2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Introduction
You know times are changing when the phrase best used to describe BMW’s entry-level convertible – the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet – is ‘comfortable cruiser.’ Although the German automaker’s topless models have almost always been less dynamically-focused than their fixed-roof siblings, it’s clear that a threshold has been crossed with this first open air edition of the newly-minted 4 Series. The vehicle, which is based on the same basic platform as the 3 Series, follows in its forbearer's footsteps but treads heavier than one would expect when it comes to handling, acceleration, and fun factor.
One might interpret this as a criticism of the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet, but it’s less a screed than it is yet another signpost on the brand’s evolution from purveyor of sporty rides to vendor of premium profit centers. There’s no shame in going where the money is, and for the right buyer there’s a substantial amount of enjoyment to be extracted from this four seasons-friendly, retractable-hardtop convertible.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet represents one step above the entry-level in BMW's compact convertible hierarchy. The base BMW 428i cabriolet starts at an MSRP of $48,750 and offers features such as HID headlights, fog lights, 18-inch rims, imitation leather seats, dual automatic climate control, a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, a 6.5-inch LCD screen mounted on the dashboard, power adjustments for the front buckets, HD radio, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Moving up to the 428i xDrive (MSRP $50,750) doesn't add any extra equipment aside from its all-wheel drive system.
BMW also offers three 'lines' of 4 Series convertibles (Luxury, M Sport, Sport), each of which determine various trim details and styling cues. My test vehicle was a Sport line model outfitted with red Dakota leather on the interior, the Cold Weather package (heated steering wheel, front seats, neck warmer), the Driver Assistance package (parking sonar, rearview camera), and the Technology package (navigation, head-up display, remote services, extended instrument cluster). The total MSRP of the vehicle I drove for a week checked in at $59,400.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Design
- The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet is an all-new design.
The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet sits alongside the 4 Series coupe in the BMW line-up, and each of these models also share substantial DNA with the 3 Series sedan. The 428i xDrive cabriolet boasts a somewhat wider track than its four-door cousin, along with a slightly taller roofline than the coupe, but its general dimensions are very close to those of the 3 Series convertible that it replaces. The car’s retractable hardtop changes the silhouette of the cabriolet in pleasing fashion by placing greater emphasis on its flat trunk, and BMW fans will notice the 428i xDrive’s additional beefiness as compared to drop tops that came before it.
There’s also the question of the cabriolet’s front fender vents, which are intended to reduce drag but which on the model I drove were finished in a low-rent black plastic that detracted from the car’s looks to the point where it was pointed out by passengers. You can get these vents chromed by way of the Luxury line version of the convertible, which has the advantage of reducing their visibility against certain paint schemes.
You’d be hard-pressed to distinguish the interior of the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet from that of the 428i coupe, or even the 328i sedan, as each offer a plastic-intensive finish on the dash and doors that is somewhat disappointing at their respective price points (and especially so with the convertible). The use of contrasting door panels, lower dash, and seat upholstery, dyed an eye-catching red, was a pleasant break from the monochromatic paradigm that rides high in this class of car.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet is an all-new model.
Settling down into the high-sided cockpit of the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet imparts the first real understanding of what this automobile has been designed to do. With the top up, the 428i xDrive cabriolet is exceptionally quiet, and with it lowered the vehicle’s sheet metal wraps around driver and front passenger in a manner that feels safe and snug. Overall, there’s more space to be had with the new 4 Series than ever before in BMW’s most affordable convertible, but rear seat riders are restricted to a pair by the 428i’s 2+2 arrangement (in which the back bench is divided by a rectangular plastic cup holder). More to the point, they will feel a legroom pinch that those up front simply don’t have to deal with.
Wind intrusion into the cabin is quite bearable even at highway speeds, and I felt no need to deploy the 428i xDrive cabriolet’s standard deflector. Coziness inside the convertible is further accented by heating vents fitted just under the BMW’s front headrests, which go a long way towards maintaining a comfortable temperature when extending the top-down season into the fall or getting an early start once a hint of spring rolls around. I’m also happy to report the cabriolet ditches the weird plastic robo-seatbelt arm found in the coupe and instead incorporates the shoulder belts into the front seats themselves.
If you plan on taking a road trip to watch the leaves turn gold and red, or witness the breeze shake the darling buds of May, then you may find yourself filling the back seat with cargo rather than passengers on a weekend trip. Although marginally more generous than the 3 Series cabriolet trunk it replaces, the 4 Series loss a substantial amount of practicality with the complicated, and sizable, hardtop stowed. You really can’t store anything more than a few grocery bags in it with the roof open, and even then the situation is complicated by BMW’s decision to divide the trunk into several sections fitted around the top’s mechanism.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet does not introduce any new features or controls.
