We dip the lid

It’s bulkier and slower than the coupe but this 4 Se­ries doffs its top

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@news.com.au

THERE’S no need to wait for the lat­est Transformers movie, just pull up a chair and watch the new 4 Se­ries switch from coupe to con­vert­ible.

The fold­ing of the steel lid takes just 20 sec­onds and the trans­for­ma­tion is a thing of beauty. It is a sim­ple ex­pe­ri­ence for the owner, yet the me­chan­ics are ex­tremely com­pli­cated. Once the lid has re­tracted into the boot, you can press an­other but­ton and the folded metal pan­els, now stacked to­gether, rise up 40cm, al­low­ing you to feed in a long item, maybe a surf­board or per­haps a joust­ing stick, be­fore it drops back down.

The 4 Se­ries frame has also been re­vised to al­low the rear seats to fold down, open­ing up more cargo room. Some cus­tomers may never use this fea­ture, but the ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy shows how far car com­pa­nies go to im­prove the own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence and, in this case, make con­vert­ibles eas­ier to live with.

This is an easy car to like, un­less you ex­pect it to deliver hard sports car thrills.

The 4 Se­ries ti­tle is part of BMW’s new nam­ing struc­ture, in which the 3 Se­ries coupe and 3 Se­ries con­vert­ible have be­come 4 Se­ries cars and the 1 Se­ries coupe and con­vert­ible are now 2 Se­ries cars (con­fus­ingly so too is the new front-drive 2 Se­ries Ac­tive Tour­ing hatch).

So, this is just a new gen­er­a­tion of 3 Se­ries con­vert­ible. Like that car, it has four seats and a steel-fold­ing roof. There is am­ple legroom and head­room for all four pas­sen­gers with the roof in place, a wel­come trait when a sunny cruise down the coast is rained out.

The 4 Se­ries con­vert­ible is avail­able with three en­gines, com­pris­ing en­try-level diesel, four-cylin­der petrol and six­cylin­der petrol.

Pric­ing starts at $88,000 for the 430d diesel, rises to $97,500 for the 428i petrol. The 435i tops out at $126,600.

Cars­guide didn’t spend any time in the 2.0-litre diesel (135kW/380Nm), so we can’t judge, al­though it is pos­si­ble to note that the sound of diesel en­gines usu­ally clashes with the idea of tra­di­tional open top mo­tor­ing. The 428i uses a 2.0litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine with a sin­gle twin scroll tur­bocharger. It is good for 180kW and 350Nm.

That sounds like lots for a com­pact car, but it must be noted that the ex­tra body pro­tec­tion to keep the 4 Se­ries con­vert­ible stiff enough with­out a roof in place, as well as all the ex­tra mo­tors to fold it away, adds a hefty 225kg, which means the car ends up weigh­ing around 1700kg.

It is no slug, the en­gine de­liv­er­ing max­i­mum pulling power from 1250rpm through to 4800rpm, but it’s no sling­shot ei­ther. There’s suf­fi­cient power for a fun coun­try drive. The ex­haust note is sub­tle yet sporty, al­though you only re­ally hear it when the roof is down.

ZF’s eight-speed au­to­matic is stan­dard, chang­ing gears smoothly and qui­etly via the stick shifter or pad­dles.

A 435i is pow­ered by a tur­bocharged 3.0-litre petrol six (225kW/400Nm). The im­proved per­for­mance is handy but most people will be happy with the lesser model, given these will be used for city driv­ing and the odd cruise.

As a pay off for all the ex­tra weight, the body stiff­en­ing means the 4 Se­ries does not suf­fer the kind of body wob­ble that can ruin a con­vert­ible drive ex­pe­ri­ence (as in Audi’s A5) and the ride is com­fort­able.

The 428i han­dles well enough, but starts to strug­gle with the ex­tra bulk when you be­gin to push hard. The steer­ing, some­thing BMW used to do bril­liantly, is vague.

The 428i is rea­son­ably well spec­i­fied and gets many of the fea­tures you’d ex­pect at this price in­clud­ing leather seats with heater func­tion, 19-inch wheels, sat­nav, big hi-res cen­tre screen and adap­tive sports sus­pen­sion.

The 435i comes stan­dard with key­less en­try and start and Air Col­lar, which feeds hot air on to your neck.

The op­tions list in­cludes ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy that is avail­able on some ve­hi­cles less than half the price.

Self-park­ing is $675, head-up dis­play is $1700, dig­i­tal ra­dio tuner is $500 and lane de­par­ture warn­ing is $1000, so it’s up to own­ers to de­cide what fea­tures are worth the money.

VER­DICT

None of these 4 Se­ries mod­els are cheap. How­ever, they are four-seat pres­tige con­vert­ibles that look good, drive well and have a BMW badge. That’s not a bad com­bi­na­tion.

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