Introduced a year ago, the BMW 4 Series convertible shows us BMW’s fun side. We recently tested the entry-level 420i version and came away duly impressed.
At the recent introduction of BMW’s updated 4 Series Gran Coupé in Umhlanga, it dawned on me once more just how focused BMW products have become, considering the vast audiences that the brand needs to pander to.
It is by no means a phenomenon limited to the Bavarian automaker, but they have been positioning niche products with laser focus of late, and the brand seems to be exceedingly good at it.
Consider, then, our recent soirée in the baby of the 4 Series Convertible range, the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder 420i. In South Africa, convertible cars are absolutely fair-weather rides – driving with the top down while the summer sun blasts you from above is all but impossible for all but a handful of hours per day. And that’s if a Highveld thunderstorm doesn’t spoil your topless drive out to Harties.
That said, when conditions allow, cruising the boulevard in most convertibles will get you noticed, and if the reaction to BMW’s current design language is anything to go by, you will be turning heads.
Whether you love, or hate them humongous kidneys, the new BMW design language is here to stay, so without further ado, let’s get to grips with what topless driving in a BMW is like nowadays.
While BMW certainly has the most polarising grille design of the German luxury triumvirate, the car’s overall design is quite attractive. Being a 4 Series, it is low-slung and elegant, with plenty of pent-up energy flowing from the car’s purposeful nose and down its flanks. From the side, our tester appears even sportier with its optional 19″ wheels and striking LED lighting front and rear.
In keeping with its less-is-more approach to exterior styling, our test unit’s muted interior suits it well. Its all-black and full-leather interior, with brushed aluminium finishes, is beautifully understated and super comfortable. I particularly enjoyed the bolstered seats that are electrically adjustable (optional) and heated – a nice touch that extends the car’s usable timeframe in winter.
Although at the entry point of the 4 Series lineup, our 420i tester came standard with items that I would consider essential for any vehicle in this price bracket. This included climate control, keyless start and an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-enabled premium sound system. Our tester came sans active safety systems such as adaptive cruise control (although standard cruise control is included), blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keep assist. It does come standard with all the necessary safety systems, including six airbags, ABS with EBD, traction control, and Hill Start Assist. There is also PDC front and rear, although it did not have a rear-view camera.
ON THE ROAD
The first thing you will notice of the 420i Convertible is how lovely the suspension set-up is in this car. Softer sprung than its Coupé and Gran Coupé siblings, this convertible has boulevard cruising built into its DNA. Being a stickler for vehicles that are sprung too stiffly, I truly enjoyed the softer ride. Naturally, the downside is less sharp handling than other 4 Series derivatives, but don’t be fooled; the Convertible handles well despite its slightly heavier frame.
Steering is responsive if a little vague at lower speeds, but if you’re cruising with the roof down and the wind in your hair, who cares about all of that anyway?
Doing duty under the hood is BMW’s trusty 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that, in this application, is good for 135 kW of power and 300 Nm of torque, sent to the rear wheels via Beemer’s eight-speed Super Steptronic transmission. Slam it, and the 420i will get you to 100 km/h in a respectable 8.2 seconds, and should you decide to keep the pedal to the metal, the convertible 4 Series will top out at 236 km/h. Keep it cool, however, and the car will reward you with a decent range of approximately 750 km, at our tested 7.6-l/100 km average fuel consumption rate.
As polarising as the current BMW exterior design language is, so sublime are their interiors. The 4 Series Convertible takes it to a new level with driver-focused ergonomics, and simple yet luxurious appointments. At R931,066, it comes in a tad under its closest rival, the Mercedes-Benz C200 Cabriolet, which is a fair price for this car. If you love BMWs and love the outdoors, and don’t mind the kidney grille, you will absolutely adore the 420i Convertible.
Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR |Images © BMW SOUTH AFRICA