What’s Hot: Buttoned-down chassis, RWD dynamics, snug fabric roof, reasonable boot capacity
What’s Not: Suspension fussy on bigger wheels, no heated seats in 220i.
X-FACTOR: The new 2 Series Convertible drives as great as it looks. If you can’t stretch the budget to the 4 Series, its smaller sibling is a more than worthy alternative.
Vehicle Style: 4-seat luxury convertible
Price: $54,900 (220i) to $85,800 (M235i)
135kW/270Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 8sp auto or 6sp manual
220i180kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 8sp auto or 6sp manual
240kW/450Nm 3.0 turbo petrol 6cyl | 8sp auto or 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.4 l/100km (220i), 6.6 l/100km (228i), 7.9 l/100km (M235i)
BMW Australia has added a fourth member to its range of drop-tops, with the 2 Series Convertible making its local debut this week.
Is the very start of autumn a wise time to launch a convertible? Maybe not, but BMW’s local operation had little say in the matter. As always in the world of cars, the Northern Hemisphere dictates terms.
But rug-up and drop that fabric roof, for the 2 Series is one of the better entry-level luxury convertibles around.
The premium over its hardtop equivalents is relatively modest at $3900 for the entry-level 220i, $4500 for the 228i and $5870 for the flagship M235i.
With a starting price of $54,900 it may not be the cheapest prestige convertible around, but it’s not wanting for desirability.
- Standard features: Dual-zone climate control, artificial leather upholstery, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, leather-upholstered steering wheel, cruise control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers.
- Infotainment: Navigation System Business with 6.5-inch display (220i and 228i), Navigation System Professional with 8.8-inch display (M235i), AM/FM/CD stereo, Bluetooth audio/phone integration, USB audio input.
- Storage space: 280 litres minimum, 335 litres maximum. Rear seat pass-through for loading long items.
Firstly, lets talk about that roof. Made from five layers of fabric (one more than the previous-gen E88 1 Series convertible) it's certainly snug inside with the roof in place.
BMW says roof-up cabin noise is no worse than the 2 Series coupe up to a speed of 150km/h, and we'd confirm it (at least to the legal limit, Officer).
It folds automatically with a single button press, and takes 20 seconds to stow and can be operated at speeds of up to a surprising 50km/h (few convertibles can manage that).
The car’s silhouette looks just as good with the roof down or up, but, roof down, wind noise and aerodynamic turbulence can be an issue at highway speeds.
The cabin can get pretty gusty at 100km/h; raising the windows quells it a little, but it’s only until you deploy the dorky folding wind deflector that turbulence becomes tolerable.
Do so, however, and you lose access to the rear seats - and $570 from your wallet.
Boot capacity is slightly down compared to the 2 Series coupe, with the convertible able to take 335 litres of gear with the roof raised and 280 litres with it folded.
Nevertheless, against the old 1 Series convertible’s roof up/down capacity this represents an increase of 30 litres and 20 litres respectively. It's enough for a couple of weekend bags, plus a set of golf clubs
Disregarding the absence of a solid roof and a slightly smaller boot, the 2 Series Convertible's cabin is familiar territory.
The dash, seats, centre console and door cards are identical, though the seatbelt is a tad harder to reach thanks to the absence of a B-pillar.
The back seat isn’t much more cramped than the 2 Series coupe, and has the added bonus of being easier to get into when the roof is folded. Legroom is in short supply, but head and shoulder room is adequate for the average adult.
Man-made Sensatec 'leather' is the standard upholstery. But, opt for the $1300 Luxury line in the 220i (it's a no-cost option in the 228i) and you get real hide - along with lashings of chrome and higher-grade wood trim.
It's an attractive, no-nonsense cabin, but after a day behind the wheel the hard plastic A-pillar trims made it lose a little of its lustre. Rough roads also revealed some creaking dash plastics.
