First Drive: 2015 BMW 228i Convertible

Hot or cold, BMW’s 228i Convertible offers entry-level luxury ‘vert poise and charm

The drop-top only improves the already superb 2 Series, as it retains its sporty dynamics and conservative style.

Go-getting Millennials have recently been achieving a certain level of success. Accordingly, this has heated up the entry-level luxury market here in the U.S., as the Gen-Y-ers shop for something that says, “I haven’t quite made it, but I’m well on my way.”

Audi’s A3 as well as the Mercedes-Benz CLA have been rattling their sabers loudly as contenders, but BMW claims the 1 Series has long since made it king of the hill.

Its follow-up, the 2 Series, hit the streets last year and was exceptionally received, as it offered everything the predecessor brought and improved upon it. Now, it adds that extra exuberant touch with the debut of the 2 Series convertible.

Convertible-y

The 2015 BMW 228i Convertible, as the cabriolet variant of the entry level 2 Series Coupe. The Convertible packs a 2.0-liter twin turbo four-cylinder engine with direct injection that produces 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque.

Exterior styling is everything you’d expect from BMW: low slung and solid, with a sharp contour line cutting across the side and retains a compact look without appearing constrictive. Its top-down configuration shows off its flat shoulder profile, wrapping the soft-top compartment around the rear passenger, emulating a boat-deck-like appearance. The expressive front refines the look of BMW’s entry-level convertible, looking more playful than the outgoing 1 Series, which had more stout and chunky features.

2015 BMW 228i convertible side roof up

The interior delivers everything that a BMW would promise: an easy-to-reach iDrive controller with a 6.5-inch flatscreen display on the dashboard, stacked on top of climate controls and a media interface. The interface drivers will be focusing on, however, is the three-spoke multifunction sport steering wheel, wrapped in leather and sporting some attractive contrast stitching. The touch points aren’t the most luxurious found in a BMW, but the lack of a leather-swathed dashboard doesn’t mean the interior feels at all like a budget Bimmer.

It seats four, as long as the wind deflector isn’t in use, but the rear passengers will be toughing out the ride more than anything.

Out for a spin

Taking out a convertible out for a spin when most of the country is blanketed by the most dismal of winters probably isn’t the best idea. Delightfully, though, BMW brought me to relatively balmy Austin, Texas to test the new 2 Series ‘Vert. And, should I ever feel a bit nippy, my tester was fitted with heated seats.

Whatever I asked if it, the 228i responded dutifully.

Interestingly, with the wind deflector in place, the cold air skirts right over the top and keeps out of the cabin, keeping things relatively warm while on the move. When things got a little too breezy the soft top took less than 20 seconds to deploy.

Even as I slightly mistimed how long I had at a red light, the top can still continue to operate in either direction on the move, as long as the car stays under 30 mph. Once it’s up, there’s a surprising level of head clearance available, so there wasn’t a feeling of overbearing confinement once the top was raised.

Speaking of on the move, the open top four-seater can move when you want it to. 240 horsepower coming out of the 228i’s 2.0-liter twin turbo four-banger may not be the most impressive sounding amount when it comes to European sports car, but the BMW uses every ounce of it to the fullest degree. Off the line, the convertible can take off from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds, which can be achieved via the built in launch control function.

2015 BMW 228i convertible engine

Once I tired of leisurely cruising, I dialed up the drive settings through a switch adjacent to the gear selector. Now in Sport mode, flipping through eight transmission gears with the aluminum paddle shifters, as I kept the throttle welded to the floor, I was treated to satisfactory punch with each gear change.

The car feels perfectly suited to the 228i’s power output. Yes, buyers can step up to a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 320 hp. The extra punch of the top-end engine doesn’t automatically make the 228i redundant. It’s pleasant in a leisurely drive as well as things get spirited, not once leading to me wishing for more power.

Flipping through eight gears with the aluminum paddle shifters has a satisfactory punch to each flick.

The precision-tuned chassis that includes a double-pivot front suspension and a five-link rear defines much of the performance. The exceptional handling of the Convertible, though, is thanks in large part to its improved rigidity over its hardtop counterpart, as well as its low center of gravity. The 2 Series also has a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, too, so ultimately, whatever I asked if it, the 228i responded dutifully.

The 228i’s starting price is around $38,850. While the base car is perfectly sufficient, the packages of optional equipment i.e. the fun stuff can quickly send that number on an upward trajectory in a hurry. For instance, the Sport Line package opens a performance door I didn’t even know was closed in the first place.

This optional extra package adds a few luxury treats, as well as M sport suspension, but also ups the electronically limited top speed from 130 mph to 155 mph. Are we talking about a 25 mph difference that will ever be used by 97 percent of 228i buyers? Hardly. It seems too insidious to go without mention, though.

Conclusion

Of all the innocuous additional extra, the most essential, I wager, is the Technology Package, which adds a navigation system with a neat trick up its sleeve: an integrated SIM card that will live update the maps over the air as you drive.

As tested, my BMW 228i came out to $53,825, as it had most of the fancy stuff bolted to it. That said, it’s competitively priced with its other German compact executive counterparts to a very close degree. It doesn’t drastically surpass them as a whole, but it does make the choice between the three very much more difficult.

The 228i convertible isn’t the fastest or the most luxurious BMW, but it’s still BMW and its poise, charm, and luxuriousness are top notch.

Highs

  • Tight, sporty handling
  • Excellent power balance from the turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Fast deploying soft-top with plenty of headroom
  • Conservative but stylish: The “business casual” car

Lows

  • A litany of optional extras send the price skyrocketing
  • No manual option without opting for the top-tier trim
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