First drive: BMW 4 Series Convertible
What is it?
There was once a time when life was far simpler. The 3 Series Convertible was just a drop-top version of the perennial 3 Series saloon. But how times have changed and in a bid to widen its range and attract more customers, BMW has created a whole new model range. The 3 Series Convertible of old has been replaced by this: the 4 Series Convertible, and it's very much a model in its own right. Lower, wider and longer than the 3 Series drop-top it replaces, it has a folding metal roof which can be raised or lowered in just 20 seconds.
What's under the bonnet?
The range consists of two petrol engines and one diesel choice. The 435i we tested leads the line-up with its straight-six 3.0-litre petrol engine, which develops 306bhp. The car can sprint from zero to 60mph in just 5.4 seconds, on the way to an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph. Average fuel consumption is from 34.9mpg and CO2 emissions are from 190g/km. In a nutshell? It's quick – and hardly breaks a sweat even when pushed hard on our test route in the mountain ranges of southern Spain. The 428i variant, equipped with a two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, produces as much as 245bhp with peak torque of 350Nm. The zero-to-60mph dash can be completed in 6.2 seconds; average fuel consumption is 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions stand at 159g/km. The diesel choice is the 420d Convertible and is likely to be the best-seller. Equipped with the latest four-cylinder diesel engine with bang up-to-date common-rail direct injection technology, this version can get to 60mph in 8.0 seconds and press on to 146mph. A six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed auto are available across the range.
What's the spec like?
The level of standard equipment is very high. This is a car that is very comprehensively specced, with Xenon headlights, heated leather seats, front and rear parking sensors as standard plus plenty of other goodies. The standard SE trim level can be built upon with the Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport trims. The Sport model features a high-gloss black finish for exterior body elements in the front and rear bumpers and kidney grille slats. With the Modern model, matt chrome and satin highlight the exterior details and trim. Inside, the light-coloured dashboard, with a steering wheel in dark oyster, creates an airy feel. Luxury cars include chrome exterior details plus BMW's Business Media Package. Moving on up, the M Sport is the car in its sportiest guise, with M Sport suspension and braking plus clever design touches to make the car even more aerodynamic and a generous dollop of coveted M branding throughout.
Yes, there are – the usual German protagonists in the shape of the Audi A5 Cabriolet and Mercedes E Class Convertible.
Is it any good?
In a word, yes. We were very impressed with pretty much everything the car had to offer. The diesel version in particular was something of a revelation – refined, quiet and silky smooth. Imagine putting the words 'diesel' and 'convertible' together 10 or 15 years ago! Things would have been rather different. Price-wise, BMW has done well too, with the range starting from a not-too-scary £36,675 for their predicted best-seller.
AOL Cars verdict
There's been no shortage of publicity surrounding this car in the run-up to its arrival in UK showrooms on March 8 – and pretty much all of it positive. In motoring magazine road tests with its aforementioned rivals, it has been put at the top of the class and we'd have no reason to argue. Stylish, sporty and speedy, with impeccable design and engineering credentials, it's pretty much the complete package and is sure to do well.
Model: BMW 435i M Sport Convertible
Price: £45,470 (as tested)
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six petrol
Power: 306bhp, 400Nm Max
0-60mph: 5.4 seconds
Emissions: 190g/km CO2
Report by Dave Brown