Monday, September 10, 2018

Miscellany: 2018 BMW 430i Convertible review - Sacrificing Everything

The Kaepernick parodies are old news by now, but Nike's tagline remains an apropos description of the loaner BMW 430i convertible I drove over the weekend. That's because the 430i's main feature - a well-engineered folding metal roof that's almost imperceptible when up - also negatively impacted nearly every other aspect of the car.

Performance - The 430i convertible is 500 pounds heavier than an equivalent 3 or 4-series, but still powered by the same 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. The extra weight is immediately noticeable. Compared to my barebones 328i, the car was less nimble weaving around traffic and slower off the line. Stepping up to an inline six 440i or M4 convertible would solve the latter problem, but not the former.

Trunk Space - When the top is down, the convertible mechanism seriously compromises the 430i's trunk space, more so than a fabric top. You can fit a couple of carry-on size bags beneath the trunk divider, but not much else.

Interior Legroom - It's not quite as cramped as my friend's old F-body Camaro convertible, but the backseat of the 430i isn't particularly comfortable, either. Head and shoulder room is fine, but there's a couple less inches of legroom in the back (and the 4-series didn't have a lot to begin with). Again, blame the space needed for the droptop machinery.

Price - According to the sticker, my 430i convertible's starting price was $50,500, thousands of dollars more than an equivalent 4-series coupe. And while the base model isn't exactly a stripper (18" wheels and LED headlights are standard), you get nickel und dimed in typical BMW fashion for everything else. Leather seats are $1,500, navigation and park distance are $2,000, and Apple CarPlay is an insulting $300 extra.

So why would anyone buy this thing?

The convertible roof is flat-out excellent. When it's up, it keeps out noise and the elements much better than a ragtop - I drove in torrential rain and the interior remained serene. When an opportunity for open-air cruising presents itself, the roof opens and closes in about 20 seconds:

I suppose it all comes down to whether being able to drop the top is worth the many shortcomings listed above. I think the answer is "no" for me, but when you're talking about driving along on a sunny day in Palm Beach, it can be hard to tell...


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