CON­VERT TO CAUSE

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Look Local - Craig Duff

THE soft-top on BMW’s new 2 Se­ries con­vert­ible takes 20 sec­onds to pop out of the boot and clamp on to the wind­screen and can be op­er­ated at up to 50km/h (not that we’d rec­om­mend it).

Show a bit of com­mon sense and this con­vert­ible won’t leave you feel­ing cold.

The in­su­lated fab­ric roof does a great job of mask­ing the out­side din and there’s no need to raise your voice at free­way speeds.

In most other re­spects the 2 Se­ries con­vert­ible is a typ­i­cal twodoor, four-seater. The rear seats are hard to ac­cess and there’s no room to move once in them; the boot is good for a set of golf clubs or some bags for a week­end away; and the roof’s huge side pan­els and a tiny back win­dow mean rear vi­sion is pretty much non-ex­is­tent.

It’s the price you pay for buy­ing a car as a fash­ion ac­ces­sory and it is one many peo­ple are will­ing to ac­cept. Love or loathe con­vert­ibles, peo­ple look at them and/or the peo­ple in them.

Pop a BMW grille on the front and they look even longer.

BMW’s latest looker has three tiers, from the 220i at $54,900 up to $85,800 for the M235i. The lat­ter is the first BMW con­vert­ible to earn the M Per­for­mance up­grades and it’s the one we’re driv­ing.

The only real ri­val to the 2 Se­ries con­vert­ible is Audi’s A3 cabri­o­let line-up, head­lined by the S3 per­for­mance vari­ant. The all-wheel-drive S3 is half a sec­ond slower to 100km/h than the BMW… but it’s also $15,000 cheaper.

Here’s another free piece of ad­vice for would-be con­vert­ible con- verts: keep clear of live­stock trucks. The smell and the seep­age don’t in­ter­act well with top-down driv­ing.

But when the sights and scents are more amenable, the con­vert­ible comes into its own.

Top-down driv­ing tends to ruf­fle the hair un­less the op­tional $570 wind de­flec­tor is fit­ted, but sur­pris­ingly lit­tle cold air is driven far­ther down.

The six-cylin­der turbo is a bas­tion of the Beemer range, used in ev­ery­thing from the 1 Se­ries to the X5. It is in­sane fun in any ap­pli­ca­tion, es­pe­cially with an M Per­for­mance badge af­fixed to the bootlid.

In most ap­pli­ca­tions this pow­er­house is tuned for 225kW/400Nm but the wick has been turned up for 240kW/450Nm here.

The is­sue then isn’t how fast the M235i goes but how quickly the en­gine’s torque can flex the com­pro­mised chas­sis. And com­pro­mised is a rel­a­tive term, given the amount of but­tress­ing and brac­ing hid­den un­der the con- vert­ible’s pan­els, not to men­tion the fact it runs on low­ered and stiff­ened M Sport sus­pen­sion.

It takes Third World road sur­faces – of which Aus­tralia has a grow­ing share – and se­ri­ous speed be­fore you can feel the body flex. Even then it is more shimmy than shake and cer­tainly not go­ing to throw you off line mid­corner.

What can catch you out is the en­gine’s will­ing­ness to spin and slide the rear tyres in Sport Plus mode.

It is pro­gres­sive and end­lessly re­peat­able with­out need­ing the re­ac­tions of a For­mula One driver.

Find a se­ries of corners that haven’t been turned into cor­ru­gated bi­tu­men and the M235i is as much fun as you can ask for this side of $100K. The $4900 lim­ited slip diff is tuned to al­low a bit of play be­fore keep­ing the driver on the straight and nar­row.

Ver­dict: The con­vert­ible lacks the clin­i­cal pre­ci­sion of its coupe brethren and is more fun be­cause of it.

A cabrio is a love or loathe ma­chine.

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