BMW unveiled the 2014 4 Series Convertible at the LA Auto Show and invited Bimmerfest to Las Vegas a short time later for some seat time. What better place to test the drop top version of BMW's new 4 series variant than the Nevada desert? We started out early with temperatures just bearable for open top motoring, giving us a chance to test out the new seat integrated neck warmers. As the day warmed up the jackets came off and the windows came down to enjoy the best of what the desert and the 4 series convertible had to offer.
If you're just catching up on BMW's new naming structure you're not alone. BMW has revamped the product line and all coupes are even numbers giving us the 2 series, 4 series and 6 series. Sedans have retained their odd numbers with the 3, 5 and 7 series. What was the 3 series coupe is now the 4 series coupe and in turn the 3 series convertible is now the 4 series convertible. BMW believes this simplifies the naming for new customers. Enthusiasts are left scratching their head but can continue to stick with the internal development codes, in the case of the topless 4 series it is the F33.
The car is based on the F32 4 series and carries over the coupe's styling. The wide kidney grills and the love it or hate it headlights that connect to the grills punctuate the front end. Behind the downward swooping hood the same windshield frame shape is retained, then the folding hardtop starts dominating the design. BMW ditched the B pillar giving a clean unobstructed side and rear view when the top and windows are down. This is emphasized by an accent ring that goes from left to right A pillar around the back seats. On the 435i Luxury line I was driving the ring was silver but it also comes in black or brushed aluminum.
Engine choices are also from the 4 series coupe with the 428i powered by the N20 4 cylinder TwinPower turbo making 240 horsepower and 255 ft-lbs of torque. With the added weight of the folding hard top and additional stiffeners the 428i tips the scales at 3965lbs which is just under 500lbs more then the 428i coupe. This additional weight slows the 0-60 times with the 428i drop top managing a respectable 6.2 seconds (5.7 for the 428i coupe). The 435i has the N55 from the 4 series coupe, which is a carry over from the previous generation 3 series. The 3 liter engine is boosted with a twin scroll single turbo putting down 300 horsepower and 300 ft-lbs of torque. The curb weight comes in at a portly 4095 but weight is the penalty for being able to go topless. Despite the weight, the 435i is just a tick slower running 0-60 in 5.4 (5.3 for the 435i coupe) and still plenty fast to be called a sports car convertible.
Read more about the all new F33 BMW 4 Series Convertible
I slide behind the wheel at our staring point outside of the Vegas strip and take in the interior. It is a copy of the 4 series, which is in turn a copy of the current F30 3 series. The dash had returned to a driver oriented layout putting the center dash stack with the radio and climate control within easy reach. Below the main stack there are two smallish but functional cup holders that are an improvement over the previous generation attempt at a cup holder. Running between the seats is a shifter console housing the shift lever for the 8 speed ZF transmission, the driver experience switch (comfort, sport and eco-pro) and the iDrive controller wheel with handwriting recognition. The layout is simple and efficient with the right button restraint while still giving one push access to key features and leaving the rest hidden in the iDrive screen.
The iDrive screen sprouts from the top of the dash like an iPad and puts information just below eye level, it is a love it or hate it design feature but the usability of the screen positioning cannot be faulted. Interior materials are a combination of wood and a two tone black and tan dash. The wood trim is polished and the dash and door cards are semi-matt to avoid glare. With the top up the interior feels well suited to the sports convertible with reasonable material quality and good fit and finish. Drop the top and the results are not as good, direct sun and the dash are a poor combination, not good for a convertible. In the sun the material has no depth making it look cheap and color choice of light tan/brown for the lower dash did not help. The seats, instruments and center console all looked as good if not better in the sun so overall the interior is still works.
Fire up the N55 under the hood of the 435i and you get a pleasant but quite burble alerting you to the 300hp now available under your right foot. Drop the 8 speed auto into drive and set off with a slightly muted exhaust note. The 4 series isn't a particularity loud car but I was expecting a bit more noise with the top down making me wonder if a quieter exhaust has been crafted for the convertible. The steering is typical of the F3x series Electromechanical Power Steering (EPS), after all the 4 series convertible isn't going to be the showcase for something total new from BMW. It is amazingly precise and free of any rubbery feel. Despite the extremely accurate mechanical components the feeling is lacking. There is a emptiness to the wheel, it lacks the connection to the tires and to the driving experience that BMW has been known for. It feels like you're always driving a step behind what the car is doing near the limit. It is easy to point and get the car exactly where you want, but there is no enjoyment and feedback along the way. The added 500lbs of folding hard top being lugging around in the trunk doesn't help liven up the dynamics of the steering.
Despite the weight and lackluster steering the 435i convertible is still a blast to drive. The seats hold you around the corners, the suspension has been specially tuned for the extra weight, the new 8 speed is as quick as a manual and with the top down it all doesn't matter. Much of the time driving the 4 series convertible is spent enjoying the open air, not the car itself. With the top down you're enjoying your hair in the wind and face in the sun. What the 4 series convertible does so well is provide you with the best possible driving experience to forget you're driving.
Convertible owners know when buying a convertible you're signing on for a series of compromises. Less performance, more weight, louder ride, and so on but you take the downsides to get the upside, that that nothing beats dropping the top in even questionable weather. For that reason many convertibles are people's second or third car; they're just not practical. With the 4 series convertible BMW takes on that notion and built a 4 season car that can be your first car. Victor LeLeu, 4 Series Convertible Product manager, describes it as "this is definitely, this time, a car you can use year round as your main car".
Features that make the F33 BMW 4 Series Convertible a year round car:
- xDrive all wheel drive available on the 428i now and possibly the 435i in the future
- Seat integrated neck warmers keep you warm in colder weather
- Wind deflector now standard with built in storage pocket
- Load assist function standard easing cargo loading
- The latest technology including handwriting recognition iDrive, new navigation, driver aids and more
- 8 Speed automatic transmission with near seamless shifts and increased fuel economy
- Improved hard top mechanicals with the ability to opens and closes up to 11mph
- Cabin noise reduced 2dBs with better sound insulation
- Roof is completely lined with integrated lights giving a coupe feel with the top up
- Through loading rear seat with much wider opening
The F33 BMW 4 Series is a daily driveable convertible with new features that make it a true 4 season car while the new integrated neck warmers allow top down motoring more days out of the year. It is a handsome, sophisticated car that is enjoyable to drive with the top up and an immersion into open air motoring with the top down. If you're looking for a new convertible or are looking for some of the new features that were not available on your E93 convertible, the F33 4 Series is for you. What do you think of the all new 4 Series Convertible?
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