Like the E93 3 Series convertible, the F33 4 Series convertible is a stunner, perhaps even a better-looking coupe (with the hard top up) than the 4 Series coupe. And of all things, BMW has managed to make the 4 Series convertible into an ingeniously practical car; even with the top down, you can get into the trunk, and by pressing a magic button, you can lift the folded top assembly out of the way. Knock down the fold-down rear seat and you can stow a few golf bags or a reasonable-size body in the resulting cavity.
What you won’t get, however—at least in the U.S.—is a third pedal. You know, the clutch pedal, the one you need when you’re rowing through the gears in a proper sports car.
I thought the whole idea behind the new numeric nomenclature was to separate the bread-and-butter grocery-getters, the soccer-mom sedans, the useful cars, from the more sporting enthusiasts’ cars; the former get the odd numbers, and the even numbers go to the dashing, daring coupes and convertibles, the ones we drive con gusto, con brio, con take-away-my-license. Like the 4 Series coupe, which is available with a six-speed manual transmission.
But the 4 Series convertible will be available only with the eight-speed automatic now so ubiquitous in the BMW lineup. Yes, well, it’s a terrific automatic, especially with paddle-shifters, but still: It’s an automatic, so it’s just not me. So I may love many things about the 4 Series convertible, but it could never inhabit my garage, not that it would fit between the 335i (six-speed manual) that Party A uses to repeatedly spank the M roadster (also six-speed manual, but lacking those @#$! turbochargers).
I am hopeful, however, that within two years, we’ll see a 4 Series convertible with a stick. That one, of course, will have an M before the digit. If it follows the example of the M3 and M4 sedan and coupe, the M4 drop-top should be available with a seven-speed double-clutch transmission (DCT) or a six-speed manual, the one that requires you to operate the clutch pedal instead of sending electrohydraulic minions to do it for you.
Until the M4 convertible comes off the line, however, I have to conclude that BMW does not really consider us open-air motorists to be sporting drivers. They may be right; they certainly know a lot more about their markets than I do. Maybe the greatest majority of convertible drivers are more about lifestyle and convenience than about the joys of rev-matching downshifts. But I always think that we of the Brotherhood Of The Bald-Spot Sunburn are the truest of true enthusiasts, and some of us will never give up that left-foot pedal. Heck, we won’t even admit that today’s DCTs and eight-speed automatics are actually a better idea.—Satch CarlsonBack to News