BMW 128i (Convertible), 2008: The Weekly Driver

James Raia

BMW 128i (Convertible), 2008: The Weekly Driver 1After much anticipation, earlier this year BMW introduced to the United States its 128 series. It’s the German manufacturer’s reasonably priced coupe and convertible, and it couldn’t have been introduced at a better time. From my weekly drive with the 128i convertible and its 3.0-liter, 230-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine, the car is an unqualified success.

The 128i offers BMW’s trademark assertive engine, rear-wheel drive and the manufacturer’s signature take-charge steering.

The convertible option with a six-speed manual transmission is the only way to really appreciate this BMW. Brand purists may disagree, but the sleek design of the smaller BMW seems ideal for the retractable ragtop.

The manufacturer states that the push-button (on the console below the radio dials) convertible system will retract in 20 seconds. But it’s actually a few seconds faster than the estimate. And the reverse operation works just as efficiently.

Unlike some convertibles that aren’t particularly handsome with their tops down, the new BMW convertible top fits snugly into the trunk compartment. It gives the vehicle’s contour more style, not the appearance that the engineers just made the best of where to put a bulky ragtop.

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Increased gas mileage and environmental concerns continue to be the buzz of the automotive industry. And while the new 128i is not “green,” nor is it a gas-guzzler in the sports car segment.

The automatic version of the 128i is touted with 18/27 city and highways mpg estimates. The manual transmission is slight better with 18/28 mpg averages. One downside to gas-type considerations; BMW recommends premium fuel.

Driving any BMW is what good driving is all about. And the 128i continues the tradition. The steering isn’t nimble enough so that the driver can spin the steering wheel with a one-finger touch. But then again, who wants to do that?

Instead, grab the steering wheel, step on the gas,]]> maneuver through traffic, power around corners and merge onto the freeway ramps with authority. Think open roads in Germany or winding country treks in the Northern California wine country. With a smaller convertible that still weighs nearly 3,300 pounds, the 128i is the vehicle that will only add to a picturesque driving experience.

Interior design is another BMW trademark and the 128i follows the tradition. There’s ample head and leg room for front passengers and the rear seats have more room than at first glance. Leather seating is optional and it’s a good choice since convertibles, regarding of manufacturer or style, are not known as comfort machines.

The straightforward controls, including the console, shiftbox and various dials and controls are typically German. They’re well designed, efficient and masculine. The rear seat has a passageway portal to the trunk with an attached ski cover.

During my week with the car, the portal was more humbly used for delivering a vacuum cleaner to the repair shop.

Cabin noise is a personality trait of convertible. The 128i has a glass rear window and with the top up, the car is quieter than some competitors. But particularly during freeway driving cabin noise is noticeable.

The base price of the new 128i is about $34,000. As driven, with a full laundry list of options — a arger wheel option to Bluetooth accessories — as well as taxes and destination fees, the out-the-door price is nearly another $9,000

That may cause a pause among potential buyers. Nonetheless, the new BMW moves into the driver’s seat of its class and it’s hard not to like.

Safety features — Driver’s and passenger’s front airbag supplemental restraint system (SRS); Front-seat-mounted front side-impact airbags.

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 4 years/unlimited miles; Maintenance, 4 years/50,000 miles.

Gas Mileage (Estimates) 18 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway)

Base Price — $33,875.00

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Article Last Updated: July 28, 2008.

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