2015 BMW 228i Convertible First Drive
Quite often when the average American thinks "convertible," he or she thinks of the Mustang or Camaro: big cars with even bigger engines and a drop-top roof to better soak up the sun and sounds on an open coastal road. If you're a European, though, the word "convertible" likely brings to mind relatively light and nimble drop-tops that you take into wooded backcountry to enjoy. That might help explain why the old BMW 1 Series Convertible was such a hit among Germans, Britons, and Belgians — the No. 1, 3, and 5 market for the car. But seeing as the No. 2 and 4 markets for the old drop-top 1 Series were the United States and Australia, respectively, BMW saw it prudent to design its follow-up, the 2015 2 Series Convertible, with a more international flavor. With that in mind, it gathered up a gaggle of 2015 BMW 228i Convertibles and set us loose to drive them in Central Texas.
BMW thankfully doesn't mess with the winning formula too much with the 2 Series Convertible, basing it on the solid bones of the 2 Series Coupe. Just about the only differences between the convertible and its steel-top brethren are some sub-frame connectors and an electrically operated cloth top. With the top up, the 2 Series Convertible faithfully mimics the three-box stance of the coupe. Lowering the top, which can be done at speeds up to 30 mph as long as you have 20 seconds or so to spare, gives the Bimmer the visual allure of those cigarette boats the Coast Guard spends so much time chasing off the coast of Florida.
Although European 2 Series Convertible buyers will have the choice of three gas engines, ranging from a 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-pot to a 3.0-liter, turbo I-6, and three diesel engines, including a turbodiesel I-4 with 332 lb-ft of twist, American buyers' choice will be limited to the 228i's 2.0-liter, turbo I-4 making 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque and the M235i's 3.0-liter, turbocharged I-6 making 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. The M235i Convertible can be had with a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic, and the 228i will be automatic-only. The latter also gets an all-wheel-drive option to compete with the Audi A3 Cabriolet later this year.
Although the U.S. is missing out on the massive variety of engines in the 2 Series, we aren't missing out on any of the fun, as I can attest after an afternoon with a 2015 228i Convertible. As is the case with the coupe, the 2.0-liter turbo-four remains a willing dance partner under the hood of the convertible. Hammer down, and you're met with a wall of torque as the 228i surges forward — mind you, you won't get to hear the four-pot over the wind while accelerating with the top down, but you'll certainly feel the punchy little engine's power. The 228i Convertible's steel-topped counterpart will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, but BMW says the 'vert will need around 5.7 seconds to hit the same mark. With a 300-pound weight increase over the 228i Coupe, the convertible does feel noticeably slower than the hardtop, although thankfully the weight penalty doesn't hurt the 228i Convertible too much in the corners, as it still remains as fun and tossable as ever.
On the road with the top down and wind deflector over the back seats, the 228i Convertible's cabin is a pretty calm place. Things only get quieter with the top up, thanks to the extra sound-deadening BMW added versus the old 1 Series Convertible. Inside, the cabin is identical to that of the coupe, but with one exception: the back seat. Whereas the 2 Series Coupe offers a surprising amount of room in back for two fully grown adults, the back seat of the convertible is Audi A3 levels of tight. Children might be fine in back, but adults aren't fitting back there with any semblance of comfort.
The other potential red flag for 2 Series Convertible buyers is likely to be price. The base 228i Convertible starts at $38,850, and optioned the same as our test model it rolls off dealer lots for $47,795. The M235i Convertible is more expensive still, starting at $48,650. Although the 2 Series Convertible may be a compelling option in Europe, American buyers will likely be tempted to spend their money on a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible or a 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible, as the latter can be had identically equipped to our test car in EcoBoost form for a hair above $43,000. However, for those not entirely convinced the ever-popular ponycar convertible is the way to go, the BMW 228i Convertible is a pretty compelling way to enjoy topless driving.