All photos courtesy BMW/Fabian Kirchbauer Photography.

The thrill of the grille: BMW’s M440i Convertible

Oh, that grille. Kidneys this swollen typically require a trip to the emergency room.

But this is BMW telling the world to go big or go home. And in BMW’s new 4 Series Convertible, that frontal ornamentation is part of the car’s brash, head-spinning persona.

The last-generation convertible — when it was called a 3 Series — came with a three-piece folding metal roof that was heavy, complex, and messed with trunk space. 

That said, with the hardtop raised, it did turn the convertible into a lovely, elegant coupe, essentially offering owners the joy of having two cars in one. 

This latest version opts for a lighter cloth roof that can raise and lower in just 18 seconds, and while you’re on the move at up to 31 mph. Perfect when a sudden downpour catches you out in stop-start traffic.

The cloth roof also adds to its practicality, allowing you to actually store stuff in the trunk with the top lowered. With the previous folding hardtop sitting in the trunk, the opening for feeding in bags was about the size of a mail slot.

Press the switch, send the top scuttling back, and instantly you feel at peace with the world as those first rays of sun caress your face. 

And the beauty of BMW’s new 4 Series drop-top is that the “4” could stand for four as in the number of seats. OK, so kneeroom in the back is hardly stretch-limo-esque. But they’re just fine for short trips to the beach, or to dinner, or for ice cream.

Power-wise, this drop-top 4 comes in a trio of flavors. First stop is the entry 430i with its 255-horse turbo four-cylinder. At the top of the heap is the rip-snorting, scary-fast 503-hp M4.

My favorite? That’s the mid-range M440i that I’ve just spent a blissful week driving. It comes with a 3.0-liter turbo inline six-cylinder coupled with BMW’s eBoost 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance. 

Combined, it punches out an impressive 382 horseys with more silky-smoothness than a jar of warm molasses. 

No, eBoost won’t have you whirring around town like some open-top Tesla. The system gives a little extra oomph for off-the-line acceleration and adds some smoothness to the stop-start function. That’s it.

But as you’d expect from the purveyors of the Ultimate Driving Machine, this M440i is an absolute joy to drive. It’s fast — as in 0-to-60mph in just 4.1 seconds – refined, agile, fun, nimble, athletic, and a slingshot through the curves. 

And while it’s as happy as a clam cruising around, top down, taking in the sights and sounds, it does have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde duality. Go into “sport” mode, pull back on a paddle shifter, stand on the gas and hang on.

Its rock-out-of-a-catapult acceleration really does steal your breath, and with the assorted snaps, crackles, pops and barks from the exhaust, it feels as if the car is truly alive.

You’ll pay $64,200 for a super-well-equipped M440i Convertible, or $66,200 with xDrive all-wheel drive. With a few options, like the $1,300 Dynamic Handling Package and $3,700 Executive Package — neither of which you need — our tester topped out at $74,870.

But as much as I loved all that power and the creamy-smoothness of an inline six-cylinder, truth be told, I’d be deliriously happy with the $53,300 430i Convertible. 

Pay the $3,200 for the M Sport Package to get those gorgeous 19-inch M wheels and macho Shadowline trim, and you have one very cool car.

And the money you save can be put toward hydronephrosis treatment. It’s for swollen kidneys.