As surely as outrage follows a federal budget, the introduction of the BMW 4 Series coupe was followed by the 4 Series convertible. Its predecessor, the E93 3 Series convertible finally bowed out almost two years after the death of its sedan basis.
Convertibles are always a tricky proposition for a keen driver – they’re often best in a basic engine and suspension tune to mask the deficiencies of a car missing its roof.
The car we tested was fitted with BMW’s crackerjack turbo straight-six, adaptive suspension and M Sport package. There’s a lot of promise behind the propellor and M badges as well as under the bonnet – can a car that’s based on a sedan survive decapitation?
Along with an eight-speed automatic coupled with the 3.0 turbo six comes a dizzying array of standard inclusions and options.
On the standard features list is adaptive suspension, cruise control, variable steering, bi-xenon headlights with LED fog lights front and rear, parking sensors front and rear with reversing camera, keyless entry, dual zone climate control, bluetooth, 8.8-inch monitor and sat-nav.
The M Sport package adds 19-inch wheels, ambience lighting, chrome tailpipes, black gloss on the famed BMW kidney grille, a body kit, M-branded sill plates and the very attractive and chunky-rimmed M steering wheel.
To go with the retractable folding hard top are heated leather seats featuring what BMW calls an air collar. This is a vent built into the front seats at neck level that bathes your neck with warm air. It’s more drill sergeant than paramour but is remarkably effective.
Add the slightly awkward removable wind shield and you could cheerfully gad about town roof down at close to zero temperatures without dressing for the occasion.
Our test car added metallic paint ($1840), magnificent but hugely expensive adaptive LED headlights ($3300), heads-up ($1700), DAB digital radio ($500), driving assistant ($900), surround view ($1300) and M Sport brakes ($1400).
The 4 Series coupe has a lovely profile that doesn’t quite make the transition to convertible unscathed. The folding roof is a little more bubble-like but does have slightly better rear headroom as a result. When folded away, the roof sits flush beneath the rear deck (while robbing you of what’s left of a postbox boot).
In times past, the convertible version of the ‘3 was a bit of a bathtub but this one seems to have worked out a way to look good while still accommodating four people in reasonable comfort. For a bit of perspective, the much larger Bentley GTC is not as pleasant for back seat layabouts as the BMW.
Inside is a slightly modified 4 Series which in turn draws heavily on the 3. So no bad thing at all apart from the screen which still looks like you could unplug and pop it in your bag, rather than a part of the car.
Minor changes include relocation of the microphone for bluetooth (which means it works very well top down) and the boot release is gone.
Safety is taken care of by four airbags (no curtains), ABS, stability and traction control and cornering braking control. There is no ANCAP or European NCAP star rating at this time.
Additionally, the BMW convertible has rollover protection which pops up a pair of hoops behind the rear passenger’s heads if the car senses a rollover. Active protection also tightens the seat belts and if the roof is closed will shut the windows.
The optional driving assist package features lane departure and obstacle warnings, the latter displaying alerts in the also-optional head-up display.
The 8.8-inch screen sits proudly on the top of the dash and can be split into two parts, say sat-nav on the left and music on the right. The sat-nav is excellent and the directions are also beamed onto the windscreen in the head-up display.
Entertainment is courtesy of 12 speakers from Harmon Kardon and handles roof-down duties passably well. The chunky iDrive rotary dial is easy to use and also has a scribble pad in the top, perfect for lefties.
The DAB digital radio is good if you can’t stand the dross on the AM/FM band but suffers from the usual problem of failing thanks to Sydney’s fixation on tunnels.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Under the bonnet is the three-litre straight six turbo available in everything from a 1 Series to a 7 Series. In the 435i it develops 225kW and 400Nm of torque and in our case was attached to the peerless ZF eight-speed automatic.
In Sport mode it’s even got a crackle on the upshift and a burble when you get off the throttle barrelling into a corner. It would be nice if it were louder, though.
BMW claims 7.7 litres per 100 km in the combined cycle but that’s next to impossible – we saw 12.6 L/100km because we were having a lot of fun and the convertible is a heavyweight.
Try as they have, BMW’s engineers cannot dial out the effect of an extra 225 kg over the coupe. Even with adaptive damping, the drive just isn’t as good as the coupe, but the ride is.
The problem with the extra weight is that it’s in the boot and quite high – a result of all that gear to fold the roof and lift the boot and entertain others in the process. The shell is reasonably stiff with clear air above your head but there’s a little bit of shimmy in the steering wheel.
Swift progress through the corners is good up to a point and then there’s understeer, and a fair bit of it. It’s not awful or terminal, but the convertible just doesn’t have the lightness and fleetness of the coupe.
You can’t fault the hard-charging engine or brilliant transmission, but 1750 kg is a lot of car to drag around.
But you’re not really buying a convertible for serious driving, are you? The 435i is an advanced boulevardier, with a lovely rich seam of torque for wafting around with the roof down. It’ll dismiss overtaking maneouvres and give a good account of itself off the lights.
SUMMING UP 4/5
While the BMW 435i doesn’t prove the rule that you’re better off with the base model, it isn’t super-convincing either. It is a lot of fun and given the choice, that engine is so addictive it would be hard to say no.
On its own two feet BMW 435i is predictably brilliant as fast convertible but it’s no lithe sportster. As long as you’re not expecting that, you’ll most likely love it.
AT A GLANCE
420i 2.0-litre turbo-petrol two-door convertible: $87,000 (manual or automatic)
420d 2.0-litre turbo-diesel two-door convertible: $89,300 (manual or automatic)
428i 2.0-litre turbo-petrol two-door convertible: $98,000 (manual or automatic)
435i 2.0-litre turbo-petrol two-door convertible: $126,630 (manual or automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local BMW dealer for drive away prices.
ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering wheel mounted controls: Standard in all models
SPECIFICATIONS (BMW 435i Convertible 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol two-door convertible)
Engine Capacity: 2.979 litres
Configuration: Six cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.2:1
Bore/Stroke: 89.6 mm x 84.0 mm
Maximum Power: 225 kW @ 5800-6400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 400 Nm @ 1200-5000 rpm
Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Six-speed
Automatic Transmission: Eight-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 3.154:1
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4638 mm
Wheelbase: 2810 mm
Width: 1825 mm
Height: 1384 mm
Turning Circle: 11.3 metres
Kerb Mass: 1750 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Towing Ability: 750 kg
Boot Capacity: 370 litres (220 litres with roof folded)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson struts, coil springs
Rear Suspension: Coil springs
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc
0-100 km/h Acceleration: 6.4 seconds
Type: Petrol 95RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.4 L/100km (7.7 L/100 km automatic)
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 6.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 8.5/10
Three years/unlimited km