Despite being an all-new model, there’s not a lot of difference between the feature set provided by the now-departed 3 Series convertible and its BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet replacement. The car also mirrors the exiting 3 Series sedan in terms of options and gear. You do get the latest version of iDrive, which combines a rotary controller on the center console with an LCD screen sticking up from the middle of the car’s dashboard, with a complement of buttons on the center stack and console that shortcut you to often-used features such as the vehicle’s entertainment options. If I have one complaint about iDrive, it’s that the menus can get quite deep without providing the breadcrumbs needed to get back to your starting point. The BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet I drove also came with a head-up display, which offered vehicle speed and other information in the same orange hue that illuminates the car’s dashboard.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet does not introduce any new safety equipment.
The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet comes with side curtain airbags, knee airbags for both front riders (along with side impact airbags), and dual forward airbags. The car additionally features pop-up rollover protection, electronic traction control and stability control, and a brake-drying system that is active when the vehicle’s windshield wipers have been turned on. Active safety equipment is available via the options list and includes a blind spot monitoring system, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, and a lane departure monitoring system.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Crash Test Ratings: The BMW 4 Series has yet to be crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet comes with a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Four-cylinder power is now a feature of BMW’s entry-level convertible line-up, as the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet is motivated by a 2.0-liter unit producing 240 horses and 255 lb-ft of torque. This motor was available in last year's 3 Series sedan, but the convertible stuck with a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder unit. For the 2014 model year you can also get a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder with the 335i edition of the cabriolet, which boosts output to 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.
An eight-speed automatic is the only available gearbox for either motor (manual transmissions are restricted to the 4 Series coupe), although one can forgo xDrive all-wheel drive in favor of rear-wheel drive should they not require the system’s additional grip. Fuel mileage for the 428i xDrive bests the six-cylinder with a rating of 21-mpg city and 33-mpg highway.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Driving Impressions
What happens when you wed a 4,000 lb convertible to a small-displacement four-cylinder engine, and then further anchor it to terra firma by way of an all-wheel drive system? Dynamically, you’ve effectively hit the mute button on fun. With so much weight to push around the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet’s 2.0-liter turbocharged motor never musters up the gumption required for spirited driving – which is fine, because the car’s chassis itself isn’t particularly keen on hustling its portly self around corners in a manner that could be described as engaging. Acceleration is adequate, of course, but there’s no surge of power with the right pedal on the floor, merely the sensation that all the king’s horses are working as hard as they can to keep you satisfied with the rate of forward progress.
What the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet lacks in character, however, it makes up for in comfort. That same suspension tuning that is so unwilling to cha-cha is perfectly happy to cradle you with delicacy and care as you run errands or head out on the highway. In fact, the 428i xDrive makes an excellent cruiser, the kind of hassle-free mile-eater that is a pleasure to drive in a relaxed manner and which doesn’t lose its poise should the occasional corner emerge unexpectedly ahead. I didn’t detect any of the wobble and shake that sometimes accompanies a stiff chassis that’s seen its roof lopped off, and unlike some of its soft-top contemporaries the 4 Series doesn’t hit you with an irritating blind spot should you choose to keep the sun out.
The top itself is rather easy to use, too, although you have to be almost completely stopped in order to raise or lower it (11 mph is the maximum speed according to BMW). The single switch on the center console isn’t difficult to understand, but you have to make sure there’s nothing loose in the trunk before peeling open the car’s lid – otherwise you’ll get an obstruction warning on the dash that will send you to the rear of the vehicle to find out what’s gone awry.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Final Thoughts
Bring your jaunty cruising hat with you when you test drive the 2014 BMW 428i xDrive cabriolet and you won’t be disappointed. Bring your Piloti shoes instead and you will be. As I mentioned at the start of this review, whether this is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing depends entirely on your perspective. Most fans of sporty driving will opt for the 4 Series coupe over the convertible, which leaves market for the open-top model largely composed of individuals with more relaxed habits behind the wheel.
For those who fit into this latter category, the 428i xDrive cabriolet presents an appealing mixture of luxury features and a smooth ride, along with acceptable power from its turbocharged four-cylinder. If you don’t live in an area where winters are harsh enough to suggest all-wheel drive, then I would leave that box un-ticked when ordering and instead sample the more communicative rear-wheel drive edition of the car. It’s a little bit lighter, too, which is always a good thing whether heaving the convertible around a corner or having to foot its fuel bill.
2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet Review: Pros and Cons
- Comfortable interior and ride
- Retractable hardtop preserves coupe-like lines
- Available all-wheel drive
- Neck heaters are a big plus during cool weather driving
- Four passenger capacity is there in a pinch
- Power is adequate from turbo four-cylinder, but no better
- Retractable hardtop devours almost all usable trunk space
- Heavy curb weight puts a damper on fun driving
- The second-least-expensive convertible from BMW still commands a sizable MSRP
BMW Canada supplied the vehicle for this review
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