2017 BMW 230i Convertible: Vehicle Review
5Series.net puts the 2017 BMW 230i Convertible’s top down and finds out if it lives up to the expectations all open-top BMWs face.
Just be yourself. That’s a nice thought. It’s usually a good philosophy to live by as a human. It doesn’t work that way for vehicles. These days, a truck can’t just be a truck. It has to offer the luxury and comfort of an arms dealer’s limo while still being able to tow as much as a 10-year-old semi. Midsize sedans are expected to outrun dedicated sports cars without spilling their drivers’ lattes while going over bumpy pavement. Cars like the 2017 BMW 230i Convertible have to be more than just open-air amusements.
BMW convertibles have always been required to be something greater than fair-weather cars. As Bimmers, they need to be fun and capable performance machines. Rain and snow test how well they can do impressions of coupes. When the sky is blue and clear, BMW convertibles have to make soaking up the sun at highway speeds a comfortable and glamorous experience.
For the 2017 model year, BMW gave the 2 Series’ entry-level model a new 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine, making what was once the 228i into the 230i, and its mid-range performance variant a new turbo I6, transforming the car formerly known as the M235i into the M240i. Those upgrades did nothing to change the fact that the 2017 BMW 230i Convertible has to be multiple vehicles to different people. For a week, I was one of those people.
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BMW loaded my $53,870 Valencia Orange review vehicle with options (more on those and what they included here). I thought BMW’s inclusion of its Track Handling Package – which contains M Sport Brakes, an adaptive M suspension, and variable sport steering – on the base version of its smallest non-Z4 convertible was an odd choice, but it wasn’t a decision they made me regret. The suspension had a sporty firmness to it, as easy to live with as it was to notice. The 4-piston front and 2-piston rear brakes that peeked out from behind the two-tone grey 18-inch wheels engaged near the top of the left pedal’s travel, scrubbing off speed evenly and predictably. Smoothly modulating their power from initial bite to full stop was an almost thoughtless process. With even the slightest turn of the wheel, I could feel the variable sport steering’s eagerness to spin into action. It took getting used to, but it never disturbed my driving experience.
Most of the time I drove the 230i with no one else in the car with me, which meant its 2.0-liter turbo I4’s 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque was more than enough to handle me and the 230i’s 3,680-pound curb weight. Once the turbo lag passed, the diminutive drop-top felt peppy, if not quick.
Having the 230i during a Texas summer meant I didn’t always have its top stored under its hard tonneau cover. Unless I was driving near or after sunset, I had the brown fabric lid raised. Wind roar from that was minimal; the road and the Michelin Pilot Super Sports were more vocal.
My test car’s interior was trimmed with Oyster Dakota leather, which looked creamier than it felt. I found it faster to enter an address into the navigation system using the iDrive controller’s handwriting function than turning and pushing down on the dial itself. Accessing certain other features required a little digging through menus. Although iDrive wasn’t the most intuitive system, it didn’t require much more than a quick search through the digital owner’s manual for me to figure out how to get things done, such as connect my phone to the WiFi hotspot.
The Driving Assistance Package added a rear-view camera and Park Distance Control. Those definitely came in handy. A rear cross traffic alert system would’ve also been useful because the 230i’s top creates massive blind spots.
When the stars came out, I put the 230i’s top down. Doing that only took 22 seconds. With the windows up, buffeting in the front row was minimal.
One night, my girlfriend and I decided to go on a double date with a couple of our friends. We were going to pick them up at their house in Austin, Texas and drive out to the wineries and restaurants of Dripping Springs. Once we arrived at their place, the evening officially began…and so did the learning. When I first got the keys to the 230i, I laughed at the thought of fitting two adults in the back seat. It struck me as a glorified grocery shelf. The night of that wind-blown double date taught me grown-ups can fit back there. You just have to strategize and time certain steps right. It was best to already have the top down when everyone got into the car or at least tell the girls in the back to duck before I lowered it so that my girlfriend didn’t get hit in the head by the top as it was folding and making its descent.
My friend Rachel seemed to have no major issues sitting in the back row. However, Austin’s 6’2″ height ate up some of the little leg room she had available. My 5’8″ girlfriend sat behind me, which meant I had to scoot my seat forward significantly. Thank goodness my 230i media loaner had two memory settings for the driver’s seat and side mirrors. I used 1 for my normal driving setup and 2 for hauling four people around.
Up front, Austin and I weren’t bothered by the wind. Carrying on a conversation only required us to raise our voices slightly. I could even clearly hear the ladies behind us…and the price my girlfriend was paying for not using a hair clip. Buffeting in the first row was almost nonexistent. Just a couple of feet behind me, it turned my gal’s sun-kissed long locks into a whirl of flailing, stinging whips.
On the way home from a night of laughter, Texas Hill Country wines, and Indian food, we found ourselves in the slowest of slow lanes. Traffic had stopped. Eager to get home, I looked to the left in hopes of spotting an opening. What I saw was a constant, fast-moving stream of metal. I was going to have to be quick. Actually, the 230i was going to have to be. I put its Driving Dynamics Control into Sport+ mode and bumped the shifter for the 8-speed automatic into its sport setting. Once I got the chance, I signalled left and put my right foot down. Despite all of the weight it was carrying, the 230i shot out of the hole with respectable and confidence-inspiring urgency.
Like its open-top siblings, the 2017 BMW 230i Convertible has to be a lot of things. During its week with me, it was a satisfying car to drive, a well-equipped coupe, and a convertible that required compromises. Luckily, the 230i also turned out to be something I didn’t expect it to be: a 4-seater.
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