BMW 1 Series Convertible Top Down, There's Nothing Quite Like It
*In the 1960s, there was a type character called the interrobang. It combined both exclamation and question marks into one symbol: After driving the new BMW 1 Series Convertible, I could write 'Rad' in a 40-point type followed by an interrobang and be entirely accurate. The editors, however, might want to expand on that.
The interrobang disappeared in the early '70s just as the BMW 2002 was reaching its height of appreciation, though it's fitting that its (the car's) kitchy-cool design founded some cues in today's 1 Series. The 1 Convertible is something of an ambulatory interrobang-its performance is surprising and its very existence sparks excitement and curiosity. Once within beeping distance, the top can come off. Press and hold down the unlock button on the key fob, and the mechanized cloth roof retracts in the 22 seconds it takes to approach and enter. But should you decide to perform this operation on the move, you can Go-Go-Gadget sky at 25 mph and continue up to 31.
Contrary to expectations, the car isn't small. The soft top adds 242 pounds and takes away trunk space from the coupe on which it's based. However, the car still feels light yet firmly planted on twisty roads. Our test car was a European-spec 125i (128i over here) withslightly less power and torque (218 hp instead of 230), but no matter.It's a driver's car, even at the entry level. The 1 Convertible feels more like a sports car than cabrios like the Audi A4 or Volvo C70-aggressive without provocation.
There's a lot of talk about its tendency to drift into understeer in the corners, but with all the power in the rear, that's quickly corrected. Get into a tight enough corner and you can overpower the car and step out unintentionally (or, depending on confidence levels, for fun and frolics).
North American versions of the twin-turbo 135i will have electronic power steering while the 128i keeps a hydraulic system. A point of concern for some, but our test car's steering didn't seem to detract from its sporting feel. A lot of that feel comes from the driving position and the styling. Unlike other convertibles (with high beltlines), it doesn't feel as if you're surrounded by the car, peeking out above the steering wheel. It's been designed to give the driver a roadster-like experience, displaying him or her as more of a bust sculpture rather than a disembodied head. Interior acoustics are subdued, even with the top down-great for audio capabilities like the new MP3 adaptor under the center console and a USB connection for an iPhone.
So what can you compare the car to a MINI Cooper Convertible or a VW Eos? No, they're both front-wheel drive-and 'cuter' besides. The 1-Series convertible, despite its dimensions, isn't what I'd call cute. Along with the rear-wheel-drive factor, the 135i (America's next top model) will come with the twin-turbo inline six with 300 hp and peak torque from as low as 1400 rpm. Compared to a 335i Convertible, the 1 is the cheaper, more compact sibling-but with the same power output, it's a hell of a lot more fun. If the discussion is about performance, we could digress into a Ford Mustang comparison. But the luxury and refinement factors make that a pointless argument. As a convertible, the 1 Series owns it.
2008 BMW 128i Convertible
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
3.0-liter inline six, dohc, 24-valve
Double-joint tie-bar spring strut front axle, five-arm rear axle
F: Six-piston fixed calipers,13.3-inch rotors
R: Two-piston fixed calipers,12.8-inch rotors
Wheelbase: 104.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3,274 lb
Peak Power: 302 hp @ 5800 rpm
Peak Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1300 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.3 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph
*What we like:
Inherent BMW driving characteristics
*What we don't:
Heavier than we'd like it to be