View Full Version : 1 Series Cabriolet : Open-air perfection

02-22-2008, 04:16 PM

Gabriel Gelinas, Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, February 22, 2008

MONTEREY, Calif. -The new 1 Series, now arriving in Canadian showrooms in Coupe and Cabriolet models, is being billed by BMW as "the spiritual successor" to the famed 2002, which was first introduced in 1968 and went on to win the hearts of gear heads everywhere thanks to its winning formula of a large-displacement engine fitted into a small body. That same concept is at the heart of the new 1 Series, which is smaller than the 3 Series but gets the same six-cylinder engines (rated at 230 horsepower for the 128i and at 300 hp for the 135i).

If you are a true motoring enthusiast, your choice should be the 135i Coupe, which is tuned to be the sports model of the lineup. It gets the stellar twin-turbo straight six -- which has twice won the International Engine of the Year Award--as well as the M sports suspension and the M aero kit. However, if you are not as keen on apexing every corner of a winding two-lane road, preferring the open-air driving experience, the 1 Series Cabriolet is almost as satisfying as the Coupe, its main drawbacks being added weight and less room for rear-seat passengers and cargo.

Styling-wise, the 1 Series Cabriolet differs slightly from the Coupe due to its flat shoulder line, creating a boat deck effect, and, of course, its folding soft-top, which opens or closes in 22 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 50 kilometres an hour. BMW engineers chose the soft-top option as opposed to the retractable hardtop, which is used in the 3 Series, in the interest of saving weight. The standard top col-our is basic black, but customers can also opt for taupe or a new moonlight black metallic, which uses inter-woven metallic fibres to create a subdued shimmering effect.

Inside, BMW aficionados will be in familiar territory as the interior looks as if it has been lifted out of a 3 Series. Ergonomics as well as fit and finish are first-rate. This may be the new entry-level car for BMW, but nothing suggests compromise or cost cutting. Getting in the back seat is easy enough, but legroom is limited and width has been narrowed by close to 25 centimetres compared with a 1 Series Coupe in order to make room for the soft-top and its mechanicals. Snug is the operative word here, and it is almost impossible to hear the car's sound system while riding in the back with the top down as there is a lot of wind buffeting at highway speeds. A word of advice -- the optional wind blocker is a must for this car even if its installation effectively reduces the Cabriolet to a two-seater.

On the road, the Cabriolet is impressive thanks to a very stiff chassis, which is derived from the 3 Series, and its 50/50 weight distribution. Ride quality is excellent and the car is a pleasure to drive, provided you don't push it to the limit in the corners. Doing so will demonstrate the Cabriolet's marked tendency to understeer due to its overall weight. At 1,585 kilograms, the 128i Cabriolet with manual gearbox is no lightweight. The optional six-speed automatic model checks in at 1,620 kg. These weights, which are quite close to those of a 3 Series, are due to the fact that both cars share the same basic architecture. On twisty roads, the steering is both precise and well weighted, while the brakes do an adequate job of slowing the car for corners. This makes the 128i Cabriolet a solid and well-planted performer. Moving up to the 135i variant will crank things up a notch in the performance department, slashing a full second from the zero-to-100-km/h run (5.7 seconds for the 135i versus 6.7 for the 128i).

Pricing for the 128i Cabriolet starts at $39,900 and $47,200 for the 135i Cabriolet. The list of options and packages is quite extensive, so the bottom-line price can go up sharply.


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