It’s cool to go topless
BMW’s swanky new 2-Series convertible is sure to draw admiring looks, writes 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 two-door 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 nonexistent.
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 converts — keep clear of livestock trucks. The smell and the seepage don’t interact well with top-down driving.
That’s still the case in a regular car, but without a roof and windows the impact is more pronounced.
When the sights and scents are more amenable, however, 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.
Even on brisk mornings — and by brisk I mean single-digit temperatures — I was happy to drop the M235i’s lid and let the seat heaters and aircon shield me from the chill.
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 boot lid. 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 convertible’s panels, not to mention the fact that 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 it certainly won’t 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.
The convertible lacks the clinical precision of its coupe brethren but is more fun because of it. Extrovert behaviour to match the looks is wholly appropriate. Four stars