BMW 4 Series Convertible first drive

BMW 4 Series ConvertibleDespite the horrendous weather we suffer at times, the UK has so far maintained its position as the second best selling Convertible/Cabriolet market in Europe after Germany for new car sales.


Joining the ranks in this month is the BMW 4 Series Convertible which replaces the 3 Series drop-top from March. The newcomer, with its folding hard-top roof, looks nearly identical to the 4 Series Coupe launched last year with the roof up and with it down it looks like a stylish four seater cruiser.

It is longer, lower and wider than the outgoing 3 Series Convertible so that gives more leg and headroom for the two rear seat passengers and easier access into the rear seats. There is also a larger boot, 370-litres with the roof up and 220-litres with the roof folded into the top section of the boot. The electrically operated hard top, three section roof can open or close in 20 seconds at speeds up to 8mph.

Prices start from £36,675 for the 420d, 184hp, SE turbodiesel version rising up to £45,470 for the 435i M Sport, six cylinder turbocharged petrol 306hp variant. The price increase over the outgoing 3 Series drop-top are minimal – £375 to £495 despite the extra space and added value equipment worth £1,500.

There is a choice of two petrol and one diesel engines from launch this month with two diesel engines to follow shortly. The petrol units are the 435i and the 428i and the diesel is the 420d. To come is the 425d and the 430d which has as standard xDrive four wheel drive. The 420d engine is expected to account for 60% of the 4,500 annual UK sales of the 4 Series Convertible.

There are five trim and equipment levels available, depending on the engine chosen. These are SE, Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport and all offer significant equipment upgrades over the outgoing 3 Series Convertible models. The M Sport specification is expected to be the most popular taking 65% of UK sales. This means the single best selling version will be the 420d M Sport costing £39,675.

BMW 4 Series ConvertibleBMW 4 Series ConvertibleBMW 4 Series ConvertibleBMW 4 Series ConvertibleThe new 4 Series Convertible is mostly about proportions as it has the latest BMW signature styling with a long bonnet, short overhangs, set back passenger compartment and a wide stance due to the increase in front and rear tracks. The new Convertible sits 10mm closer to the ground than the latest 3 Series Saloon which lowers the Cabriolet’s centre of gravity. Over the outgoing 3 Series Convertible the 4-Series has been extended by 26mm which doesn’t sound much but the 4,638mm length makes it look a far more imposing vehicle. Inside the 50mm increase in wheelbase length improves rear passenger legroom and the extra length of the roofline also helps rear passenger headroom.

A new sound absorbing roof-lining is used and the optional £265 wind deflector is now wider and it can now be stowed when not in use behind the rear seats to save space. Also there is an optional £170 through-loading system which provides a flat load floor when the backrest of the rear bench seat is folded down. The boot of the new model is 20-litres larger than the outgoing 3 Series version, a small amount but every little bit of space is useful. With the roof raised the 370-litres of space is ample but with the roof folded into the boot the space is only 220-litres, barely enough for two soft luggage bags. The folded roof can be electrically lifted slightly out of the way making it easier to load items into the ‘safe’ area beneath it.

Whilst the wind-deflector does a good job for more open-top comfort a new addition, a £360 three-temperature Air Collar positioned in the top of the front two seats is welcome keeping at least front seat passengers warm with the roof down in colder temperatures. Heated front seats are standard on all versions as is air conditioning. Dakota leather upholstery with sun reflective technology is standard fit on all models. The steel rollover bars are hidden behind the rear seats and in a critical situation are extended in less than 200-milliseconds

Inside the new Convertible is really a carry-over from the layout of the 4 Series Coupe which means it is classy with a familiar BMW dashboard with clear, well placed and easy to read instruments and there is the usual and very good iDrive system with its flat-screen monitor fitted as standard.

All versions have a significantly higher level of standard equipment than the outgoing 3 Series Convertible and there is a wide range of options and option packs. As standard the 4 Series Convertible is fitted with front and rear parking sensors, sports multi-function steering wheel, air conditioning, DAB radio, cruise control, Bluetooth, drive performance control, xenon headlights. SE versions have 17-inch wheels and grades above that have 18-inch ones and all are shod with run-flat tyres. The best selling top of the range M Sport models gain a bodykit, sports suspension, , sports seats, Drive Performance Control with ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes and the media package which includes the navigation system.

During the media launch in southern Spain I had the chance to try the 420d with SE specification and the 435i M Sport. In fact it will be a combination of both that will sell best, the 420d with M Sport spec.

BMW 4 Series ConvertibleBMW 4 Series ConvertibleThe 420d with its 184hp turbodiesel engine and six speed manual gearbox will return 53.3mpg in the Combined Cycle which we achieved fairly easily on a sedate run. The CO2 emissions are 138g/km so VED road tax is a reasonable £125 a year. The eight speed automatic gearbox version reduces emissions further to 131g/km but the road tax cost is the same. Company car drivers will pay 23% from April for the manual and 22% for the auto. Top speed is 146mph manual and 142mph auto and zero to 62mph takes 8.2 seconds for both.

With this engine the new weighty Convertible is a long legged cruiser, it performs best on the open road rather than dealing with enthusiastic driving especially on winding, hilly roads. If a relaxed drive with optimum fuel efficiency is needed this is the engine to go for which most customers will. The SE spec is no more than adequate so I can see why more UK customers will go for the flashier and more comprehensive kit offered by the M Sport specification.

It is not such a clear choice to choose the 435i, M Sport, 3.0-litre, straight six, turbocharged petrol engine, the ‘halo’ powerplant of the range. Yes the 306hp is impressive and the massive torque of 400Nm (295lb ft) makes the car responsive accelerating from low speeds but considering the extra price and the higher running costs the performance didn’t feel special enough to warrant paying £45,470 instead of £39,675 for the 420d M Sport.

However the 435i with a six speed manual or eight speed automatic gearboxes has a top speed of 155mph and zero to 62mph takes 5.6 seconds. Fuel economy is 33.6mpg (28.5mpg on test) for the manual and 36.7mpg for the auto. CO2 emissions are 195g/km manual and 180g/km auto. This means VED First Year rate road tax is £475 and £335 respectively. Company car drivers will pay 32% for the manual and 29% for the auto and of course the yet to be confirmed insurance group costs will be much higher for the 435i.

For me the 420d would be the most practical engine of choice because the 4 Series Convertible is not meant to be a sports car, it a machine to enjoy and savour on those long hot sunny Summer days – remember them?

MILESTONES. BMW 420d M Sport Convertible (Best selling model). Price: £39,675.
Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbodiesel 184hp, 380Nm (280lb ft) of torque, 6-speed manual, rear wheel drive. Performance: 146mph, 0-62mph 8.2 seconds, 53.3mpg Combined Cycle (53mpg on test), CO2 138g/km, VED road tax £125, BIK company car tax 23% from April. Insurance group: TBC. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. Dimensions/capacities: 2-doors, 4-seats, L 4,638mm, boot 370-litres roof up, 220-litres roof down. For: Classy styling for a four-seat cruiser, improved rear seat legroom with more headroom for rear passengers with minimal price increases over the outgoing 3 Series Convertible, well equipped, high quality throughout, easy to use folding hard top roof, wide range of options. Against: Limited boot space with the roof down, handling feels heavy and less agile than the 3 Series Convertible, the choice of engine and the extra cost options need to be chosen carefully to meet owner’s realistic needs. Miles better news agency

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