There’s something reassuring about BMW’s commitment to building open-top automobiles. Despite the relatively insignificant percentage of the overall market that convertible sales represent, it’s been more than two decades since a model year went by without at least one attractive and fun sun-loving model in the German brand’s line-up.
The 2015 BMW 2 Series Convertible continues this tradition in the best possible way, presenting shoppers with a canvas-roofed interpretation of the dynamically rewarding entry-level 2 Series Coupe. The 2 Series Convertible hasn’t strayed all that far from its closed cousin in terms of style or performance, which is a boon to those who have been pining for a small, stylish cabriolet that’s a tad more practical than the Z4 roadster. I spent an afternoon with this new addition to the BMW family under the temperate skies of Austin, Texas, trying to determine where the 2 Series fit when contrasted against the larger 4 Series Convertible, as well as doing my best to avoid having my pasty complexion burned by the Texas sun.
Small In Size, Big On Status
BMW claims to have developed the 2015 2 Series Convertible’s exterior styling separate from, but parallel to, that of the coupe, and while its easy to see where the two models diverge the family resemblance is also apparent in all of the right places. From the front, the cab is indistinguishable from its fixed-roof line-up mate, but when seen in profile the vehicle’s flat deck contrasts against the more flowing, organic lines of the coupe. It’s a very traditional take on BMW’s convertible heritage, and it works well when sized to the small dimensions of the 2 Series.
The convertible’s passenger compartment maintains the 2 Series status quo, and indeed is quite similar to that which is found in the convertible version of the longer and wider 4 Series. Seats up front are comfortable and supportive, but the rear of the car – as with the coupe – is better suited to short dashes from A to B rather than extended touring. Think of the 2 Series cabriolet as a two-seat daily driver with four-seat emergency capability, and you’ll get the idea. BMW itself suggests as much in its marketing of the car: there’s a huge (and effective) wind deflector that can be deployed across the entire back seat, along with a larger trunk pass-through as compared to the 1 Series Convertible that preceded it. Much was made of the fact that a pair of golf bags could be stowed inside the 2 Series Convertible with little fuss, something that can’t be said about either the BMW Z4, the Porsche Boxster, or the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
There are no real mechanical surprises to be found on the 2015 BMW 2 Series Convertible’s order sheet, with the exception of a few restrictions on drivetrain availability. For example, the entry-level 228i model, which comes with a 2.0-litre, 240 horsepower four-cylinder engine (as it does in the coupe), is offered exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission (ignoring the coupe’s six-speed manual option). If you want to shift the car yourself, you’re going to have to opt for the mightier M235i Convertible, which installs a 320 horsepower, 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine that’s also good for 330 lb-ft of torque. However, going for glory in the acceleration department means turning your back on all-wheel drive, which is only available with the smaller four-cylinder mill. Somewhere, surely, there’s a whiteboard covered in complex sales ratios and take-rate justifications for this particular product mix, but I’ll just have to take it on faith that BMW knows what its Canadian customers are going to want.
Smooth Cruiser, With Bursts Of Agility
The BMW 2 Series has been routinely praised for the perception that it has returned to the company’s sporting roots to offer a relatively lightweight and nimble automobile aimed at enthusiasts. The 2 Series Convertible gains a not-inconsiderable amount of mass compared to the coupe, but it maintains the fixed-roof model’s near perfect weight balance while enhancing torsional rigidity by 20 percent compared to the departed 1 Series Convertible.
Out on the rural roads surrounding Austin the extra kilos were imperceptible, as was any evidence of cowl shake even when traversing the cow-stopper grates installed by ranchers on local farm byways. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to push handling to the limit, the 2 Series Convertible was well-composed at a range of speeds, turning in gracefully and braking without complaint. The only models on hand to test were rear-wheel drive 228i editions of the car, and in Sport+ mode acceleration was brisk without much mechanical thrashing. The eight-speed automatic’s tendency to lug in Comfort mode, however, was a faint but familiar BMW annoyance.
The 2015 BMW 2 Series Convertible plays to the automaker’s strengths: pleasing design, excellent comfort, and respectable performance. The biggest challenge for BMW won’t be luring potential customers to consider the 2 Series instead of one of its less-practical rivals, however – it’ll be trying to convince them not to spend more on a 4 Series Convertible instead. The 4 Series is a legitimate touring car with a larger back seat, and the performance differential between the two models will be indistinguishable to the non-enthusiast. Pricing will be a key cornerstone of building an audience for the redesigned 2 Series Convertible, as it seems as though BMW has taken care of every other detail in constructing the car’s top-down experience. With a starting ask of $45,200 - which places the drop-top $10k above the 2 Series Coupe and $13k below the 4 Series cabriolet - the 2 Series Convertible could be walking a tightrope for its first few years on the market.