Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Choose Life: Driving the BMW 435i Cabriolet

 photo P1180398.jpg Choices, we are inundated with them every single day. From the moment you choose to wake up to when you go back to bed at night, you would have already made hundreds or even thousands of decisions. This is something the folks over at BMW have understood as they have created an array of models from the basis of the (excellent) 3 Series chassis.  photo DSC04818.jpg You can now have your F30 derived BMWs in an array of flavors in either 3 Series or 4 Series guise and in the 4 Series range, you can have a Coupe, a Gran Coupe and for those who choose to have a mix of open and closed top motoring, our test car for today, the 435i Cabriolet.  photo DSC04660.jpg Stylistically, it's pretty much the same as the Coupe up to where the roof starts and although i really love the red, it is slightly less elegant than the Coupe when viewed from behind.  photo DSC04824.jpg Whereas the 4 Series Coupe has a very lovely taper towards the rear, the Cabriolet has to make do with a more upright C-pillar design because of the folding roof. The new car is also slightly larger than the car it replaces. Sitting 1 inch longer with 2 more inches added to the wheelbase and is 1.7 inches wider while height drops 0.4 inches. While it might not have as elegant a rear end, this scarlet drop-top is still an attractive looking machine.  photo DSC04686.jpg Dropping the roof (in a traffic-lights friendly 20 seconds) however, does much to increase the 4's visual appeal. As the slightly bulky rear windscreen treatment disappears under the boot, the lines of the 435i Cabriolet starts to show more prominently, especially in this beautiful shade of rouge. Our 435i comes in M-sport trim which means dark trim for the Bimmerangs, window surrounds, front bumper intakes, rear exhaust and some nice big 19-inch shoes all around.  photo P1180402.jpg  photo DSC04820.jpg Inside, those familiar with the German marque's ergonomics will be right at home as BMW's excellence in this field ensures all switchgear falls into place and within easy reach of the driver. The all leather seats are supportive, comfortable and on the Cabriolet, have belts that are integrated into the seat backs. Unfortunately the very tactile M steering wheel is not standard equipment but perhaps a friendly chat with your sales representative can change that (no promises!).  photo DSC04748.jpg Space inside is generous for a Cabriolet with easy access to the backseats. Although those getting into the back might want to tie their hair up when the top is dropped. Front seat occupants get to enjoy a relatively wind-free ride as careful aerodynamic considerations in the design means wind buffeting is kept to a minimal. Though the same cannot be said for those seated in the rear. You can attach a diffuser should you choose to do so. But once in place, the rear seats become redundant. Which also sort of makes the availability of a diffuser somewhat strange as you cancel out the passenger space for the very people who need it.  photo DSC04835.jpg Access to luggage storage is quite limited to just a small aperture once the roof is stowed away. BMW's solution comes in the form of a lifting mechanism which, with the trunk lid raised, electronically raises the folded top (and boot lid) up and out of the way via a button. It looks rather dramatic but how practical it will be remains something for future owners to decide.  photo DSC04837.jpg  photo P1180404.jpg Thumbing the starter button brings the Twin-Power-Turbo 3 liter to life and awakening slightly over 300 horses from their slumber with a muffled rumble. With a persuasive push of the throttle, 400Nm of torque is churned out just above idle (1,200rpm) and is twisted out the rear axles, easily lighting up the driving wheels as they claw for grip. Once the rubber stops spinning and digs into the tarmac, 100km/h arrives in 5.9 seconds and helped by the brilliant ZF 8 speeder, rapidly slots in new cogs as the 435i headbutts the (thanks to a now dropped roof) vast panoramic horizon. It might take 0.4 seconds more than the equivalent Coupe on paper, but on the move, you'd hardly notice a difference.

With such performance readily available from the get-go, you'd think we would be spending most of our time going all Ferris-Bueller on our scarlet drop-top but it turns out to be quite the opposite. We just never felt right ragging it out. Yes i know the chassis is more than capable to take on what my clumsy hands and feet can ask of it and yes even with the roof hidden away, the car remains as stiff as ever, laughing in the face of what some might call "chassis flex". But, it just feels wrong to drive it hard, or for lack of a better word, "hooning" it.  photo DSC04648.jpg It's not the weight of the car too, it might be slightly heavier and have a higher center of gravity with it's folding tin-top, but i reckon most drivers won't really notice. And for those who do and insist it makes a difference when it comes to "handling", point them towards the Coupe.

For the rest of us, we most likely won't be driving it hard enough for that extra weight to make much of a difference. So what is holding me back from stomping on the loud pedal once the road opens up? I think it's the essence of the car, the way the car flows and communicates with you. Some cars egg you on and push you to go harder and faster, some prefer to slosh about, the 435i Cabriolet? I think it feels better engaging in a bit of grand touring and cruising.  photo DSC04722.jpg Slot the driving mode into Comfort and bringing the frenzied pace down a notch allows one to enjoy all the sights, sounds and sensations that envelope you and your senses when the roof is removed. Sure, the firepower to splash most other cars on the road is there, but you choose not to use it. You choose to be a gentleman, cruising the open road in your topless red machine and just for that moment, life is good. Who cares if the roof adds a few kilos, it's not heavy, it's cool.  photo DSC04800.jpg The question now is, is the 435i Cabriolet worth it's asking price? Personally, if someone was in the market for one of these, I'd recommend saving almost S$60,000 and point him or her towards the 328i variant. Unless you really have the need for speed and want all the grunt of the Twin-Power Turbo'd 3 liter, the 328i has more than ample performance under the bonnet to satisfy the occasional jaunt and with a nice amount of cash in the pocket leftover, the 328i Cabriolet is (to me at lest) the pick of the drop-top crop.  photo P1180417.jpg

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Japan is car crazy

It doesn't get any better than this.