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A cloth soft top could make the next BMW 4 Series Cabriolet lighter

Automakers are re-thinking the way they’ve been building cars in an effort to comply with the strict fuel economy and emissions regulations that are scheduled to come into effect in the coming years.

German enthusiast website Bimmer Today reports that the next BMW 4 Series Convertible will ditch the current model’s retractable hard top and adopt a more conventional power soft top. Surprisingly, the change will also affect the yet-unnamed roadster that will replace the Z4, a long-awaited model currently being designed jointly by BMW and industrial partner Toyota.

The decision was made because a cloth soft top is lighter than a folding metal hard top, and BMW is on a mission to shave as much weight from the topless 4 as possible. As a result, the sedan is also expected to benefit from the Munich-based car maker’s expertise in the field of composite materials such as carbon fiber.

Switching to a cloth soft top will also make the 4 more user-friendly. The current model’s top opens and closes at the push of a button in 20 seconds at speeds of up to only 11 mph. By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Convertible performs the same task in less than 20 seconds, and at up to 25 mph.

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Its top aside, the next-gen 4 is shaping up to be more of an evolution than a revolution. Lower and wider than the current model (pictured), it will reportedly stand out thanks to a more muscular-looking body, a lower roof-line, and a longer wheelbase. The story will be different on the inside, where the 4 will boast a long list of high-tech features gleaned from the new 7 Series including BMW’s remote-controlled parking technology and gesture-controlled infotainment system.

We’ll have to wait quite a while to see whether or not the rumors are true because the next BMW 4 Series Convertible isn’t scheduled to arrive until about 2021.