From £29,7006
Elegant, refined and fairly practical, but spoiled by uncertain steering, roof-down shimmy and zest-blunting heftiness

Our Verdict

BMW 4 Series

The facelifted BMW 4 Series has improved on an already solid proposition but can it hold off the likes of the latest generation Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé?

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Richard Bremner Autocar
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What is it?

The new BMW 4-series convertible, seen here in range-topping 435i form.

See one of these parked roof-down in the sun and it’s easy to conclude that this car has style, class and elegance in quiet abundance. What it doesn’t have is the power to surprise, though, as this car is a predictable if worthwhile advance on its predecessor.

A 40 per cent torsional rigidity increase, 20kgs-worth of weight-paring, a 50mm wheelbase stretch and a lightly fettled engine range are the key improvements over the outgoing 3-series convertible, and heightened connectivity, too. Modest gains then, but the 4-series ought to provide a strong base for this metamorphosis.

What's it like?

The good news first. This car is a comfortable, restful roof-down experience. With wind-blocker and side windows up, its straight-six engine propels you to cruising speed swiftly enough, even if its fizz seems flatter than the 302bhp on offer implies. Blame its heft and, more positively, excellent driveline refinement for that.

The bigger cockpit provides ample room up front and adequate but firmly upholstered, rather upright seats in the rear. Conveniences include behind-backrest stowage for the wind-blocker, and a pushbutton facility for lifting the folded roof on its faintly quaking frame, which (slightly) eases access to 220 litres of roof-down boot space. There are gusting neck-warmers too, and a very effective noise-quelling headliner. 

Steering is the 435i’s big trouble, however. Roof up or down, this BMW always feels like it’s burdened with a mildly destabilising load. There’s a faint waywardness at work, and the BMW's steering remains vague until you’ve turned decisively into a bend. Between them, these flaws are frustrating to say the least.

Should I buy one?

BMW will have wanted to give the 4-series convertible just as much dynamic polish as the coupé. Unfortunately, the result falls wide of the mark. Steering and roof-down body shimmy flaws on their own might not be big problems, but together they add up to turn this into a slightly disappointing sports convertible, despite its stylish advantages.

BMW 435i Luxury Convertible automatic

Price £46,520; 0-62mph 5.5sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 34.9mpg (combined); CO2 176g/km Kerb weight 1740kg ; Engine 6 cyls in line, 2929cc, turbo, petrol; Power 302bhp at 5800-6000rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1200-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
9

19 January 2014
You are joking right, that front lower grill looks like a pair of dogs lips, and the whole thing from certain angles looks like Falcor the luckdragon from the never ending story, and the fact it appears to be a bit of a dog to drive does it no favours.

19 January 2014
It may be a better all-rounder but people buy convertibles for aesthetics. Perhaps it's just me but this car looks better with the hood up. Top off, I'd still take an E46 over this.

19 January 2014
scotty5 wrote:

It's no looker.

It doesn't help that is painted a particularly dull shade of primer grey. What nutter thought it was a good idea to send out a press car painted like that?

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

TBC

19 January 2014
Now there's a face only a mother could love..............

19 January 2014
Sounds like a disappointment. And an expensive one at that; over £46k for this is a joke!

20 January 2014
This looks awful, roof up or down, while the previous model was no looker either. The most recent Saab 9-3 convertible showed BMW how a mid-sized, saloon based convertible should like, a car that oozed style, sophistication, quality and desirability which the previous 3-Series convertible, and this new model, could only dream about. And the Saab drove much better too, a result of Saab's chassis knowhow and that rear wheel steering. The fact that the 9-3 convertible is still holding its value and is still sought after says it all, and since its sad demise no manufacturer has managed to fill the hole, hence why the 9-3 is still in demand. And with this 4 Series seemingly being a great disappointment, it goes to show once again that so many German cars are not that great and buyers should expect a lot more for their money. £45k for averageness is just not good enough and it's also a con. Save yourself thousands and buy the far better looking, and just plain better, Saab.

20 January 2014
Roadster wrote:

This looks awful, roof up or down, while the previous model was no looker either. The most recent Saab 9-3 convertible showed BMW how a mid-sized, saloon based convertible should like, a car that oozed style, sophistication, quality and desirability which the previous 3-Series convertible, and this new model, could only dream about. And the Saab drove much better too, a result of Saab's chassis knowhow and that rear wheel steering. The fact that the 9-3 convertible is still holding its value and is still sought after says it all, and since its sad demise no manufacturer has managed to fill the hole, hence why the 9-3 is still in demand. And with this 4 Series seemingly being a great disappointment, it goes to show once again that so many German cars are not that great and buyers should expect a lot more for their money. £45k for averageness is just not good enough and it's also a con. Save yourself thousands and buy the far better looking, and just plain better, Saab.

