Beat­ing the chill in Texas

While in the US Mark Smyth sam­pled the new BMW 2 Se­ries con­vert­ible

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

IT WAS freez­ing in Texas, not the hot and sunny weather we used to see at the South­fork ranch on the TV se­ries Dal­las as Bobby Ewing drove away in his Mercedes SL.

So it was not great weather for drop­ping the top on a new model and head­ing out into the hills — the model in ques­tion be­ing the BMW 2 Se­ries con­vert­ible, the suc­ces­sor to the popular 1 Se­ries de­riv­a­tive. The weather meant the roof stayed up for the drive past the nu­mer­ous ranches around Austin, only com­ing down long enough for the chill to creep into my bones as I drove around the huge Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas com­plex.

That roof opens or closes in just 20 sec­onds while trav­el­ling at speeds of up to 50km/h. With the roof up, the en­gi­neers have in­creased the amount of in­su­la­tion so much that ap­par­ently they have man­aged to cut the level of ex­ter­nal noise in­tru­sion in the cabin by half com­pared to its 1 Se­ries pre­de­ces­sor. It was no­tice­able on the drive with none of the wind rush noise that can so of­ten be as­so­ci­ated with con­vert­ibles when the roof is in place.

The en­gi­neers have also cre­ated 10% more boot space than in the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, although when the roof is stowed you are still not go­ing to have any­where near the amount of space you will get in the coupe or the hatch. Nonethe­less, it was fairly de­cent when com­pared to oth­ers of the genre.

No im­prove­ments to the rear legroom and I felt a lit­tle sorry for the BMW SA PR per­son who came along with us for the ride. He smiled, of course, and said it was all fine as his job de­mands that he do, but those rear seats are re­ally only for the kids or for bring­ing your drunk mate home from the pub on a Satur­day night when they are sim­ply too grate­ful for the lift to no­tice.

The drive was in the 228i au­to­matic but the en­gines are all the same as those in the hatch and coupe so I am not go­ing to dwell on those. The range starts with the 220i man­ual in Sport or Luxury Line at R486,500, with the 228i mod­els start­ing at R525,000. There will also be M235i ver­sions start­ing at R643,500. In­ter­est­ingly the M235i rep­re­sents around a third of all sales in the coupe de­riv­a­tive so ex­pect it to be a hot seller in the con­vert­ible range too.

The new model is avail­able with an M-Per­for­mance pack­age for the first time. Stan­dard on the M235i, of course, the pack­age pro­vides sporty en­hance­ments to the rest of the range.

Out on the road the ve­hi­cle showed all the char­ac­ter traits of its hatch and coupe sib­lings. It was solid through a cou­ple of coil­ing pieces of tar­mac and the en­gine re­sponse was good. All very BMW, in fact. There is lit­tle else to say, to be hon­est, ex­cept when it comes to looks.

This is one very good look­ing car. It boasts a sharp and stylish front end with a long side pro­file that has lines in just the right places. It boasts a wide rear track and beau­ti­fully crafted back­side. Even with the roof up it man­ages to look both mod­ern and clas­sic, thanks to the com­pany’s de­ci­sion to re­tain a fold­ing soft-top. It all makes the old 1 Se­ries look very old fash­ioned in­deed.

The new model goes on sale in SA next month and I see no rea­son why it should not be as popular now as it was in its first gen­er­a­tion.

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