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Test Drive: BMW 1-Series Convertible

1-series | February 1st, 2008 by 0

According to MotiveMagazine, contrary to many people’s expectations, the upcoming 1-series convertible is not a chick car. So far we know that the there will …

According to MotiveMagazine, contrary to many people’s expectations, the upcoming 1-series convertible is not a chick car.

So far we know that the there will be two versions of the convertible offered — the 128i at launch(March 22nd) and the 135i sometimes in the summer. We also know that the U.S version of the 128i will use the regular 3.0-liter (not 2.8) straight six that makes 230 horsepower, and the 135i will feature the twin-turbo 3.0-liter six 300 horsepower.

Without any further introduction, let me share with you their article.

BMW 1-series convertible

BMW 1-series convertible

Go ahead. Take one look at it and jump to the usual conclusion. Yeah, sure, it’s a four-seat drop-top with the coveted blue-and-white roundels at each end, but don’t assume it’s only good for running between cheerleading practice and the mall. BMW’s new 1-series convertible is a seriously good driver’s car that looks even better in the metal than the coupe on which it’s based. And Godammit, it’s not a chick car!

If BMW’s newest convertible were merely a boulevard-cruising frontin’ machine, surely its PR team would have flown the first pack of international journalists to the south of France to frolic on the beaches of Nice and simply take in the beauty of its latest sunchaser. Instead, BMW let us have a go on the challenging mountain roads-cum-sheep paths outside of Valencia, Spain. The weather was warm enough to enjoy top-down motoring, cool enough to feel justified in driving with the top up, and the scenery amply majestic for beauty shots. But the roads — oh, sweet Lord — the roads were made for driving. And rather than being handed a set of instructions for a prescribed route, we were given a virtual catalog of available driving roads on which to get lost for the day.

The drop-top version of the 1-series will bow early this spring alongside its hardtop sibling. Two versions of the convertible will be offered — the 128i at launch and the 135i shortly thereafter — that nicely parallel the coupes. If you’ve been keeping up with BMW’s nomenclature lately (and good on ya if you can) you’ll know that the 128i will use a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter (not 2.8) straight six that makes 230 horsepower, and the 135i will feature the twin-turbo 3.0-liter six that pumps out 300 ponies. Neither of those was available for our early drive, so we had to make due with the 218-horse Euro-market 125i (which, logic be damned, also uses a de-tuned version of the 128i’s three-liter engine) that we were told is virtually identical to our 128i.

Our first clue that the 1-series, even in convertible form, is still intended for driving enthusiasts is revealed in its exhaust note. Deep, mellow, lusty, and refined, it sounds like the meisterwerk of a mad acoustical engineer with a passion for sport bikes. The sonic performance is best at startup, its bassy burble mimicking a Mercruiser outboard churning lake water at idle. Eventually it warms up and settles into a more discreet purr, but even this is worthy of a couple extra laps in the parking garage before departing.

In the free-form traffic of downtown Valencia, our 125i shot through gaps in congestion with no problem. Good for 218 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 199 lb-ft from 2500 to 4250 rpm, BMW reckons the 125i convertible can get to 62 mph (100 km/h) in about 6.8 seconds. Our 128i will make its 230 horses at a slightly higher 6500 rpm, and peak torque of 200 lb-ft will come on at 2750 rpm, allowing for a 0-to-60 mph time, according to Munich, of 6.4 seconds with six-speed manual gearbox (7.0 for the six-speed automatic). To put those numbers in perspective, it took the 1995 M3 the same amount of time to do the 0-to-60 sprint, with its advantage of 10-horsepower, 25 lb-ft, and 275 pounds. The manually shifted 135i will shave a full second off that time, putting it in the same club as the last-generation M3 convertible. No one ever called the M3 a girlie-mobile.

More of the true nature of the 1-series ‘vert reveals itself once we turn off the main roads and start making our way into the hills. The body structure is stiff; in fact, it feels almost as tight as the coupe. Only the most negligible hint of cowl shake is present over the worst road bumps, but never to the degree that you can actually witness the gaps between the door panels and the dashboard change dimensions. The chassis is modified for convertible duty, supplanting many of the coupe’s conventional steel panels with high-strength steel and incorporating additional bracing that’s been engineered to fit into the structure from the outset. The resulting platform is rigid enough to bolt the coupe’s sporty suspension underneath, endowing it with the kind of handling that put BMW on the map in the first place. The five-link rear axle with coil springs and gas dampers controls the movement of the drive wheels, masterfully compromising the demands of both ride and handling, while a Mac-strut suspension does the same thing for the front.

BMW 1-series convertible

Read the rest of the article on MotiveMag.com

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