2015 BMW M235i: Understanding the Convertible Impulse
by Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant on August 31, 2015
Before driving our long-term 2015 BMW M235i, I'd never been behind the wheel of a convertible. I had a friend that owned a Saab 9-3 convertible, but I never spent any time in it. The idea of a convertible never appealed to me. The summers are hot and humid where I grew up, so air-conditioning was nearly always preferable to leaving the windows rolled down. I rarely even opened the shade of my car's sunroof.
My friend's Saab always had a problem, too.
Well, it had a number of problems, but some of those involved the convertible roof.
The top would leak and the hydraulic struts were worn out. Both of those were expensive fixes. When the top was down, the trunk was nearly unusable. With the top up, it was impossible to see out of the back window.
From an enthusiast's view, a convertible is always a compromise compared to a hardtop model. A convertible requires extra bracing, which makes the car heavier, slower, and not as agile as a comparable hardtop. A convertible just always seemed like way more trouble than it was worth.
But after driving up and down the Southern California coast for a few hours, I think I'm starting to understand it. It was a gloomy day, but the temperature was nice enough to warrant going roofless. I rolled the top down and headed out for my first convertible journey. At least with all the clouds I didn't have to worry about sunburn.
The sound of the inline-six was great enough for me to cut off the radio and hold a gear longer than necessary. Modern cars feature so much sound-deadening material that a lot of that aural stimulation is lost. That's why many companies, like BMW, have resorted to pumping synthetic noise through the speakers. It was nice to know the noise I heard was real, and that engine is one of the best sounding out there.
Being in Los Angeles in the middle of the day, there wasn't much of a chance for me to really push the car. Maybe it would have changed my opinion if I could feel the extra heft. But I could imagine cruising around all day, enjoying the sound and the weather in a top-down car. I don't know if I would ever spend my money on one, but I think I'm starting to understand those that do.
Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant