2014 BMW 4 SERIES REVIEW
Vehicle Style: midsized prestige convertible
Price: $97,500 (plus on-roads), $101,040 as-tested.
Engine/trans: 180kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.7 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km
For style and, importantly, the way it works, it is arguably the best-executed hardtop convertible around.
We spent a week behind the wheel of the mid-grade 428i model.
Though Melbourne’s frosty weather did its best to dissuade us, driving the 428i convertible around with its top down was not only comfortable, but great fun.
- Power retractable hardtop, cruise control, trip computer, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, Bluetooth (phone and audio), USB audio input, heated and powered front seats, front and rear parking sensors.
- Options fitted: Head-up display.
- Roof retracts in 20 seconds at speeds up to 18km/h. Retracted roof can be lifted up to aid loading of boot.
- Cargo space: 370 litres maximum, 220 with roof stowed
From the A-pillar back, the furnishings are familiar 4 Series. Front headroom isn’t compromised by the folding roof at all, and over-the-shoulder vision is better than the Coupe thanks to the absence of a B-pillar.
The front seats are electrically-adjusted and heated, and all four windows can be raised or dropped at the press of a single button. Perfect for enjoying the crisp cool air of a Melbourne winter.
The roof retracts electrically in 20 seconds, and can be operated at speeds up to 18km/h. The flimsy removable wind deflector, on the other hand, takes forever to set up and looks pretty dorky. We didn’t bother with it.
But while the front seats are comfortable, warm, and free from buffeting, the rear seats are cramped, upright, windy and have a shortage of headroom when the roof is raised.
So don't buy it for rear-seat accommodation. On the plus side, the 428i gets plenty of standard equipment.
Dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, BMW’s high-end navigation system and internet connectivity are all standard.
There’s very little need to delve into the options list, though there’s no shortage of gadgets if you feel like splurging on a head-up display, neck-level air-vents in the front seats, TV-tuner, digital radio-tuner or active cruise control - among others.
A folding hard top has advantages in security and soundproofing, but in the 428i Convertible it does come with a significant impact on cargo space.
The roof-down storage space of 220 litres is only good for a couple of overnight bags, though BMW has thoughtfully included a mechanism that raises the entire folded roof assembly (including the bootlid itself) should you wish to load those bags while the roof is retracted.
Leave the roof up though, and there’s a more meaningful load area of 370 litres. The rear seats also fold down to permit the carriage of larger, longer cargo.
ON THE ROAD
- 180kW/350Nm turbo petrol inline four
- 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Rear-wheel drive
- Disc brakes, electric power steering
- Electronically adjustable dampers
The 428i’s 2.0 litre turbocharged inline four makes 180kW and 350Nm, and takes drive to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
And though it’s a heavy thing at 1700kg unladen, the 428i can still sprint to 100km/h from standstill in a brisk 6.4 seconds.
At the wheel, it feels very quick - no anxious moments here when overtaking or sprinting into a flow of traffic. Credit that to the engine’s wide torque spread and the gearbox’s abundance of ratios.
Removing the roof from a car typically takes much of the torsional rigidity from it. Not so the 4 Series Convertible.
Scuttle-shake is all-but eliminated in the topless 4 Series. It feels rigid at the wheel, certainly considerably better than the floppy-feeling Audi A5 Cabriolet.
But the 428i Convertible is not quite as agile as its hardtopped sister.
The electric power steering is just as alert, but the extra weight of the roof blunts handling performance. Even the Adaptive M Suspension that’s standard on the 428i can’t overcome the awareness at the wheel of that extra mass.
That said, it’s still one of the better handling drop-tops around. This isn’t just a car for posers, it’s a genuine sports performer.
ANCAP rating: The BMW 4 Series has yet to be assessed by ANCAP
Safety features: Stability control (switchable), traction control (switchable), ABS, EBD, brake assist and three-point seatbelts are standard on every 4 Series Convertible.
Dual front and front side/head airbags are standard, but the Convertible’s body style doesn’t allow for side or head airbags for back seat passengers.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Audi A5 Cabriolet has been around for a while, but the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet is a fresher competitor. The Audi has a significant edge in terms of affordability, though it doesn't have the 'hewn-from-stone' feel of the BMW.
Infiniti’s Q60 Convertible is another alternative (and a far more powerful one), but is often overlooked.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The BMW 4 Series Convertible is, in our opinion, the best-looking four-seat luxury drop-top around.
But there's more than seductive sheetmetal to entice the sporting driver. Like a strong 2.0 litre turbo engine, healthy standard equipment list and tight, balanced RWD chassis.
It’s a heavy machine, there’s no doubt about that, but the performance and handling barely seems to notice this handicap.
And with the roof down, it’s a truly excellent way to get that little bit closer to nature - winter or summer.
(The 435i Convertible that sits above it is even more enticing, owing to its much more powerful inline six. Too bad it costs a poultice more.)
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- BMW 420d Convertible - $88,800
- BMW 428i Convertible - $97,500
- BMW 435i Convertible - $126,600
- Interested in buying BMW 428I? Visit our BMW showroom for more information.