on cruising than hard cornering, and on the BMW badge rather than performing burnouts and nailing apexes. So, good job, BMW, this is just what the Floridian doctor ordered.

By golly, that’s just fine. It takes all types, and there’s a whole heap more of those casual-cruiser types than there are of us, if you catch our, er, drift. Sales figures are the scoreboard, and, buddy, hardcore driving enthusiasts are down and out.

Who Buys This? Oh, We Know

So, the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible. Despite our end-is-nigh ramblings, this is a good midsize drop-top. It’s the type of zip-around-town cabriolet leased by the pseudo-moneyed professional crowd, presumably living in a fair-weather environment. A Porsche 718 Boxster and/or Mazda MX-5 Miata is too small, and the Mercedes E-Class/BMW 8 Series convertibles are too expensive. The same goes for the Porsche 911 and the future Mercedes SL-Class.

These customers likely won’t be caught dead in a non-rental Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro soft-top, so they thumb through dealer brochures of the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet, Audi A5 Cabriolet, and of course, this 2021 BMW 430i Convertible. Power? Stiff suspension? Carbon fiber? They just want heated seats, a good sound system, a nice interior, and a luxury badge.

Of course, this is all conjecture, and we look forward to reading hate mail from the one or two people who track their 4 Series drop-top every chance they get. Hey, you two—if you’re in the market for another, we suggest spec’ing it like this blue press car.

BMW probably knew a lot of car reviewers sliding into the driver’s seat will smugly decry this aire libre poseur mobile as less engaging than the rusty E30 325e sitting in their driveway. It, therefore, took the liberty of fitting this Portimao Blue Metallic cabrio with a set of performance options we imagine few, if any, 430i Convertible customers ever will. The extra equipment kicked our test car’s price from its base sticker of $54,095 to a hefty $67,220.

A Strange One

This unicorn-spec car sharpens things to an impressive degree. First up is the M Sport package, adding the adaptive M Sport suspension kit and snazzy M Sport steering wheel, among other aesthetic and safety-tech inclusions. Next is the Dynamic Handling package, complete with M Sport brakes and a limited-slip rear differential for when you feel like getting a bit naughty on the wide, open streets of nighttime Ft. Lauderdale.

Untouched is the 2021 430i Convertible’s powertrain, which remains the familiar 2.0-liter B48 turbocharged four-cylinder found on the base level of almost every BMW. Here, a stout 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque tease the rear diff through the venerable ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. Want more? Scrimp and save for an M440i Convertible, which starts at $65,195 for a 2022 model.

Positive Power and Performance

On the trot, the turbo-four returned a perfectly punchy 5.6-second 0-60-mph run, with the quarter mile falling in 14.2 seconds at 97.0 mph. A mid-5-second 0-60 time is the golden mean of daily performance. There’s fine power here, for sure, but we were more impressed by how the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible defeated that medium-spicy speed. The M Sport brakes impressed in both our stopping test and our figure-eight course, particularly for their ease of modulation and fade resistance. The brake pedal itself delivered a relatively soft pedal, but the hardware performed consistently with no signs of fade. We managed a solid best 60-0-mph stop of 116 feet.

The car pleasantly surprised us with its poise in our figure-eight test and on the skidpad, particularly its variable-weight steering. We configured the Individual drive-mode tool with sport everything, but we left the steering set to Comfort and liked it very much. It wasn’t artificially heavy or syrupy, yet we detected no loss of precision. However, the strong brakes and sticky 19-inch Michelin tires remained the star of the show, and the brakes are perhaps the BMW’s best dynamic attribute.

Cheater Tires

The Michelin PS4 rubber gripped hard, lending the fleetness necessary to almost match the significantly more powerful Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet on the figure-eight, losing the run by just 0.1 second but crushing the big Benz on the skidpad by 0.07 g for an average of 0.95 g.

That’s right: When equipped properly, the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible pulls nearly 1.0 g on the skidpad. Perhaps not the most relevant statistic when the 430i Convertibles of the world might rarely see a canyon corner, but it handles lane changes, emergency stops, and on-ramp blasts with notable confidence. And even with all the strange performance hardware, our tester 430i was comfortable, quiet, and a nice, premium place to spend several hours.

Better Than You Might Expect

Ultimately, BMW’s Teflon-slick 2.0-liter turbo engine remains one of our favorite premium turbocharged four-cylinders, with solid torque, excellent NVH, and a nice little exhaust burble, even if what you hear is augmented by sound piped into the cabin. As always, ZF’s eight-speed is snappy when you want it to be and unobtrusive when you don’t—a winning combo with the blatty four-banger. Overall, the 2021 BMW 430i Convertible is an admirably well-presented daily driver sure to be exactly what its modern fans want.

2021 BMW 430i Convertible

  • Lovely four-cylinder powertrain
  • Likely just what model loyalists seek
  • Surprisingly good dynamics
  • Expect to pay out the nose for any meaningful options
  • Regular 430is without performance kit might not be so hot
  • Hardcore drivers need look elsewhere
2021 BMW 430i Convertible Specifications
BASE PRICE $54,095
PRICE AS TESTED $67,220
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door convertible
ENGINE 2.0L/255-hp/295-lb-ft turbo direct-injected DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,995 lb (48/52{ff73e94827869dd2b5714d793ef449233b8f00ed743c91e1b3a181dbbd187443})
WHEELBASE 112.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 187.9 x 72.9 x 54.6 in
0-60 MPH 5.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.2 sec @ 97.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 116 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.95 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.7 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 24/33/27 mpg
ON SALE Now