Beating the chill in Texas
While in the US Mark Smyth sampled the new BMW 2 Series convertible
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.