2008 BMW 1-series Convertible
The 1-series convertible isn’t as good as the coupe-but it’s close.
The new BMW 1-series coupe is really good. but one of the knocks on that car has been its heavy weight for its size, a fact which left the 1-series convertible’s prospects somewhat in question. After all, a retractable roof necessarily adds beef, due to complex top mechanisms and extra structural bracing. Could the 1-series droptop overcome its hefty handicap and still have the coupe’s stellar dynamics shine through?
Hint: The Answer is Mostly
We sampled the Euro-market 125i droptop without sport suspension, which is essentially the same car as the U.S.-market 230-hp 128i, albeit with 15 fewer horsepower and a raft of fuel-efficiency minded gizmos that won’t make their way to the U.S. BMW unfortunately didn’t afford us the chance to slide behind the wheel of a 135i convertible, which it says we’ll be able to do in May. But based on our time with the 125i, much of the overall capability of the coupe remains in the droptop.
On the menu: impeccable ride quality, unshakable stiffness with only a faint whiff of cowl shake, and claw-the-road handling thanks to a chassis derived from the perennial 10Best-winning 3-series. Turn-in isn’t dramatic, thanks to the hyper-accurate, linear, and well-weighted steering; you won’t find yourself correcting your line very often. Abrupt throttle can get the tail out, but the car isn’t tuned for shenanigans.
There’s slight push on corner entryexacerbated, as in the coupe, with higher speedsbut the dominant characteristic is neutrality.
There were only two letdowns in terms of behind-the-wheel experience. First was a lack of steering feel . which likely had everything to do with the European-market electric assist, fitted because it’s marginally more efficient than a hydraulic setup. Unfortunately, the electric boost will remain on our 128i coupes and convertibles when the cars go on sale here in late March or early April, although both 135i models will get the more communicative hydraulic steering.
Maybe It Should Have Skipped That Last French Fry?
The 125i we drove was powered by a 215-horsepower version of BMW’s so-sweet-it-hurts 3.0-liter inline-sixremember the ’06 325i? but the 128i will receive a welcome bump to 230 horses. Both engines make essentially the same amount of torque; 200 pound-feet for the 128i and 199 for the 125i. The power increase is good news not just because we always welcome more ponieshere comes that second letdownbut because this thing is heavy.
We’re talking as-heavy-as-a-335i-coupe heavy; BMW claims 3571 pounds for the 128i ragtop with a six-speed automatic, while a 335i automatic coupe we tested weighed in at 3584. Heavy.
Using BMW’s figures, the 1-series convertible weighs roughly 250 pounds more than the coupe and about 220 pounds less than a 328i convertible. Still, the car is pretty quick, taking an estimated 6.4 seconds for the 0-to-60-mph run equipped with the fluid six-speed manual. Taking BMW’s notoriously conservative figures into mind, we’ll bet we can beat that by a few ticks.
It’s true that using the 3-series architecture takes a certain toll at the scales, but that’s not to say the 1-series convertible isn’t planted and responsive, because it is. It’s not chuckable, though, and you can’t help but think that if BMW engineers were somehow able to pull a few pounds out here and there that we’d perhaps be able to use adjectives like nimble and twinkle-toed . At least there’s the claimed 50/50 weight distribution, plus the fact that the 135i will house BMW’s 300-horsepower twin-turbo six, which should mitigate the heft quite nicely.
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