Specification levels mostly mirror those of its fixed-roof sibling, but the lack of standard heated seats in the 220i is a significant oversight for a drop-top - especially if you live in colder cities like Melbourne (where BMW convertibles happen to be more popular than in Sydney).
Counteracting that is the addition of a reversing camera as standard equipment for all models, though front parking sensors remain an option for the base 220i.
If you also want power seats and bi-xenon headlamps, be prepared to dive into the options list and spend.
ON THE ROAD
135kW/270Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol inline four - 220i
180kW/350Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol inline four - 228i
240kW/450Nm 3.0 litre turbo petrol inline six - M235i
Eight-speed auto or six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive.
Electric power steering, variable-ratio rack on 228i and M235i
MacPherson strut front, Multi-link rear suspension
The engine range mirrors the 2 Series coupe, with the notable exception of a diesel 220d model. Unlike the 4 Series, the 2 Series convertible line-up is a diesel-free zone.
That leaves three petrol engines: the 135kW/270Nm 220i, the 180kW/350Nm 228i and the 240kW/450Nm M235i. All take power to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic as standard, and outputs are identical to the coupe.
Weight is substantially different though, with the 220i convertible weighing 165kg more than the coupe and the 228i convertible being 150kg heavier. It may be more torsionally rigid than the previous-gen E88, but the trade-off is added mass.
And that blunts performance a little. The 220i convertible is 0.6 seconds slower to 100km/h than the 220i coupe, while the 228i and M235i convertibles are 0.3 and 0.2 seconds slower respectively.
We only had the chance to drive the 220i and 228i at the launch, thanks to supply issues delaying the arrival of the M235i until April.
The 220i provides adequate power and torque, but it’s the 228i that’s the better machine. The extra muscle of the 228i’s turbo 2.0 litre four-pot helps offset the convertible’s extra mass, and its generous low-end torque confers excellent tractability.
BMW’s eight-speed auto is a pearler, as always. Manual shifts are smooth and quick, it’s near-seamless in auto mode and it will hold the engine against redline in manual mode (provided the stability control is set to the more permissive DTC mode).
Feel like a proper three-pedal manual? You’re in the minority, but BMW are happy to oblige with a six-speed manual gearbox at no extra cost. Kudos to them.
Thankfully the lack of a roof has had minimal impact on the core driving experience of the 2 Series Convertible.
Scuttle shake is minimal and only rears its head on heavily pockmarked roads; the steering is sharp and responsive and the front/rear weight distribution is an ideal 50:50.
Go for the 228i or the M235i, and you get a wonderfully tight variable-ratio steering rack too.
Ride comfort is at its best on the standard 17-inch alloys of the 220i, though there’s a slight trade off in grip.
The larger 18-inch alloys and wider rear tyres of the 228i (cost options on the 220i) handle corners better, but introduce a fussy ride over small-amplitude bumps.
Both models feel a touch floaty over longer undulations, though the M Sport suspension that comes with the M Sport Package ($5200 for the 220i, $3120 for the 228i) feels tauter and more buttoned-down.
An adaptive electronically-adjustable suspension is also available, costing $1400 on top of the M Sport Pack.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 2 Series Convertible sits in a tiny segment with few direct competitors.
RWD drop-top options in this price category are pretty much limited to this and the Infiniti Q60, and the Q60 is an ancient thing right now. Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class convertible arrives later in 2015, but will likely cost more.
Audi’s A3 Cabrio comes closest to the 2 Series Convertible in size, though it’s significantly cheaper and a FWD/AWD proposition rather than a more dynamically-pure RWD.
The Audi is no match for the BMW in terms of chassis poise, and the 2 Series arguably boasts better proportions and a more pleasing exterior design. The latter is entirely subjective though, beauty being in the eye of the beholder and whatnot.
Most crucially for the BMW, however, lopping off the roof hasn’t spoiled the drive. It may be a little slower, heftier and less rigid than its steel-roofed sibling, but it’s a cracking convertible all the same.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
220i Convertible - $54,900
228i Convertible - $68,900
M235i Convertible - $85,800