Convertible Capers BMW Style
I make no secret of the fact that I love convertible cars and have been lucky enough to own a variety over the last thirty years.
Most of these have been made by BMW and hiding away in my garage at present, and sadly little used, is my 2003 330Ci. It has yet to reach 30,000 miles and undoubtedly leads a pampered life, never being taken out in the wet and put into hibernation as soon as the gritting lorries begin their winter’s work.
Last summer I was lucky enough to be lent the latest Z4 for a week and came away impressed. I did feel that although it was faster than ever, it majored more on comfort and refinement.
On my driveway as I write, is the latest 420i Convertible and unlike my own four-seat ragtop, this car has been extensively driven over the last week.
A family party in London meant the long trek south on a rain soaked M6 and M1 and the refinement and comfort as a motorway express truly impressed.
BMW has now returned to fitting a fabric roof to its convertible cars, the heavy metal folding contraptions now a distant memory. Refinement has not suffered in the process, the multi-layer hood being excellent at eliminating unwanted noise. Apparently, it boasts the strengths of a hardtop says the manufacturer.
Aiding my many hours behind the wheel was the excellent radar cruise control, ideal for keeping a safe distance automatically from the car in front. It worked even in torrential rain, whereas experience has taught me that some systems cannot cope in these conditions.
Also aiding my travels was the gentle lane keeping assistance system, better than most but no substitute for full concentration at all times.
I left London rather later than planned and accomplished the four and half hour journey home without stopping, a testament to the BMW’s comfort and refinement.
I did lower the roof once off the motorway and with the wind deflector removed from its clever concealed compartment behind the rear seats and then fitted, and the heated seat on, I was warm and cosy despite the late-night chill. Oh, and I should also mention the air scarf system, which can gently blow warm air on your neck – clever stuff.
A favourable mention should also go to the driver’s seat, which managed to remain comfortable during those long hours behind the wheel. Electrically adjustable, of course, but the ability to alter both the lumbar and side bolsters for good support undoubtedly helped. And the headrest adjusts properly for safety and comfort – other manufacturers take note!
All that high-speed travel saw the trip computer read 39.5mpg, reasonably close to BMW’s figures for the combined cycle.
Under the bonnet of my test car is a 184PS 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, this being mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. In ‘sport’ mode, the 420i proved to be pleasantly brisk with more than enough performance for an enjoyable drive. A range of more powerful engines are available, but I am not sure I would bother, saving the cash instead for a few choice extras. There are plenty to choose from, but more of that later.
Adjustable suspension was a welcome feature, though ‘comfort’ mode best suited I felt. Only on a few of my twisty test routes did I find any need to engage a more sporting mode and even when selected, the ride maintained a level of compliance not always found in these cases.
Rather like the Z4, the 420i is more cruiser than bruiser, but there is still fun to be had on a favourite B-road. On some of the narrower roads, the 420i’s generous girth caused a few breathe-in moments, whereas my ageing svelte-like model would have just breezed through.
Like most four-seat convertibles, rear seats are somewhat short of legroom if a taller driver or front seat passenger is on board and the rear backrest is a little too upright to be truly comfortable. Headroom is lacking too, though dropping the roof rather sorts that issue out!
Children will love those back seats though, revelling no doubt in the visibility and wind in the hair feeling.
I chose to leave the wind deflector in situ, ready to drop the roof at every available opportunity. There really is no excuse not to travel topless unless it’s raining heavily.
BMWs these days are generally well equipped but there is always scope to personalise each car. My test vehicle came fitted with five option packs, adding a further £7,000 to the already bullish £45,035 price tag.
Yes, I would choose to have them all if I was lucky enough to be speccing a 420i as without them you would lose such niceties as head-up display, the Harmon Kardon sound system and the aforementioned wind deflector and air scarf.
Most people I encountered on my travels rather liked the Sanremo green paint finish and were complementary about the car’s looks. BMW now chooses to fit rather bold grilles to its cars, but somehow the 4 Series models carry it off rather better than others.
So there you have it, a good looking convertible car, full of the latest kit, fast enough, refined and frugal. I loved it, but you probably guessed I would.
I would have one at the drop of a hat and would be happy to drive it every day. Sadly, it’s a bit too big for my rather small garage, so I will have to pass. Never mind the £50k plus price tag…
But if you have the wherewithal, and love convertible motoring as I do, I heartily recommend popping along to your nearest BMW dealership for a closer look.
BMW 420i M Sport Convertible B48 2.0i
Black Vernasca Leather
Price £45,035 (£53,485 with options)
184PS 4-cylinder engine
8-speed Steptronic gearbox
0-62mph in 8.2 seconds
Top speed 147mph
Combined economy 46.3-49.6mpg
Test economy 39.5mpg over 700+ miles
Emissions 131-140g/km CO2
Boot capacity 300 litres