BMW 420i: Convertible coup
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The BMW 4 Series convertible stakes a temporary claim on Liz Dobson's driveway
There's always a problem with European-brand convertibles; they are launched in the Northern Hemisphere summer -- our winter.
That means testing them during inclement weather and never truly appreciating the luxury of driving with the roof off.
But BMW New Zealand has just launched the 4 Series convertible and Driven has been given a 420i to test over summer and autumn as a long-term loan vehicle.
My test model has been specced up with M Sport packaging and the addition of Sport+ mode in the driving experience control.
What makes the 4 Series unique in our market is that it has a hard top four-seater convertible in its line-up.
In the past there were a few hardtops to choose from, including the 207 and 307 CCs from Peugeot and the Volkswagen Eos.
But now the market is limited to the BMW and the two-seater Mazda MX-5 RF hardtop.
The 4 Series are BMW's sports models that were introduced in 2012 and meant to replace the 3 Series coupe. They are powered by similar powertrains as the 3 Series but the coupe and retractable roof 4 Series have a more adventurous appearance than the 3. The 4 Series convertible is 4638mm long, 1835mm wide and 1384mm high with headroom of 1025mm for the front passengers and 942mm for rear passengers.
The boot space varies between 220 and 370 litres depending on whether you have the roof off, as a luggage cover limits your space.
The 420i has BMW's new two-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine producing 135kW of power and 270Nm of torque, paired with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
It has a top speed of 230km/h and combined fuel economy of 6.6l/100km. My long-term loan car has only 500.2km on the clock (at time of publishing) with all but 0.2km from me, and my fuel economy is at double figures (I'm working on it).
My test vehicle has glacier silver metallic exterior paint and cream leather seats, plus bi-xenon headlights, reversing cameras, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, pre-collision safety pack, parking sensors, active cruise control with collision warning, AEB and pedestrian warning plus surround-view cameras.
Though the 4 Series is a convertible, it's easy to mistake it for a coupe as the hard roof makes the cabin quiet and, at a distance, it looks like a two-door sedan.
My loan vehicle has the option of being able to fold the roof remotely using the key fob. Standing a few metres away, you push down the open door button on the fob, the roof folds into three compartments and disappears into the roof box, and into the boot space.
It's great to have the option if you are in no rush to get the roof off - it takes 28 seconds to fold remotely against only 20 seconds if you are in the car and using the roof release latch. The roof can open or close at speeds up to 18km/h, which is a negative after recently testing Mercedes-Benz's C-Class C63 AMG soft-top that can retract at speeds up to 60km/h.
So, even if you start the action of opening or closing the roof while at traffic lights (as was a recent example), the moment you pull away at green you go too fast for the action to be completed, leaving you with a roof half off, an alarming dinging and a warning sign flashing on the dash -- plus other drivers laughing at you.
I've learned that unless torrential rain is about to hit, or I'm going to suffer from sunstroke, the roof action should be used only at standstill.
Driven will be updating what it is like to live with the BMW 4 Series convertible, so follow us on Driven.co.nz and Facebook.com/DrivenNZ
BMW 420i Convertible
Engine: 2-litre, four cylinder turbo petrol
Pro: All-weather friend
Con: Roof deploys only under 20km