BMW 435i Convertible Details:
- TwinPower 3.0-liter inline-six N55 engine | Wider, longer and lower
- Hardtop folds in 20sec at up to 11mph | Air Curtains and Air Breathers aerodynamics
- Standard manual transmission | Eight-speed auto available
- Starts at $54900 | M Sport trim and options available
Electronics: LED High Beam Assistant | BMW ConnectedDrive | Auto stop/start and coasting function | Standard Servotronic speed-sensitive steering
+ Pros: Hardtop benefits with convertible fun | Three-stage neck warmers | Excellent interior quality | Comfortable cruiser
- Cons: Lacks driver involvement | Almost 500 lb heavier than Coupe
The most extreme BMW enthusiasts are a persnickety strain of gearheads with a predilection for nitpicking the tiniest discrepancies in driver feedback, from steering feel to transient response. As such, the new 435i Convertible is disadvantaged from the get-go because of its lid. But unlike ragtop competitors, the 4's folding metal roof is a three-piece origami extravaganza that not only nods to BMW's design vernacular (note the articulated Hofmeister kink at the trailing edge of the C-pillar), but also enables 20sec erection at speeds up to 11mph while providing extra rigidity when in place.
The roof offers an impressive bit of electro-hydraulic ballet, with a handy loading system (similar to the Mercedes-Benz SL) to expand trunk capacity. The downside is that it adds almost 500 lb due to the complex mechanism and body reinforcement. The result is an inevitable sacrifice in the car's handling and acceleration.
Swing open the big doors, climb inside and the familiar BMW visuals emerge, particularly the black-panel instrumentation and centrally located, landscape-oriented nav screen.
There's an air of casual elegance to this convertible that aims at an entirely different zip code; think baby 6 Series rather than senior 2 Series, especially evidenced by its longer, wider, lower proportions compared to its E93 predecessor.
Top-up, the 435i Convertible managed the wide-open roads north of Las Vegas with the composure of a luxurious tourer. Coupled with the eight-speed auto, the 3.0L turbo hardly ever felt breathless, especially with its 300 lb-ft starting at a mere 1300rpm and not tapering off until 5000rpm.
That generous powerband makes for brisk takeoffs and satisfying passing maneuvers. Compared to its Coupe counterpart, the Convertible loses 0.5sec sprinting to 60mph - but the al fresco 435i can still make the run in 5.4sec, which is an entirely respectable measure considering its more mature skillset. Commensurate with the recalibrated priorities is handling that feels secure rather than athletic; steering feedback is adequately, though not overly communicative, and this four-seater certainly feels better suited to grocery runs and urban errands than pylon-dodging on autocross courses.
There's still BMW's near perfect weight distribution (48:52), and generous front-end bracing to heighten the feeling you're connected to the road. But even with the right pedal pinned, the 435i's acceleration feels silky, rather than explosive, with power transfer seamlessly mitigated by the transmission.
By offering a traditional three-pedal, six-speed manual, that's bookended by a more aggressively shifting eight-speed Sports automatic (in addition to the standard eight-speed auto), BMW has set its sights on a broad range of buyers, from the most stubborn gear-rowers to the laziest commuters.
Hanging on to the manual may be a grand gesture of counter-trending, but it helps old school BMW clientele feel in the loop, even though the worrying trend du jour is to ditch the third pedal...
As such, the BMW 435i Convertible makes outward gestures intended to satisfy its most traditional fan base (via manual gearbox, etc) but is ultimately aimed more directly at buyers who crave neck warmers and near-silent, top-up motoring.
Those hungry for spine-tingling handling might wait for the inevitable 2 Series ragtop, which - if the Coupe version is any indication - should deliver on BMW's promise of driver interactivity and seat-of-the-pants satisfaction. Until then, the 435i Convertible offers a more mature and civilized way to soak up the sun. It may not be a visceral triumph, but its thoughtfully engineered design details suggest this BMW has simply been recalibrated for a more sophisticated group of sun worshippers.
2014 BMW 435i Convertible
2979cc inline six-cylinder 24v with variable-geometry turbo, direct injection
six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission with available Sport function
four-piston floating calipers, 13.4" rotors f, two-piston, 13" r
aluminum double-joint MacPherson strut f, five-link axle r
Wheels & Tires
17x7.5" wheels, 225/50 R17 tires
300hp at 5800rpm
300 lb-ft at 1200-5000rpm
$54900 (+$925 D&H)