In garages everywhere enthusiasts are cleaning their cabriolets and tarting up their targas – Soft-Top Sunday Breakfast Club approaches! (Never fear, the sun is sure to come out by 7 June…)
GRR wants to get in the convertible mood. But what to drive? Our first go on local roads in the big roadster news of the summer, the arrival of the all-new Mazda MX-5, will have to wait a while yet – until FoS at any rate.
There’s no shortage of other candidates of course, but we do seem to have driven them all… apart from one that has thus far escaped our attention.
That’s the BMW M235i convertible. It’s far from the ultimate BMW in power, price or prestige, but, i8 aside, it could just be the best car in the range. We loved the coupe when we drove it last year and in convertible form we (no great convertible lovers, it has to be said) like it even more. This is a real gem of a car.
GRR picked it up from a BMW driving event in the Cotswolds and headed back to Goodwood in it, top down and avoiding the motorways. Bit chilly but what a super drive. You need only be behind the wheel of this car for two minutes to know what a driver’s car it is. There were all sorts of exotic machines at the driving day – £100,000 M6 cabrios included – but, awesome thing though that is, there’s no way we would have swapped out of the little M235i.
And it is compact, quite at home on B-roads. That’s a huge plus in our book. And, pressing on, it shrinks even more thanks to really engaging road handling. It’s agile and light on its feet, even with that rare thing these days, some seat-of-the-pants feel. Show it a twisty road and it’s as keen as mustard.
The 3.0-litre straight six is sweet as a nut. It’s turbo’ed but you’d never know it. Its character is dominated by the number of cylinders, not any force-feeding. It sounds great: sporty enough when you work it but classy and subtle the rest of the time. This expensive classiness is tangible. It is obviously not a four-cylinder engine, just as obviously as it is rear-wheel drive. And it’s enjoyably brisk, too. The 322bhp delivers 0-62mph in five seconds dead when deployed through the (optional, and recommended) eight-speed paddleshift auto.
The ride’s pretty good, there’s zero sign of body shimmy or shake, you don’t get your head blown off at speed and – in contrast to the far larger M6 cabrio – there’s actually room for little ‘uns in the back seats. Cotswolds to Goodwood resulted in just on 30mpg and the sort of late spring sensory overload – oh the farmyards! The cut grass! You only get in a convertible.
BMW’s range is huge and impressive these days, but this car stands out – as one you just want to get in and drive. It’s not overstyled, overpowered, overtyred or overendowed with ‘stuff’ you don’t need. You can argue it’s not overpriced either at £37,000, though with goodies the test car comes in at a scarier £45,800.
Yup, liked it a lot. It’s fighting for space with Ferraris and Koenigseggs in the GRR car park right now so the whole team can have a go in it and get in the soft-top mood. If they can stop driving it for a minute they might even write a few more words about it…
Photography by Ben Miles