Driven: 2014 BMW 435i Convertible
By Bradley Iger
January 21, 2014
While we were out in the Nevada desert putting the M235i through the ringer at Las Vegas Speedway, BMW also gave us a chance to get behind the wheel of their newest drop-top coupe, the 4-series hard top convertible. In 435i configuration and equipped with an 8-speed automatic, one might expect this 4-series to provide a fairly similar experience to that of the M235i, which comes boasting essentially the same drivetrain. But in practice, the 435i exhibits a significantly different character that in turn gives this substantial two door a fundamentally different mission.
The twin-scroll turbocharged inline six found in the 435i is down slightly on power in comparison to its M235i counterpart, here making 306 horsepower and 295lb-ft. Mated to the 8-speed automatic of our tester, the coupe was still capable of a brisk 0-60 sprint of about 5.5 seconds, with the manual-equipped car said to be just few ticks behind. The 4-series coupe is a larger car than the 3-series model it replaces, but in spite of that growth, the 4-series coupe is actually about 50 pounds lighter depending on how it is configured.
While that's certainly good news in terms of both interior space and performance, the 435i convertible still weighs in at a hefty 4100lbs - nearly 600 pounds more than its 2-series counterpart we tested earlier in the day. Coupled with the longer wheelbase and less ideally balanced weight distribution, the case for the 435i becomes one of a GT car rather than an open-top sports car. When judged within those fundamentals, the 435i fairs much better, as that added weight and enlarged structure translate to a more compliant and enjoyable long distance cruiser than the 2-series could hope to offer. 40 percent stiffer than the outgoing 3-series convertible, the 435i is not without the capability of evoking some smiles on a twisty road, but the 435i's girth still does not go unnoticed, as pushing the car hard into a corner evokes a fair amount of body roll and driving inputs are generally less immediate than those exhibited by its sportier little brother.
This is of little consequence though, as the joy of open-top motoring is what most 4-series convertible owners will value above most everything else. To that end, BMW has taken a number of steps to improve the convertible experience. For the first time ever on a BMW, a neck-warming fan has been integrated into the front seats a la the Mercedes-Benz air scarf, and a redesigned standard windblock allows the ability to hold a conversation at freeway speeds with relative ease. The folding hardtop has also been significantly revised from the outgoing car, resulting in a more well-insulated cabin which is now 2-db quieter when closed, and a top which can be deployed in under 20 seconds from start to finish at up to 11 mph.
The expanded dimensions of the 4-series along with the new mechanicals of the folding hardtop equate to a trunk which offers 13.0 cubic feet of space, an increase of about 0.7 cubic feet over the 3-series convertible with the roof up. Cargo space is reduced down to 7.8 cubic feet with the roof down, but to combat this diminished space, BMW has added in a power lift feature that can raise the folded roof above the cargo area while loading and unloading larger items into the trunk, and the rear seats can be folded down or passed-through if needed, making the space much more usable than it would be otherwise.
As we mentioned in our M235i review, iDrive is still the interface you'll be working with in the BMW ecosystem, and while it has made significant improvements over the years, the entire interface still feels a bit more cumbersome than we'd like, and the lack of a touchscreen interface on the display feels somewhat antiquated in 2014. For those who've already spent some time with the iDrive system, you won't find any curveballs here, but there's also nothing terribly revolutionary to report, either.
As a highway cruiser, the 435i convertible is an adept performer. Quick, comfortable and reasonably spacious, it would be toward the top of our list of two door cars best suited for a long distance trip. It's sporting prowess is less compelling though, and we're sure a fair amount of that can be attributed to its lack of a fixed roof. But for buyers looking for a premium drop-top that probably won't factor into the equation very heavily, and the improvements to the 4-series over its outgoing 3-series counterpart largely serve to enhance the most important aspects of the drop-top GT experience.
2014 BMW 435i Convertible
Price: $55,825 base MSRP
Engine: Twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder
Output: 306 horsepower / 295 lb-ft torque
0 TO 62 MPH: 5.5 sec (auto)
Weight: 4100lbs (est)
On Sale: March 2014