We were scheduled to be at a new car introduction in Central Oregon recently and decided the all-new BMW 435i Convertible would be a more fun way to get there than in a crowded seat of an Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400.
We imagined top down motoring past snow-capped Mount Hood, through the thick Cascade forests and across the Warm Springs High Desert plains before ending up at the beautiful Brasada Ranch Resort near Powell Butte. When we actually made the drive, the route was the same, but this is Oregon and it rains on occasion, so the motoring was in the Convertible?with the top up.
That?s one of the cool things about the BMW 4 Series convertible. It?s a hardtop convertible that takes only 20 seconds (pushing one button) to fold its three-piece top into the trunk, or conversely over the passenger compartment. Some purists insist that a true convertible should have a fabric top, but having the choice, we like the hardtop. First, it?s more secure than the cloth that yields easily to a knife or other sharp instruments and second it has a smaller ?C? pillar which means better rear visibility especially when you glance over your shoulder to make sure it?s clear to pull into the right lane. And even though most of the cloth tops made today are exceptionally quiet, they just don?t get any better than this real metal top.
When we finally had a little top down time, we discovered one of the options in our test car was the Cold Weather Package. With a heated steering wheel, heated seats and the neck warmers on it doesn?t matter if the weather isn?t quite to convertible temperatures. Neck warmers are one of the great new ?must haves? for convertible owners. They blow hot air at the back of necks of the driver and front seat passenger helping keep them toasty and warm.
The BMW 4 Series is new and part of the BMW name reconfiguration. This size convertible was formerly a 3 Series, but now the 3 Series designation is only used for cars are sedans, wagons and Grand Turismos. The coupes, Gran Coupe and convertibles are now labeled 4 Series. The Convertible comes in two trim/engine levels the 428i and 435i and with or without all-wheel drive (a $2,000 option). For people living in the northwest or in other snowy climates, this is a big deal.
The two-wheel drive 2014 BMW 435i Convertible has a base price of $55,825 and the four-cylinder 428i Convertible starts at $49,675. The 2014 435i we used for our little road trip provided a good collection of all the available features, adding about $11,000 in packages (Luxury, Cold Weather, Drive Assistance, Dynamic Handling, Premium and Technology) to the final product.
Powered by a 300-horse, twin turbo inline six-cylinder engine with an eight-speed sport automatic transmission (the only transmission available in the Convertible) the 435i is a typical quick revving BMW engine with turbine-like smoothness that seems to rev forever. This produces a 5.2 second 0 to 60 mph time. (As a side note, the 428i, with its twin-turbocharged 240-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine hits 60 mph in 5.6 seconds?makes us wonder if the extra $6,000 for the six-cylinder engine is worth it.) The 435i is rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 24 combined. We averaged 26.8 mpg in mostly highway driving.
The drive from the Portland area to Central Oregon is always enjoyable, especially in a car of this caliber. It easily eats up slower traffic making quick passes when the highway lines permit and handles corners with typical BMW precision.
We think BMW styling has advanced considerably in the last few years and the 4 series and an excellent example of the distinctive BMW styling. It starts with the traditional BMW ?double kidney? grille with four round headlights (full-LED headlights are an option) and moves back to functional ?Air Breathers? just behind the front wheel wells. The Air Breathers actually help the vehicle aerodynamics. The sides are defined with crisp upper and lower character lines and the rear is cleanly finished with a strip of chrome above the simple dual exhaust outlets.
The interior is typical BMW?tastefully appointed and very business-like ? and it really works. The iDrive gets a little easier and more user friendly every time we drive one, or perhaps we?re finally learning. The seats are new, and typically BMW ? firm but supportive.
The trunk space looks practically nonexistent when you first open the trunk lid. However, under the folded top is actually nearly 8 cubic feet of space. With the top up and the folding template retracted, there?s room for 13 cubic feet ? not bad for a hardtop convertible.
When it comes to driving dynamics, BMW wrote the book, or at least set the bar. Like most BMWs the 4 Series Convertible has near perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The convertible feels as rigid as the sedan, and that translates in to excellent handling especially with the Adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering from the Dynamic Handling Package that was included on our test car. The Adaptive suspension adjusts the electronic damper mapping to each road surface and driving situation and it can be adjusted by the driver for the type of planned driving style. The variable steering provides a more-lively steering during the ?turn-in? phase of cornering, and excellent stability mid-corner and on corner exit.
Another feature we enjoyed was the full-color Head-Up Display which projected information like vehicle speed, the speed limit on this road and even passing restrictions. The display also showed navigation instructions and warning messages.
Other important features on the 2014 BMW 435i Convertible include the Active Driving Assistant that wants the driver of possible collisions with pedestrians and can even trigger automatic braking. We liked the Active Cruise Control in heavy traffic we encountered on our way back into the Portland area. It will actually take the car to a complete stop when the traffic stops and start back up when the traffic moves ahead. Now if we could get it to stop those other aggressive drivers from pulling into the gap between us and the car ahead. And of course there?s the Blind Spot Detection system which makes driving in traffic so much easier.