The passion and the power
BRIAN BASSETT puts heart and soul into driving the new BMW 228i convertible
OVER time BMW has received some criticism for apparently ignoring the needs of the driving enthusiasts who have made the brand what it has become today.
The mandarins of motoring journalism point to the grand, large motor vehicles made by the company and ask what of the smaller, powerful sports cars for which BMW became famous both before and after the Second World War.
The company has answered this criticism with the one and now the two series. These cars answer the passion of those of us who enjoy driving, and combine brilliant handling with the raw power of twin turbo engines.
We thank Anthony Ellis, dealer principal at SMG Pietermaritzburg for allowing us to drive the car for a few enjoyable days.
The 2- series was a natural followup to the 1- series and it was only a matter of time before the 2- series convertible arrived on the market.
This car is the most successful and popular premium model in its class, with over 130 000 units sold worldwide thus far.
The 2- series convertible is just over seven centimetres longer that the 1- series and also 2,6 cm wider. These measurements do not sound like much, but open up more room inside and give the vehicle a robust appearance, without losing the svelte, fluid styling.
The car is not only beautiful, with its flared side lines, but its overall low- slung elegant silhouette emphasises its sensuousness and agility.
At the front the design is all BMW, with the distinctive kidney grille and slit- eyed, adaptive headlights.
At the rear typical L- shaped, single- unit tail lights stress the car’s width and road hugging stance, while the dual exhausts underline the sport nature of the overall package.
The 228 we drove was equipped with leather- covered, electrically- operated sports seats, the black leather outlined with red stitching, which accentuated the sporty nature of the vehicle.
The leather- covered, tactile, three- spoke, multi- function steering wheel operated the Harmon Kardon six- speaker radio, Aux, Bluetooth and speed control functions and the car was also equipped with a centrally-placed screen for the Satnav function, as well as for the BMW Connected Drive function, which turns the car into a rather expensive computer.
The auto air conditioner with its special convertible function is also worth a mention.
The speedometer and other gauges are all typical BMW and easy to read. The side mirrors operate electrically, as do the windows. The roof can be raised or lowered in 20 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/ h.
The car looks good with its roof either up or down but it is meant to be driven with the roof down.
The rear seats are for those of slight build who will only be driving in the back for a short while. In reality they are a place to pack the week’s groceries and can be folded down to provide, together with the boot, about 300 litres of storage.
Safety and security
Somehow driving in the open is a reminder of how vulnerable you are on our roads.
In a closed car you feel cocooned and safe, while in a convertible, never mind how enjoyable the ride, the road, the trucks and the maniacs seem a lot closer.
This is why it is good to note that the 228 has a wide range of safety features.
All the usual safety features are there like six airbags, ABS, EBD anchors for child seats and seatbelts for all.
The car also has Dynamic Stability Control, Adaptive Headlights and a system of air curtaining, which channels the air flow at the front apron and wheels, thus enhancing stability.
There is also a fully- recessed roll- over protection system so, if you roll the car, you don’t lose your head in the process.
The rear view camera and park assist are also useful.
Performance and handling
The BMW 228i has a twin power, 4- cylinder, petrol engine featuring a twin scroll turbocharger with Double Vanos and high precision injection delivering 180 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque at only 1 250 rpm.
In a car the size of a shoe this makes for great fun behind the wheel. Zero to 100 km/ h comes up in 6,1 seconds, while top speed is 250 km/ h. The car is very responsive and has to be held back on roads where speed limits are likely to be a concern.
Like all BMWs the handling is superb. The steering is sensitive with excellent feedback. The driver’s needs are expressed on road almost as soon as they are communicated.
The car we drove was a manual, expressing the considerable power of the engine on road via a six- speed gearbox.
An auto box is also available but I preferred to be in control and feel the thrust of the engine. In town, parking is made easier by the park assist function, as well as by the rear- view camera.
The car is quite short in any case and reversing into a small space is no problem.
Costs and the competition
The 228i convertible comes in at about R530 000. Remember that the options list is long and expensive.
The car comes with BMW’s five- year/ 100 000 km motor plan, which is extendable and includes roadside assistance. It is nonetheless one of the best plans available. If you are thinking of spending this much on a car, also look at the Mercedes C- Class Coupe, VW Scirocco and the Golf Cabriolet.
Two fingers wider and a hand- span longer than its predecessor, the latest drop- top 228i is as svelte as cars can get.
As with most four- seater roadsters, the rear seats are for those of slight build.