Should modern cars really try to juggle so many different traits? It seems so many vehicles are offered with practical features, luxury accommodations and sporty handling, making them very compromised.
|Engine: 2.0L turbo four-cylinder makes 240 hp, 255 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel Economy: 21 MPG city, 33 MPG highway, 25 MPG Avg.
Price: Starts at $49,700, comes to $65,225 as tested.
The BMW 428i seems to suffer from the fate of this circus act, emerging as a decent car, but one that doesn’t quite live up to its potential as an Ultimate Driving Machine. Outfitted with all-wheel drive and all the luxury trimmings, this convertible seems to be just capable of managing daily driver duties and strays further from BMW’s personality of delivering fun-to-drive premium cars.
Roof Lost, Weight Gained
The slick-looking 4 Series loses little in the transformation to a hard-top convertible. Rather, the car gains weight and tips the scales to an eye-popping 4,160 lbs. That makes the convertible a little more than 500 lbs. heavier than its all-wheel-drive coupe counterpart. To put that in perspective, our 428i tester is just 20 lbs. shy of of a diesel-powered 5 Series.
Where some hardtop convertibles tend to get a little frumpy in terms of exterior design in order to accommodate the motors and space for the roof mechanism, the 4 Series manages to retain its sleek profile.
Compared to the 3 Series Convertible it follows, the 4 Series features a longer wheelbase, wider track and lower ride height. It looks sporty and has a lower center of gravity compared to the outgoing model.
Inside, BMW doesn’t stray too far from its design formula. Our tester featured red leather upholstery. Adjustable seats and bolsters allow you to quickly find your comfort zone, although I would be happier if they could sit lower in the car. The iDrive screen and rear-view mirror sit together too closely and impede your forward view. On the other hand, the lack of a B-pillar between the side windows helps make up the difference.
Ergonomically, there are no complaints about BMW’s design, although there are a few hard plastics to be found around the cabin. We noted some panel gaps, like those by the inner door-handles, that hint that BMW may be slipping when it comes to build quality.
The rear seats can accommodate children or smaller adults, while a foldable wind deflector can be placed back there when there are no passengers to reduce buffeting. The deflector is big, folds in half and is a bit of a handful to remove it when the top is up. There’s little space inside the car to fold it up and an extra set of hands to help is recommended in this situation.
The trunk is also pretty small with just 7.8 cubic feet with the top down and 13 with the top up. In the real world, this means that your groceries may get treated to a first-class upgrade to the rear-seats from the coach-like trunk. The rear seats fold down 40/20/40 to accommodate slightly larger items.
Our tester features a number of high-tech additions and comfort features, including neck warmers that blow hot air onto your neck as part of the cold weather package.
Slow and Steady, yet Refined and Efficient
Yes, you read that right – this 428i xDrive drop-top falls short of delivering the good sensations that past BMW coupes have been known for. Blame the added weight of the roof and the all-wheel drive system, as it just doesn’t feel particularly agile or sporty. Additionally, there’s not much feedback from the electric power steering setup, which gives the car a fairly lifeless feel. A little bit of extra steering heft can be added by activating the Sport, or Sport Plus driving modes, but that doesn’t inject the steering with any more feedback. Further detracting from the tight feeling of the car is the soft suspension, which seems more in character with the brands bigger sedans, than its coupes.
However, the powertrain is hard to criticize; particularly if you like a smooth revving turbocharged engine and a fuel efficient eight-speed transmission. While the 240-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is a little underpowered in such a heavy car, the motor still feels smooth and refined. BMW claims the car will reach 60 MPH in a respectable 6.2 seconds. In reality, the car isn’t particularly exciting, even with the more immediate throttle response programmed into the Sport and Sport Plus modes. Those looking for something more exciting may want to opt for the 435i version that uses a 300-hp turbocharged inline six.
Mated to these engines is an eight-speed transmission that has to be one of the best we’ve ever tested. It doles out smooth shifts when driven delicately and snaps the car into each gear when driven hard. It’s quick and responsive to your driving style. Furthermore, it fires off some very satisfying rev-matched downshifts in S mode.
Through a week of testing, this eight-speed managed to help the car consistently deliver roughly 35 MPG on the highway, better than the cars 33-MPG rating. Otherwise you can expect to average around 25 MPG. If you’re looking for more, there’s also an “Eco Pro” mode that will dial back the throttle response and HVAC settings to maximize fuel efficiency. A start-stop system is also standard, though it is particularly abrupt.
Topless and Expensive
Top down motoring is top-notch. It’s quiet and comfortable with little cowl-shake or jiggle. It takes just 20 seconds to drop the roof and the operation can be done in motion up to 11 MPH.
With the top up, the car is fairly quiet for a convertible, though small nuances like rain-drops on the roof did sound amplified.
Speaking of rain, the xDrive all-wheel drive system was flawless on slick roads, offering plenty of grip. BMW says the rear-biased system can dial out understeer and over steer by sending power to the appropriate axle.
Starting at $49,700 including delivery, the 4 Series convertible is about $7,000 more than the coupe. Our all-wheel drive tester left the factory almost fully loaded save the active handling and technology packages. Even without those, it still stickers at $65,225. It’s not cheap, but the car is available with some excellent features, including heads up display, automatic high-beam headlights, parking assists and cameras.
It’s an adequate convertible for everyday use, but it falls short of BMW’s reputation for building exciting performance cars. With good fuel economy, a soft suspension, all-wheel drive and a long list of convenience features, the 428i convertible isn’t an “Ultimate Driving Machine,” but at least it’s comfortable.