Good Stuff

How much California Dreamin’ can you find while driving a convertible through the Bavarian Alpine Foreland? A BMW M440i xDrive Convertible provides the answer.
Text Tom M. Muir
Photo Matthias Mederer · ramp.pictures

Eighteen seconds – that’s how long it takes for the electrically operated fabric roof on the BMW M440i xDrive to fully retract. A completely irrelevant statistic, because if there’s one thing this car isn’t about, it’s objective, measurable data. This car is about a feeling. But that requires the roof to be open.

Truth be told, we’ve been driving the BMW M440i xDrive Convertible for years, long before the car ever existed (which is roughly since this spring). The car drives like some kind of primordial convertible, always as if it were a sunny afternoon in California – no matter if it’s freezing cold out, no matter if it’s raining, no matter where in the world. (The fact that the license plate on our car contains the letters CA, the official abbreviation for the state of California, is admittedly a bit kitschy, but hey, Hollywood isn’t exactly famous for its overly profound and intellectual cultural contributions either . . . )

The car drives like some kind of primordial convertible, always as if it were a sunny afternoon in California.

But let’s get back to our story. Where were we? Right, California. At least that’s what it feels like. Reality, however, presents itself in the form of German road markings and signposts with names on them like Bad Tölz or Tegernsee. But the landscape could very well be that of New ­Zealand’s South Island. Shimmering turquoise and dark green lakes, robust conifer and lush green broadleaf forests, open, inviting roads, white clouds in an azure blue sky. The BMW does the rest – and the music: 2Pac, Guns N’ Roses, The Beach Boys and, of course, The Mamas & the Papas. So there’s hardly anything left for the imagination to do. Californication made real in the Bavarian Alpine Foreland.

Even the local politicians see some California potential in Bavaria. Ahead of the upcoming elections this year, Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder said he wanted to turn his state into the “California of Germany”. Though he didn’t specify what exactly he meant by California. He was probably referring to the generally positive work-life balance there: productive workers who enjoy a good quality of life. More of a feeling, then.

Thanks to the all-wheel drive, any mountain road, no matter how steep, is no longer deserving of respectful restraint.
Onwards and upwards!

Speaking of productive, every curve taken in this BMW is a grand gesture, full of exhibitionism. And whenever the turbocharged inline-six is fully motivated by its additional 11 hp of mild hybrid technology, there’s something hedonistic about it that just delights the senses. It’s absurd and enlightening at once. And not just because the sun is actually shining right now. The engine is finely tuned and rhythmic, searching the mid rev range for hidden, powerful voices – and no more secrets once they’re found. And thanks to the all-wheel drive, any mountain road, no matter how steep, is no longer deserving of respectful restraint. Onwards and upwards! Of course, as a purist convertible driver, you may legitimately ask: Why all-wheel drive in such a beautiful convertible? Quite simply: for the sake of tradition. The chain of associations follows a straight line with terms such as soft top convertible, room for four, inline-six – a tradition that goes back to the 1980s and the E30. All-wheel drive also falls into this era at BMW, which introduced the four-wheel drive 325iX in 1985. Though the first all-wheel-drive convertible would take a little while longer.

In the end, however, everything revolves around the material, the fabric, the stuff. The stuff from which heroes are made, of course.

In the end, however, everything revolves around the material, the fabric, the stuff. The stuff from which heroes are made, of course. Road movies and all that. Legendary convertible rides through California flicker before the cinematic eye: ­Leaving Las Vegas, Thelma & Louise, or U Turn with Sean Penn, even though we’re always left with this emotional turmoil between phantom pain in the left hand and the sight of probably the hottest Jennifer Lopez in a film ever. A bit of madness, a bit of feigned vulnerability and a whole lot of sex appeal.

In the case of the new 4 Series convertible, however, it’s also a question of the stuff from which the roof is made. We recall an experience with the predecessor model: The metal roof retracted into the rear, and we cringed because the entire bodywork jolted as if someone had just attached a travel trailer with three or four generations of family members inside to the back of the car. The metal roof simply weighed too much. The new one is completely different. The roof has a lightness to it that a convertible simply has to have –because on a trip like this, everything has to be light and everything has to be possible.

The roof has a lightness to it that a convertible simply has to have – because on a trip like this, everything has to be light and everything has to be possible.

For those of you who actually managed to read this far and haven’t already set off in a convertible of your own, here’s some information about the color of our car: San Remo Green Metallic. Trying to make a connection between the color and the California lifestyle turned out to be too much work, however, which wouldn’t be very California at all.

So we’ll just leave it at that and end with a very easygoing “Keep on riding!” In whatever color you like.





BMW M440i xDrive Cabrio
Enginge: TwinPower Turbo inline-six
Hubraum: 2.998 ccm
Leistung: 374 HP (275 kW) with mild hybrid technology
Max. torque: 500 Nm at 1,900-5,000 rpm
0–100 KM/H: 4,9 s
Top speed: 250 km/h


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