2014 BMW 4 Series Convertible review
* Folding hard-top version of BMW 4 Series * Petrol 435i tested, but diesel 420d to follow * On sale March, from £36,675...
The BMW 4 Series is our 2014 Coupe of the Year - and now there's a drop-top version, too.
In fact, the 4 Series Convertible looks near-identical to its sister model in profile, because it uses a folding hard-top roof instead of a fabric roof. BMW claims that the metal roof – which separates into three pieces so it can be stowed behind the rear seats – reduces the amount of wind and road noise that enters the cabin. The roof opens and closes in around 20 seconds and can be operated at speeds of up to 11mph.
The new 4 Series Convertible is being launched with three engines: a 181bhp diesel 420d, a 242bhp petrol 428i and the range-topper we're driving here – the 302bhp 435i.
Prices start at £36,675 for the 420d, the 428i from £39,515 and the 435i from £44,970. All three versions go on sale in March.
What's the 2014 BMW 4 Series Convertible like to drive?
We got to try the 435i equipped with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which acquitted itself pretty well. The six-cylinder engine is suitably characterful, and the auto transmission is smart enough to deal with most situations (it also responds well to the different modes offered by the BMW's Adaptive Drive system).
However, the 435i doesn't quite manage to feel as fast as its figures suggest. That's because while the new car is up to 20kg lighter than the 3 Series Convertible that it replaces, it still weighs the thick end of 1800kg. Accordingly, you'll find yourself resorting to kick-downs more often than you might expect when you're in a hurry.
That sense of weight also transfers through to the handling. The 4 Series Convertible does a decent job of coping with road imperfections, and has nicely weighted steering, but it doesn't really enjoy being thrown around.
Refinement with the roof down is respectable, and elements such as the optional wind deflector and heating vents at the base of the front-seat headrests add to the levels of comfort. The car really quietens down with the roof up, too; there's only marginally more wind noise than in a 4 Series Coupe.
What's the 2014 BMW 4 Series Convertible like inside?
The 4 Series Convertible is pretty much identical to the Coupe inside, so it also has lots in common with a regular 3 Series saloon. That's no bad thing, though, because it means you get a classy dashboard with clear, easy-to-use instruments and BMW's excellent iDrive infotainment system as standard.
The seats offer a good range of adjustment – essential for long cruises – and access to the rear is surprisingly good, because the front seats tilt and slide to open up as large an aperture as possible. Rear headroom will be an issue for anyone over six feet tall, though.
The boot is 370 litres – an increase of 20 litres over the old 3 Series Convertible's capacity – although this space shrinks to 220 litres (barely enough for a decent weekly shop) if you put the roof down. There's also an electric system which lifts the folded up roof out of the way in the boot, making it easier to load items in the 'safe' area beneath it.
There's a choice of five trim levels. Even entry-level SE brings front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats, xenon headlights, Bluetooth, cruise control, a USB socket, dual-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch colour display as standard.
Move up to Sport and you also get 18-inch alloys, sports seats, high-gloss black interior trim and some red flourishes on the instrument dials.
Modern versions get 18-inch wheels, sports seats, a light-coloured dashboard, leather upholstery and a choice of different trim surfaces, while Luxury brings a similar spec but includes contrast stitching on the leather seats and BMW's Business Media package.
The range-topping M Sport features a bodykit, M Sport suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, exclusive sports seats and, again, the Business Media package.
Should I buy one?
The BMW 4 Series Convertible delivers pretty much all that could be asked of it. It's refined enough with the roof up to be an everyday tool, yet stylish and accomplished enough with it down to be a relaxed, sophisticated cruiser.
We're less convinced about the 435i edition we'd driven here, though. It seems you're paying a premium (in price, tax and running costs) for a car that doesn't feel like it's delivering quite as much raw performance as it should. We'll have to wait until we drive them, of course, but we suspect that cheaper editions – in particular, the 420d Convertible – will be better buys.
What Car? says…
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £36,675
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 8.2 seconds
Top speed 146mph
Fuel economy 55.4mpg
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £39,515
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 6.4 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 41.5mpg
Engine size 3.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £44,970
Torque 295lb ft
0-62mph 5.6 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 34.9mpg