The BMW 435i is the first version of the new generation Convertible we’ve sampled since it was shown at the 2013 Frankfurt show. On the heels of the 4-series coupe and 3-series saloon that it’s based on, the new Convertible range shows its merit on paper with more rear legroom, courtesy of a 50mm longer wheelbase, as well as its elegant new body which BMW designer, Karim Habib, says was the aim of this car’s overall execution.
Does it work?
Spotting the hard-topped version of the BMW 4-series is more difficult, yet it clearly has an identity of its own. Our sparkling white test car, on its sophisticated 19in alloys, has a strong presence from its large kidney grille to the longer, flatter bootlid that adds 43mm in length over its predecessor. It’s flatter than the rear end of our upcoming 420d long termer, giving it a more graceful look, despite this car being the same length as the coupe.
What about the roof itself?
The metal folding roof is now faster and better insulated. It takes 20sec to open or close, three seconds better than the old 335i’s, and can be operated while driving at up to 8mph. If you own the previous 3-series Convertible, you may notice that the hinges on the new 4-series are different: they look less complicated, lighter and cheaper to manufacture. This isn’t a criticism: the roof operation is as solid as the cabin’s build quality, with no mysterious clunks, shudders and robotic whirs having you wonder exactly what’s going on. Instead, it’s quiet and quick. Bootspace has improved marginally, with 10 litres more space with the roof down, and 20 additional litres for a total of 370 with it up.
And this car?
This is the £44,970 BMW 435i Luxury Convertible, which is the only six-cylinder model you’ll be able to buy. It’s £2455 more than the equivalent-spec Coupe, and uses the same 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six with 302bhp – an identical output as the old 335i Convertible that it replaces – and has an unchanged 295lb ft of torque across the same 1200-5000rpm range. Instead of the excellent seven-speed dual-clutch transmission from the old car, there’s an eight-speed ‘sports’ automatic or a six-speed manual option. The eight-speed helps efficiency, mainly, with the Convertible’s 37.2mpg comparing favourably against the 435i Coupe’s 39.2mpg, and easily outperforming the old 335i Convertible’s 32.1mpg claim.
What about the drive?
The Convertible carries over the strengths of the coupe, which include a brilliant driving position that’s low, solid with excellent vision, comfortable leather seats and a solid, premium-feeling steering wheel. While the cabin’s vault-tight, some of the surfaces could be better, with the textured coverings over the dash looking surprisingly dated, and risks falling further behind the new 2014 Mercedes C-class and the next Audi A5, due by 2016.
The other major flaw is, of course, the extra 165kg that this car carries over the two-door. It’s even 15kg heavier than the old 335i, too, and despite the eight-speed delivering a 0-62mph time that’s 0.2sec faster, at 5.5sec, this car doesn’t feel brisk or as agile as the performance numbers suggest. It’s 0.4sec slower than the 435i Coupe, and you can feel the extra heft of the Convertible the instant you start driving.
That said, when you’re cruising, there’s excellent refinement with the roof up, with just a tad of buffeting around the A-pillars, and a sonorous, sweet note from the straight six when you nail it. There’s a composed, compliant ride, too, regardless of which chassis setting you’re in, while the steering is responsive if a little slow. Sadly, though, there’s noticeable scuttle shake – it’s ever so slight – on the Las Vegas roads we sampled the 435i on, but as per the M235i we drove the same day, we’ll reserve final judgment until we drive one in the UK.
So is the 435i a serious performance cabriolet?
No. This is a quick convertible, but it’s not a serious performance car. The change of direction is good, with minimal roll, the acceleration strong and its overall balance is superb. Yet you can’t escape the extra weight so, if you’re after open-air performance, you could swallow the whole gambit and go for the forthcoming BMW M4 or go completely the other way and go for a 420d Convertible.