It used to be getting a BMW test vehicle got my heart rate up and my palms sweaty with anticipation. In recent years not so much as the once “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is in many respects no better or worse than many other similar luxury vehicles from other German, Japanese or North American manufacturers. Loaded with numerous electronic and convenience features, BMW seems more focused on the driver or passenger being connected to social media or ensuring the latest nanny features are only a quick turn of their iDrive button. So in driving the 228i XDrive (all-wheel-drive) Cabriolet (convertible) I shut off or ignored those items I felt weren’t needed for me to enjoy the car.
If you didn’t already know, the 2-Series cabriolet replaces last year's 1-Series drop top. The higher digit is somewhat fitting as the 2-Series is longer and wider than the outgoing 1-Series which was hailed by many as the true BMW. That being pure driving pleasure. The 228i cabriolet uses a front-engine, rear-drive layout, employs a folding fabric roof rather than a heavier and more complex hard-top setup, and offers seating for four. The rear seat is pretty tight to the point I wonder why they even bothered. At the heart of the car is a turbocharged four-cylinder (240hp, 258 lb-ft of torque). The engine has great low-end grunt and decent highway fuel consumption (7.2L/100km). I managed 9.0L/100km in a mix of city and highway driving; more city than highway. Even with so much power the engine didn’t exactly stir my soul. Power delivery isn't as linear as the old six and the exhaust note is nowhere near as pleasing. In fact, you can barely hear the four-cylinder. Sadly, you can't get the 228i convertible with a manual gearbox. There are two automatic transmission options. BMW's decision to go auto is the result of consumer demand, it’s a smooth 8-speed gearbox, and my tester had shift paddles at the steering wheel.
The 228i is a well-balanced car with a taut suspension but not to the point of being uncomfortable. There is a “Sport” setting available, but what I experienced in the seat of my pants and through my hands didn’t put a smile on my face. Not like some previous generations of small BMW models. This car has an extra inch of wheelbase which helps ride quality. Most potential owners for the 2 Series cabriolet or coupe likely won’t notice. Certainly the ride is pleasant enough with the top up – and quiet. I only had one autumn day to enjoy the top down.
Behind the wheel, the switchgear and steering wheel are all familiar. The steering wheel rim seems a little too thick for even my longer fingers. Something I’ve found in a few other cars. Perhaps because the wheel is heated. Behind the steering wheel is a twin-gauge cluster that is clear and easy to read. An LCD display is set below.
An 8.8-inch screen is perched atop the 2-Series dash and is controlled by a touchpad controller located on the centre console.
If you’re a tech geek you’ll enjoy playing with the iDrive controller system. To me, its distracting and way too complicated. BMW engineers don’t believe in keeping it simple I guess. On the plus side HVAC controls are nicely laid out on the centre stack and allow use of actual buttons.
Sitting in the front I felt a little closed in with the top up. Windows are not large enough for a proper view out and shoulder checking in traffic can be a challenge. The front seats are comfortable, well bolstered and power adjustable. Interior materials are for the most part soft-touch. Some plastic pieces don’t have a quality look or feel. The test car had Coral Red Dakota leather trim which is my favourite, a $1,500 option – ouch. There are also a variety of interior trim packages including one with real wood. No charge for that.
On the outside the 228i looks good with an extra 2.8 inches of length and less of a stubby appearance than the previous 1-Series. Large air inlets on the front grill give a more dramatic look to the front end.
Loaded with options including the M Sport Line Package ($2,000), M Track Package ($1,000) and Performance Package ($1,200) the final price tag skyrocketed to $56,190 not including a destination charge of just over $2,000. Base price starts around $45,000.
The BMW 228i XDrive is a nice package but doesn’t excite me top up or down even with the expensive performance options on board. In many ways it drives and feels no different than similar sized cars from other manufacturers.
Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the ’70s.