In case you hadn’t noticed, the winter finally seems to be over – and it’s about time too. What better way to celebrate the coming of the fun-in-the-sun season than to drive a new BMW rag top? Let’s get started.
First, if you are not familiar with BMW’s 2 Series cars, a quick reminder – these are “stretched” 1 Series cars with just enough much needed knee room for both front and rear seat passengers without making them seem out of proportion. Next, these new BMWs are twin-turbo, 4-cylinder powered with engines that deliver a smile-producting 240-hp while earning a very respectable 28 MPG overall from the EPA. The secret to this combination – good power and sensible fuel mileage – is something called “volumetric efficiency.” Turbo-charging has the double benefit of allowing the engine to behave like it belongs in an econo-car until you need the power to get up to speed. Then, mated to a rather amazing 8-speed automatic transmission, it spools up the turbo and propels the little BMW to 60MPH in about 5.7 seconds from a dead stop. Once at highway speed, the turbo slows down and the engine once again behaves like an economy car’s motor, giving the driver the best of both worlds. Every BMW made today benefits from this Jekyll and Hyde technology and it seems to work very well in real world conditions.
Inside, despite this being the smallest BMW sold over here, there is plenty of knee, head and leg room up front for just about anybody – NBA centers exempted. The driver’s seat had electric adjustments with enough up, down, forward and back movement to allow me to easily find a comfortable position. The same is not be true for back seat passengers as, despite the added length over the 1 Series, it’s still pretty tight in the back. Worse if both the back seat passengers and front seat occupants are 6 foot or more. Test before driving or move up to the 3 Series or even the 4 Series. One other thing we noticed. The top edge of the convertible top seemed a trifle low, giving us a momentary claustrophobic feeling until we settled into our seats. Again, sit and test in one and see if you agree.
Fit and finish on the interior of our test car was typical BMW-perfect. Everywhere we looked we could see the care and precision that went into this, their least expensive car line. Yes, entry-level BMWs still carry the reputation and pride of the Bavarian craftsmen and women back in Germany. Nice…
The proof of the pudding in any BMW is the driving experience so we took our test car on a variety of different roads to see how it handled. Acceleration was crisp but not neck-snapping (not a bad thing). Braking as good as any BMW’s and better than most every other sedan for sale (I love BMW’s brakes). Visibility with the top up was a little restrictive out of the passenger side – proper placement of the mirrors is key for safe driving in congested NJ traffic. Handling was best in the SPORT mode (SPORT+ being a bit to stiff for the Bergen County roads we travelled) and that’s where we would recommend anyone who drives for fun leave the adjustable suspension settings. Of course, there are a laundry list of safety systems that include anti-lock brakes, stability control, dynamic brake and cornering brake control too. Throw in the XDrive technology, BMW’s name for their all wheel drive system, and you are as safe as you can be in just about any car this size.
You buy a BMW for a lot of reasons. Comfort, style, that elusive fun-to-drive quality and, of course, safety. The BMW 228i XDrive Convertible delivered on all counts. However, quality this high doesn’t’ come cheaply – the convertible starts at about $38,000. With a light hit to the options list, you probably can get out the door with a 228i sticker-ed at $43,000 plus taxes and tags. That’s a lot of money, but it really is a lot of car. Backed by a 4 Year / 50,000 mile warranty and comprehensive no-owner-extra-cost service package, this could be a fun four-season car and the perfect way to ring in the spring.