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First drive: BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 220d M Sport Convertible
A minimal facelift for the BMW 2 Series Convertible doesnít hide the 220dís all-round goodness.

 



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BMW 220d Convertible

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There's not much competition for the BMW 2 Series Convertible, as four-seat, compact, premium soft-tops like this are a bit thin on the ground. So you might think that the German company's minimal facelift could be construed as complacency, but this 220d M Sport Steptronic makes such a convincing fist of open-air motoring, it makes you question why you'd need anything bigger.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 220d Convertible M Sport Steptronic
Pricing: 2 Series Convertible range from £27,540; 220d M Sport Steptronic from £35,470
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-seat convertible
CO2 emissions: 117g/km (VED £140 annually)
Combined economy: 64.2mpg
Top speed: 141mph
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

What's this?

The BMW 2 Series Convertible, arguably the most dashing of the 2 Series family, has now been on sale since 2014, and it's time for a little visual tinkering, or what BMW calls a 'Life Cycle Impulse' (LCI). And we really can't apologise enough about this, but... yep, it's another one of those facelifts that's fiendishly difficult to pick up on, even when you're armed with the answers in a game of 'spot the automotive difference'.

On the outside, you need to clock the different air intakes in the front bumper, the slightly reshaped kidney grilles in the car's nose, one of the four new alloy wheel designs (bringing the total number of choices to 17 across the range), full LED lights front and rear (although the hexagonal daytime running lamps are a £790 option called Icon Adaptive LEDs), or one of the three new colours: Mediterranean Blue, Seaside Blue or Sunset Orange.

No matter; the car given to us by BMW was white, thoroughly negating the whole discussion of novel paint finishes. So how about within? Well, if you stump up for full Professional Navigation, you get touchscreen capability on the 8.8-inch infotainment display centre-top of the dash, courtesy of the latest iDrive 6 software. That means you get six configurable function tiles on the home screen and there are three different input controls: swiping and prodding the display itself; writing on the top of the rotary iDrive dial with your hand or simply rotating and clicking said dial, which remains the most intuitive infotainment controller in the industry.

Other than that, you might wish to note the redesigned outer air vents, the additional fillet of trim that shrouds the centre pair of vents (they're the same shape as before, mind), some fresh finishes and upholsteries and the range-wide introduction of the 'black panel' dials as standard in the instrument cluster. This simply means they're not visible until you prod the electrics of the car into life, and it's a feature that was previously an option.

That's all just basic polishing, then, so the facelifted 2 Series Convertibles don't look appreciably different to the older cars. Perhaps we might find a range of tweaked drivetrains, if we peruse the spec sheets. But no, it's the same group of turbocharged power units as before. That is to say, they're almost exclusively 2.0-litre, four-cylinder lumps - the 218d, 220d, 225d, 220i and 230i use four bangers, with power ranging from 150hp (218d) up to 252hp (230i). If you want some variety on your cylinder count, you need to opt for either the 218i, which is powered by the three-cylinder, 136hp engine as used in the MINI Cooper, or the monster M240i, featuring a 340hp, straight-six 3.0-litre that gives the ragtop a sub-five-second 0-62mph time.

We've not driven that car, though. Instead, we've sampled what will be the absolute heartland of 2 Series Convertible sales in the UK - a 220d, paired to the optional (£1,600) eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission (the 'Sport' here means you get gear shift paddles on the steering wheel and slightly different software mapping, but not much more) and finished in the most desirable M Sport guise. Without any option boxes ticked, that means you're looking at a machine that's the wrong side of 35 grand. So can the 220d Convertible M Sport Steptronic convince us it's worth the money?

How does it drive?

It might just be us that thinks this, but BMW as a marque seems to be losing its dynamic edge in recent years, as it focuses on comfort and connectivity before all else. There was a time when any BMW you drove was the sharpest, most rewarding thing in its class - and no, we're not just talking about the M cars; you could drive an old E30 316i and it would still feel fabulous from behind the wheel in a way that its competitors did not.

However, some BMWs of the current era - the 4 Series and 6 Series in particular - can feel no more engaging or exciting to steer than a comparable Audi or Mercedes. The 2 Series, though, sticks with tradition, while all Convertibles sold in the UK are rear-wheel drive, with no sign of BMW's xDrive all-wheel traction being offered. As a result, all versions feel suitably sporty and fun to steer.

And the 220d's drivetrain combination is a superb all-rounder, balancing decent levels of driver thrills with fabulous refinement and enough of that sprinkling of convertible fairy dust to make for a deeply alluring package. We'll happily concede that a 2 Series Convertible is not BMW's greatest ever driver's car, but the 220d runs rings around its only direct comparison - the Audi A3 Cabriolet - when it comes to agility and handling.

There's good body control, punchy throttle response, a smooth and powerful engine (that's only raucous beyond about 3,750rpm), the exceptional Steptronic auto (which totally negates the argument for picking a manual gearbox, as it does everything you would possibly want of a sports transmission) and strong brakes. Our only gripe relates to a slight numbness about the steering's dead-ahead position when you're making quick direction changes. Despite this, you can stoke the 220d M Sport along at a fair old clip on country back roads and it won't become a wobbly, uninspiring mess.

Of course, it's even better as a cruiser. Knock it back a few notches on the egotistical 'helmsmanship' driving style and the BMW will reward you with an utterly sumptuous ride, excellent noise suppression hood up or down, and a general air of solidity, refinement and pure class that's sure to put a smile on your face.

Therefore, the 220d M Sport could be all the four-seat convertible you'd ever need. OK, those rear seats aren't the most accommodating, but for a car that's less than 4.5 metres long, it's a miracle there's any rear legroom at all. Four adults could travel in the 220d, provided they weren't all six-foot tall, which is more than can be said for many far larger convertibles that are claimed to have enough space for a quartet of passengers. Furthermore, a 335-litre boot (a bit down on the 2 Series Coupe's 390 litres) means the 220d is a relatively practical convertible. However, do bear in mind that the cargo bay decreases to 280 litres with the triple-layered fabric hood folded away.

The 2 Series looks classy and expensive with its hood down, too - surely the main motivator in buying one of these things - and you can lower or raise that hood in just 20 seconds while travelling at speeds of up to 31mph. So capable and accomplished is the 220d, that you start to wonder why you'd ever bother with the flabbier, more expensive, folding hard top-equipped 420d Convertible instead...

Verdict

Realistically, there's only the 2 Series Convertible and Audi A3 Cabriolet in the same class; everything else you might consider as an alternative either has two seats, or a less prestigious badge, or an inflated price tag, and so on. But the narrowness of the field it competes in should not detract from the BMW 2 Series' fantastic all-round performance - as a desirable, four-seat, automotive fashion statement, there's nothing else that offers the 220d Convertible's particular blend of high-end, polished attributes. Not much has changed with the LCI: the BMW 2 Series Convertible is still the obvious leading light in its segment.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 21 Jul 2017









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2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.

2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 220d M Sport Convertible. Image by BMW.








 

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