Motoring: A stunning conversion
PUBLISHED: 18:37 13 October 2014 | UPDATED: 18:37 13 October 2014
BMW's new 4 Series Convertible is a stunner rain or shine, says motoring editor Andy Russell
When it comes to convertibles I have always been a bit of a softie. I like people to know I am driving a soft-top, even when snugly cocooned inside in the warm in the middle of winter.
Despite BMW offering a soft-top in the smaller 2 Series, maybe I have just been converted myself with the new BMW 4 Series Convertible – the Coupe-spawned sun-seeker.
Replacing the 3 Series – which now comprises the more practical mainstream saloon, Touring and Gran Turismo – the 4 Series Convertible is longer and wider than its predecessor which makes it sleeker and gives it a more dynamic character.
It’s a stunner whether you have the roof up or down. So, alongside the new Coupe, the new numbering brings exclusivity to the ‘4’ so to speak.
Bigger on the outside means bigger inside too and that helped sway me towards this hard-top convertible with its three-panel roof that concertinas into and out off the boot in 20 seconds at speeds up to 8mph. It really does give the best of both worlds. Roof up, it is easy to mistake it for the Coupe, unless you spot the tight shut lines and hinge points between the roof panels, and with more cabin space, particularly in the back, there is no sense of being hemmed in as there tends to be in soft-tops with chunky fabric roofs and small windows. Roof down – it’s just a right ray of sunshine.
With the low roof you’re not going to get your arthritic aunt in the back but it’s not an issue if you are reasonably supple – my biggest gripe was how slowly the electric front seats moved forward to open up the access to the back. You can seat four adults in the 4 Series if those up front aren’t greedy when it comes to legroom and some family saloon cars have less headroom in the back. The two rear seats are shapely and supportive but have very upright backs.
The bigger boot has a useful 370-litre capacity with the roof up but is awkwardly shaped due to the roof mechanism. With the roof stowed there are still 220 litres but it is shallow so limited to soft, squidgy bags. For longer loads the rear bench seat backrest folds down.
With the roof up it is quiet and refined, even crusing on the motorway, and noise levels are not unduly tiring in convertible mode. A clever touch is the wind deflector, part of the £695 convertible comfort package along with a heated steering wheel and warm air collar in the front seat, which folds up and clips upright on to the rear seat back.
For a convertible the ride is impressive – more so given that my test car was fitted with bigger 19in alloy wheels and the £750 adaptive M Sport suspension. The ride was on the firm side and tyre noise was noticeable on rough surfaces but there were no jarring thumps over bumps and no telltale squeaks and creaks that the body is flexing.
Unfortunately the extra body bracing, needed with no fixed roof, and the electric roof mechanism means the Convertible weighs 235kg more than the Coupe – that’s like carrying three adults – which slightly blunts the sharp handling.
With a good range of TwinPower Turbo petrol and diesel engines on offer, the 2.0-litre diesel will be the big seller but don’t dismiss the 2.0-litre turbo petrols in 420i and 428i. The last time I drove a 328i it had the 2.5-litre, straight-six engine but, while the four-cylinder turbo petrol doesn’t have the same silky smoothness or characterful note, it’s better on fuel with 35 to 40mpg in mixed motoring.
BMW’s simple fascia with clear instruments, a quality feel to the controls and the excellent iDrive controller for vehicle functions is still classically simple so it’s a shame the lines are spoiled by the fixed touchscreen perched high up.
Available in SE, Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport trims, all have their own individual character but come with generous levels of equipment.
BMW’s 4 Series Convertible may have a hard roof but it’s hard not to be swayed by its classy charm.
■ Price: 428i from £36,675 (Luxury £39,515).
■ Engine: 1,997cc, 245hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol.
■ Performance: 0-62mph 6.4 secs; top speed 155mph.
■ MPG: Urban 32.1; extra urban 49.6; combined 41.5 (automatic 32.8, 51.4, 42.8).
■ CO2 emissions: 159g/km.
■ Insurance group: 36.
■ Size: Length 4,638mm; width 2,017mm; height 1,384mm.