Monday, October 14, 2013

2014 BMW 4 Series Convertible

The second of BMW’s new 4 Series two-doors is a droptop. The sleek 2014 4 Series Convertible retains the folding hard top of its predecessor, but features many upgrades, including more standard features, which is unusual for BMW. The 4 Series Convertible, expected to arrive in showrooms early next year, replaces the 3 Series Convertible. It follows the German automaker’s new naming convention that uses even numbers for all BMWs with two doors and odd numbers for those with four doors.

The 2014 4 Series Convertible will come in two versions: the 428i, which has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the 435i, which has a turbocharged six-cylinder engine. Both will have an eight-speed automatic as their only transmission. The lack of a manual transmission will upset purists who prefer it, especially on sporty cars like this BMW.

Rear-wheel drive is standard on both models. All-wheel drive is optional on the 428i. One big improvement is that the retractable hardtop, which folds into three sections and stows in the trunk, has more insulation than before to keep the cabin quieter. For example, it reduces wind noise by up to 2 decibels.

The 428i puts out 240 horsepower and goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds. The 435i has 300 horsepower and sprints from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 5.5 seconds. There are also Sport and Sport+ modes (the latter depending on trim level) to improve throttle and transmission response.

The 2014 4 Series Convertible goes on sale in the first quarter with a starting price of $49,675 for the 428i and $55,825 for the 435i. Both prices include a $925 destination charge.

A Carliners Report.

BMW i3 Electric

The BMW i3 isn't built like any other electric car. It's made of different stuff, and its layout is different. Everything about it has been considered and re-thought. Despite the fact it comes from an established car company, its whole approach and execution is amazingly fresh. And so driving it is a mind-cleansing experience too. While the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S or Vauxhall Ampera all look like modern conventional cars, the i3 is designed to reflect what's underneath. There's no attempt to hide the narrow, low-drag tyres, or the advanced aero. No attempt to hide the fact that it's high because the battery is under the floor, or that it's snub-nosed because the motor and gearbox are in the back.

Smoothly, at somewhere above 70-mph, the motor's acceleration begins to taper away compared with your expectations. This is a 170bhp car sub 60mph, but at bigger speed it isn't. That's precisely because it has just the one gear, and it's now revving beyond its power peak. Anyway, to prevent energy-sucking high speed running, it's limited to 93mph. But it's not a deal-breaker: you can move into the outside lane without it betraying you.

The acceleration is better than most e-cars because it's so light. BMW has been researching for a decade how to reduce the cost of carbonfibre. With the i3 it has got to the point of using an entire carbonfibre upper body cell, mounted on an aluminium chassis. This cuts the weight considerably. And lighter weight means it needs less battery for a competitive 90-mile range. Since batteries are expensive, the saving on battery pays for the carbonfibre. And a smaller battery is lighter too. Brilliant. We said this was built entirely differently from everyone else's electric cars. It weighs 1200kg, which is 350kg less than the Nissan Leaf, which gets by on just 109bhp. That's why the 170bhp BMW goes so well.

iDrive makes a standard appearance, in all its simplistic, functional glory. After sampling many competitive infotainment control systems, I’m left with a newfound appreciation of iDrive. You’ll find the drive mode selector button right beside your right thigh – I found this to be well positioned since you may reach for it quickly on occasion, and you may toggle it frequently.
 For example, when driving in Eco Pro+ I found myself in a traffic situation that called for quicker, more assertive maneuvers. Toggling to Comfort mode livens up the drive pedal (formerly known as the throttle pedal) and allows you to carve through traffic more effectively. A quick toggle of the same button has you back to electron salvaging in short order.

It should be mentioned that the front cup-holders are removable, allowing for a considerable amount of space between the driver and passenger foot-wells. An attaché case would easily fit, so if you’re carrying a full house and have run out of storage room, you could always make use of this space. The elimination of a drive tunnel (thanks to the mid-rear motor, rear-wheel drive design) makes this possible.

A battery of steering-wheel mounted controls also keep your eyes on the road. Voice activation also makes an appearance on the i3, though I didn’t test it (to busy fooling around with the other cool tech, and exercising my anterior neck muscles with the drive pedal). Final detail about the steering wheel: it feels good in your hands, is well sized given the car’s quick steering ratio, and is decorated with a ring of blue around its rim – a stylistic touch that reminds you of the electric horses pushing you along.

A Carliners Report.