As topless cars go, the 2014 BMW 435i Convertible (BMW's replacement for the 335i convertible) is not the most focused driving machine we've ever experienced. It is not the most rigid. Or the quickest. Or the most rewarding.
It is, however, a machine that comprehensively eliminates any challenge remaining in owning a modern convertible. In other words, the 435i convertible aims to bring closed-roof comfort to the open-roof experience.
At that task it does a masterful job.
A Quiet, Calm, Warm Convertible
We drove the 2014 BMW 435i — top up and down — in Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park as well as the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Here, even in January, temperatures were in the 60s, but given the legion of comfort features on hand we can say confidently that a topless 4 Series will comfortably coddle its occupants at half that temperature.
With the retractable hardtop down, the 435i's cockpit environment is one of such unruffled serenity, it's as if an entire battalion of German engineers was directed to silence, damp or deflect the wind. There's a removable wind block behind the front seats that can be raised to reduce buffeting. The climate control compensates for the exterior temperature and road speed. There are available neck warmers and seat heaters. And with the windows raised, airflow was insufficient to ruffle our hair at freeway speeds.
You will not be cold. Or wind-blown.
But that's not all. Even the front-seat seatbelts, which are integrated into the seatbacks, are designed with a nod toward top-down motoring. "This way there's no annoying seatbelt flapping," said one enthusiastic engineer. Ah, yes, they've thought of everything.
Based on the 4 Series Coupe
In case you've missed BMW's latest numerical name shuffling, BMWs with two doors now utilize even numbers in their names. Accordingly, this 435i convertible is based on the new 4 Series coupe.
And with the top closed, the driving experience in the convertible is very much like driving the 4 Series coupe. The weight gain of the convertible — which comes in at around 485 pounds versus the coupe — is obvious only if you try and hustle.
Thankfully, hustling is not what you feel like doing when you're behind the wheel of this car. Instead, it's simply a perfectly reasonable place to enjoy a day of roofless motoring at moderate speeds. The three-piece hardtop conceals itself under the rear deck in about 20 seconds and can be raised or lowered with the push of a button at speeds below 11 mph.
Bigger in Almost Every Way
The 2014 BMW 435i is bigger in nearly every dimension than the car it replaces. The wheelbase is 2 inches longer, it's 1 inch longer overall, 1.7 inches wider and 0.4 inch lower. And if the goal is more aggressive proportions, lower and wider almost always works. With the top up, the shorter overhangs yield a more taut look than the coupe, and the lack of a B-pillar furthers the elegance. It's a good-looking convertible in a world filled with mediocre drop tops.
Despite the lower roof line, there's more passenger room inside. Both headroom and legroom are improved over the 335i convertible. Overall, the 435i's interior trim is of the quality we expect in a luxury car at this price range, which is to say it looks, smells and feels expensive.
The 435i shows restraint typical of BMW interiors, with most functions contained to the central iDrive controller. Dedicated knobs and buttons for ventilation, audio and phone controls reside both on the center stack and steering wheel.
Trunk space is as compromised as we'd expect in a convertible. There's only 7.7 cubic feet with the top lowered and more reasonable 13 cubic feet with it raised. However, when the top is lowered, only a small aperture allows access to the remaining cargo area. BMW's solution? A lifting mechanism which, with the trunk lid raised, electronically hoists the folded top up and out of the way via a button. This allows the cargo space to be filled to capacity — a task that couldn't be accomplished without moving the top.
It's slow and complex and we'd rather throw our bag in the backseat, but this is modern luxury.
Familiar Powertrains, Adjustable Chassis
BMW's widely used 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine is under the hood of the 435i along with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission. It's rated at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and drives the rear wheels. A 428i model with a 240-hp four-cylinder is also available.
The 435i's powertrain offers two significant fuel-saving features: a coasting function that decouples the engine from the drive wheels when you're off the gas, and an auto stop-start feature, which turns the engine off at stoplights.
Combined fuel consumption is expected to be reduced some 20 percent from the outgoing 335i convertible's 21 mpg combined, according to BMW. Its 0-60-mph time is estimated at 5.5 seconds.
The chassis, too, is a state-of-the-art setup that offers adjustable everything. The Driving Dynamics Control switch allows toggling among four modes: Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. Each setting has its own parameters for suspension damping, throttle calibration and steering effort as well as gearchange speed and logic. Eco Pro mode delivers the least aggressive settings for maximum mileage, while the other settings progressively up the intensity for a sharper feel. Even in Sport Plus, however, the 435i convertible is still more than comfortable for everyday driving.
New Features, New Price
New to the 2014 BMW 435i Convertible are active cruise control and a head-up display as well as a few other optional features. Among those is a new active fatigue protection monitor, which alerts a driver when he's falling asleep, thereby fully eliminating the one remaining challenge in driving long distances in a luxury car.
Pricing, including destination fees, starts at $55,825 for the 435i convertible, which is $800 more than the 335i convertible. The 428i convertible starts at $49,675. Both cars will hit dealers March 1.
Much like its predecessor, the 435i convertible is a car that maximizes the joy of roofless motoring while minimizing the burdens inherent in such an indulgence. And that — not chassis rigidity nor all-out performance — is exactly what luxury convertible buyers want.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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