BMW 420i long-term test: Falling for convertible in autumn
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Autumn is the ideal time to own a convertible, I reckon, as it's not so hot that you'll get third degree burns or not too cold that you'll get frost bite if the roof is off.
I've always been a fan of convertibles since a family friend took me for a spin in his MGB when I was 13, and asked if I wanted to take it for a drive. He was kidding, but I was enraptured at the thought of driving the now iconic roadster.
During my years as a motoring writer, I've loved driving convertibles, and even forced a friend to be passenger in a MGF at night in the rain as I drove along Auckland's Scenic Drive with the roof off. When she requested that the roof be put up, I instead just bumped up the heat and drove a little faster "so the rain will go over us", I told her.
Driven was given a 420i hard-top convertible as a long-term loan vehicle during late summer and the beginning of autumn to gauge what it's like to drive an open-topper for a substantial period of time, rather than the standard seven-day schedule for test cars.
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 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine producing 135kW of power and 270Nm of torque, and is paired with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
Standard features are bi-xenon headlights, reversing cameras, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, pre-collision safety pack, parking sensors, active cruise control with collision warning, auto emergency braking and pedestrian warning plus surround-view cameras.
My model came with sport line features including high-gloss black vertical kidney grille slats and black exterior mirrors.
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There is a black chrome tailpipe and the "Sport" logo above the air breathers. The sport line also includes a Sport + mode using the driving experience control that boosts agility to give a dynamic performance.
The hard top retracts in 28 seconds using the key fob (so you can open it when walking towards the 420i) or via a release latch in the cabin that takes 20 seconds to open or close at speeds up to 20km/h.
During the recent sunny autumn days I've driven most of the time with roof off -- and it was only a few days ago that I needed to turn on the heated seats and aim the warm air vents at my feet and face.
For one memorable road trip back from the Coromandel, I had the roof off until 7pm when the sun had long gone and the heaters were needed to warm me up.
Driving along the crowded Southwestern Motorway, I realised other drivers weren't saying, "cool, that woman is driving a convertible", instead they were saying, "Jeeze it must be cold for that woman driving a convertible".
But the bonus of the 420i convertible during autumn is its retractable hard roof that not only reduces road noise but also provides so much insulation that it's easy to forget it is a convertible.
From a distance it's also easy to forget the 420i is a convertible as the coupe roof is seamlessly integrated into the body. The roof also effortlessly folds in to the boot in three sections. With this BMW you get two cars for the price of one -- and that price is $87,000. It's transformation also paid off for me when I was driving in rush hour traffic with the roof off.
An impatient driver wouldn't let me merge. Forgetting I was in a convertible, I gave him a gesture in the air that he couldn't miss, and said a few choice words , thinking I was just venting to myself.
I suddenly realised that Mr Impatient would have heard and seen and could take offence, so I nipped onto a side road, put the roof up and voila, I was no longer an irritated convertible driver, but a mild mannered coupe owner.
BMW 420i Convertible
Engine: 2-litre, four cylinder turbo petrol
Pro: Autumn driving
Con: My road rage