There are specific reasons why brochures and press images of a convertible tend to depict such a vehicle in a beautiful setting with its hard top folded neatly away. A picturesque backdrop is standard fare in marketing: it sells the lifestyle by rendering a pleasant dreamscape… As for the top-down configuration of the subject, that’s for the purposes of showing a car looking its very best – because when the roof is up, an awkward rear-three quarter aspect usually becomes apparent.
To the credit of the 435i Convertible test unit, its exterior packaging – which is determined by the needs to seat four occupants, accommodate the sizeable segments of the folding roof structure and its mechanical ancillaries under its sheet metal, plus afford a modicum of usable luggage space – is particularly elegant. Compared with its beautifully proportioned Coupé sibling, only the slightly less graceful C-pillar contour (ostensibly a measure to create headroom for rear passengers) requires familiarisation; the pair of slim exterior roof hinges, which were dead giveaways of the Four’s 3 Series-
based predecessor, are absent.
Even though the Convertible is slightly taller than the Coupé, it hasn’t lost much of its low-slung, eminently upmarket sibling’s kerb appeal. Besides, when its roof is lowered (in a matter of 20 seconds,
and at road speeds of up to 18 km/h), the 435i’s arrow-tip front end, expansive shoulder lines and voluptuous haunches combine to endow the BMW with a seductively sleek, speedboat-like profile.
As for the interior execution, the body hugging, electrically adjustable (with memory) front seats have integrated safety belts, while the centre console, adorned with the latest iteration of BMW’s iDrive console and Driving Dynamics control toggle as per the Coupé, is augmented by buttons for the front-seating heaters and roof opening/closing function switch. Otherwise, the Convertible’s facia is largely similar to that of its 3 and 4 Series siblings – pleasingly tactile and smartly finished. Furthermore, the (current) flagship of the range comes extensively equipped as standard, inter alia the Sports version of the eight-speed automatic transmission with gearshift paddles on the multi-function steering wheel, comfort access and an extended lights package, a rear-view camera, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio and a Professional navigation package.
The aforementioned heated seats combine well with the standard Air Collar system, which pipes climate-controlled air onto the back of front occupants’ necks through vents in the seatbacks, as well as the warming function in the steering wheel, to help make top-down driving bearable even in cooler weather conditions (this test was conducted in early winter). With all windows up and the removable wind deflector in place, turbulence is well suppressed and the interior temperature adroitly maintained at urban speeds. In fact, it’s possible for a driver to have a conversation with their passenger
without needing to shout while the Convertible is travelling at the national speed limit.
Performance-wise, the 435i has two major advantages as a driver’s car: the stock M Sport suspension, which sees the vehicle lowered by 10 mm and adopt a stiffer spring/damper setup than of its 428i equivalent, and the silky, sonorous 3,0-litre turbocharged straight-six motor that has proved such a well-matched combination with the eight-speed ZF transmission in other BMWs.
That said, the Convertible has a less-than-ideal weight balance (48:52) front to rear even when the roof is up, and although it is lighter than its predecessor, the car still weighs almost 1,9 tonnes (1 849 kg on our scales, versus the Coupé’s 1 655 kg). Given that, testers remarked the N52 engine just didn’t feel quite as punchy in this application, especially in cut-and-thrust driving. According to the test figures, there is little to separate the BMW siblings: the zero to 100 km/h benchmark was only 5/100ths slower and in-gear overtaking times were similar. We’re confident, however, that if we tested both simultaneously that the Coupé would be the quicker car.
The CAR test team had consensus that the 435i Convertible is an effortless cruiser rather than a mountain pass blaster. It’s not that the test unit exhibited elements of imprecision or cumbersome handling; the test unit’s steering was sharp and precise and its body control evidenced improvement in torsional rigidity (the Four droptop’s said to be 60% stiffer than its predecessor) as well as the well-balanced damping inherent to the 3 and 4 Series ranges. Admittedly, the ride quality was not the most pliant that we’ve encountered on a BMW of the Convertible’s size, but only major road imperfections unsettled the suspension.
What’s more, the Convertible exhibits more than a few sops to practicality. The rear bench has a very upright seatback, but we measured 642 mm of available knee- and legroom – which is suitable for average-sized adults on shorter trips and most definitely for young children.
A luggage cover that denotes the available volume with the roof up and down aids the rear luggage capacity and the boot aperture is certainly wider than before. According to our standard measurement tests, there is 256 dm3 available when the top is up, and 152 dm3 with the roof down, plus the rear seatback folds forward to free up utility space and a button on the edge of the bootlid allows a driver to raise the roof cradle slightly to make it easier to load the bay.
The best way to appreciate the 4 Series Convertible is to see it as a lifestyle vehicle with a sporty bent, as opposed to a pukka sportscar – at least in this iteration of the product.
Elegance, sophistication, luxury and comfort are adjectives that come to mind when describing the newcomer, although its drivetrain is impressively refined and the driving experience sufficiently engaging.
With an asking price of almost R850 000, the BMW undercuts its Mercedes-Benz E400 rival appreciably, and comes in slightly below the ageing Audi S5 Cabriolet, although the addition of one of BMW’s myriad trim lines would balance things out. As opposed to most heart-overhead purchasing propositions, the 4 Series Convertible is not a tough sell when considered rationally. It’s arguably the most desirable compact executive-sized drop-top in its class… even so, perhaps the 428i Automatic is the better buy?
The best way to appreciate the BMW 435i Convertible Steptronic is to see it as a lifestyle vehicle with a sporty bent, as opposed to a pukka sportscar