I couldn't agree more. I own the most recent 9-3 convertible and I chose it after trying out some of its rivals, which included the then E93 BMW 3 Series convertible. I found the Saab to be more comfortable than the BMW, better riding, better and safer handling, better built, had an easier to use dashboard and I felt the plastics and leather were of better quality too (in fact these were more or less the same reasons I chose my preceding 9-3 saloon over the E90 3 Series to replace my X-Type!). And last, but not least, the 9-3 had those knockout looks, something which the BMW, and indeed the C209 Mercedes CLK and Audi A5 convertibles which I tried, and which came second to the Saab in the same areas as the BMW, couldn't touch. The 9-3 still puts a smile on my face when I see it, it looks a million dollars and it just looks so much more stylish, desirable and more expensive than the German trio. I do wonder that many people who buy German cars only do so for the badge. It seems they're quite happy to waste money on something that is average rather than buy a good and quality product. Don't get me wrong, there are a few great, and class leading, German cars out there but there are not as many as people think.

20 January 2014
Once again BMW seem to have dropped the baton. I suppose after the folding hard roof E93 convertible there was little chance the engineers would admit they got it wrong and go back to a folding soft top. That seems to be the basic problem with this car's aesthetics. The points about the defunct Saab 9-3 convertible are (in part - it was as rigid as a jelly and drove poorly) well made - it did look good. As did the E46 convertible, I should know I owned one. The key point though is that both those cars had soft tops. The designers could therefore package their designs effecitively and elegantly and still allow the cars to be practical and comfortable as there was no need to put a large part of the car's metal structure in the boot. They could also in the case of the E46 ensure body rigidity as there was no need to accommodate 100kg + of folding metal and attendant hydraulics in the car. Regardless of BMW's marketing nonsense one of the problems of a folding hard top is that it requires additional strengthening to the body over and above the usual convertible strengthening. Having had a drive in the E93 3 Series convertible the overriding impression was one of weight. The car never felt anything less than very heavy. Roof up it rattled and squeaked as the body flexed and groaned. Roof down ithe rattling and squeaking was worse and with the weight of the roof now located in the boot it also felt less than planted on the road. Add those sort of issues to the less than elegant 4 Series shape and BMW really have lost the plot on convertibles. I hope the new 2 Series convertible will retain the soft top and show the 4 Series how it is done.

21 January 2014
I own the current (or should that be most recent!) Saab 9-3 and I have to agree with Roadster's and Saucerer's comments about what a good car it really is. I have a 2010 model and I plumped for it after trying some of the competition, including the previous BMW 3 Series. And I have to say that I agree with many of Saucerer's reasons as to why the Saab was better. The BMW's rear drive layout was nicely balanced, but I found the steering direct but heavy, especially at low speeds, while I found the handling twitchy especially on surfaces that weren't dry, meaning that I lacked confidence in the car and had to ease off. You could say the car felt unsafe under those conditions. The 9-3 handles equally as well as the BMW, if not better, but it felt more surefooted on damp surfaces, which is in no doubt down to the excellent rear wheel steering, while the steering is precise but lighter. As for ride quality, I found the BMW's well damped but jarring and that wasn't even the M-Sport version I tested. The Saab, on the other hand, glides over surfaces. As for build quality, Saab are renowned in this area and it seemed to be the equal of the BMW, while inside the Saab is far more appealing and attractive than the dull, business like affair of the BMW, and indeed the C-Class and Audi A4 I also tried. And the materials in my 9-3 are superb. The plastic in the German cars were soft and nasty and didn't feel solid. And then there's the look of the Saab, it is superb and looks like the high quality and classy product that it is and it is so much more sexier and appealing than any of its German rivals.

I am contemplating the latest 9-5 as a replacement car and it has many of the traits of the 9-3, but builds on them, and compared to the latest 5 Series I tested, the Saab won hands down for the same reason i chose the 9-3 over the 3 Series. Only the BMW's engine felt better. The problem for the 9-5 is that even though it's out of production, prices are still sky high and match those of the BMW. Which says more about the excellence and desirability, and demand, of the Swedish product if prices can stay high for a defunct car.

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