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Peters’ Garage: 2022 BMW 4 Series

By Eric Peters

Retractable hardtops have their virtues, the chief one being that when the top isn’t retracted, you have a solid roof over your head — and over what’s in your car.

It is harder to slice open a hardtop than a top made of cloth. But retractable hardtops are heavy, and they take up even more space than a soft top (in the trunk) when they’re retracted because you can’t just fold them up.

That may explain why BMW decided to go back to a soft top for the 2022 4 Series Convertible.

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What It Is

There used to be coupe/convertible versions of BMW’s 3 Series sedan — and there still are. They’re just called the 4 Series now.

The Fours (which seat four) share their underlying chassis with the Three but have two fewer doors and, in the case of the convertible Four, one less roof.

Prices begin at $45,800 for the base trim 430i coupe; the soft top convertible version of the same thing stickers for $53,300. Both are rear-wheel drive and come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 255 horsepower, paired with an eight-speed automatic.

There is no manual transmission option. But there is the option to go all-wheel drive. (BMW markets this as xDrive.) The 430i coupe with xDrive lists for $47,800. The convertible 430i with xDrive goes for $55,300.

There is also another option.

BMW offers a much more powerful (and not much thirstier) turbocharged in-line six in the Four. It adds 127 horsepower and subtracts more than a second from the car’s already speedy 0-60 mph capability without adding significantly to what you’ll spend on gas.

It does this by cycling the powerful six off when you don’t need its power, such as when decelerating or not moving, using a high-torque flywheel-mounted starter/generator 48-volt electrical system, which also boosts the total output of the drivetrain to 382 horsepower.

So, equipped, the designation becomes M440i.

The rear-drive M440i coupe lists for $56,700; the soft top version of the same thing stickers for $64,200. BMW’s xDrive is available with either and bumps the price to $58,700 for the coupe and $66,200 for the convertible.

What’s New

In addition to the new kind of roof, both of the Fours’ available engines are stronger than they were previously, without being thirstier, courtesy of the mild hybrid system paired with both engines.

What’s Good

The new soft top is 40% lighter than the old retractable hardtop (and you can “retract” it while the car is moving, at speeds up to 31 mph).

More headroom (and trunk capacity) in the soft top than the old retractable hardtop.

No mileage penalty for choosing the much more powerful in-line six.

What’s Not So Good

Soft top is more vulnerable to tears and may be harder to keep it looking good over the years.

$10,000-plus price bump to go from the four to the six.

No option to shift for yourself.

Under The Hood

Like so many new cars, no matter their doors or their roofs, the 4 Series comes standard with a … 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

It makes 255 horsepower — a significant bump up from the previous 248 — and 294 foot-pounds. of torque at only 1,550 engine RPM.

Equipped with this engine, the Four coupe gets to 60 in about 5.3 seconds; the convertible, which is still heavier despite having a top that’s 40% lighter than the previous retractable hardtop, gets there in about 5.9 seconds.

Adding the optional xDrive AWD system knocks a 10th or two off the times of both.

If you want more than a 2.0-liter four, you can opt for the 3.0 six, which is an inline six rather than a V6.

The six is also turbocharged, so it has both size and boost, which means even more horsepower (382) and torque, which swells to 368 foot-pounds at 1,800 RPM.

On The Road

There’s little to fault objectively as regards the Four’s standard four. How can you fairly fault a four that gets a nearly two-ton (3,918 pounds, empty) car to 60 in just over five seconds? That’s also capable of getting close to 35 MPG on the highway, assuming you keep a light right foot.

But then there’s that six.

It’s not so much the additional power, though that’s a perk, for sure. It’s the sound — and the smoothness.

Both engines will spin to nearly 7,000 RPM, and both produce their peak horsepower number at the same 5,000-6,500 RPM.

But the six sounds better getting there.

At The Curb

Some people prefer the hard-top looks of a retractable top, when the top isn’t retracted. Others like the look of a soft top, when it’s up.

What’s inarguably a boon of the new soft top versus the old retractable hardtop, assuming you like room, is that there’s now more of it.

Trunk capacity increases to 9 cubic feet, which may not sound like much but it’s 1.2 cubic feet more than the old retractable hardtop had, which is no small improvement.

Headroom is also increased, which makes this sporty car more viable for the tall.

The Rest

Fours with the six get both launch control and a new Sprint setting that opens up the exhaust, drops the eight-speed transmission into the next-lowest gear and sharpens up throttle response.

It’s just the ticket for those moments when you need a little extra giddyap.

The Bottom Line

Going topless just got lighter — and roomier.

View the BMW 4 Series this week.

Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2021 CREATORS.COM

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