The perfect road tripper
Excellent handling, helpful technology and supportive seating make this BMW a fun option for long drives
Nothing beats a convertible in the summertime. Add a road trip to the equation and it gets even better – no crowded airports, no check-in lines, no security hassles, no missed flights and no airport parking fees. Only the open road and freedom.
My destination? Montreal – a road trip adventure to mark the city's 375 th birthday. My ride? A refreshed 2018 BMW 440i xDrive Convertible.
Push a button and its hard-top roof lowers in about 20 seconds. The pièce de résistance is its colour – a gorgeous new turquoise shade called Snapper Rocks Blue Metallic. It's impossible to miss on the road, which could be a bad thing when you're driving more than 540 kilometres mostly along Canada's busiest highway, the 401, from Toronto to Montreal.
Contrasting the bold exterior is a pale white interior that blankets the leather seats, door panels and dashboard. While it's clean and crisp, give it a few months and a few children riding in the rear seats and it'll look dirty, fast.
Speaking of the two sculpted rear seats, they're best suited for children. When the roof is closed, it requires the skill of a contortionist to get back there – the opening is small and narrow. Once settled, though, it's surprisingly comfortable. Large rear windows and a high roofline make it feel less claustrophobic, too.
The front seats are supportive, heated and well-padded with extendable thigh cushions. Too bad they aren't air conditioned – that would come in handy for driving topless on warm, sticky days. BMW's iDrive infotainment system has been updated for 2018 – it's better than the last version, but it does take time to get familiar with it. Thankfully, a traditional volume knob, buttons and dials for the HVAC and access to the radio via a tiny dial on the steering wheel simplify common tasks.
The 440i handles beautifully on rain-slicked roads or dry pavement. The turbo six is powerful, but beware – it's easy to get into trouble on an open road. BMW's active cruise control keeps everything in check. Touch a button on the steering wheel to activate it, set the speed and the system takes over, automatically controlling the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of it – accelerating or braking as needed without any driver input. It works like a charm – easing anxiety and making the drive less stressful. In Old Montreal, the 440i is nimble and easy to manoeuvre along narrow cobblestone streets filled with cars and tourists alike. Be careful when opening the doors though, they're long and can easily ding other vehicles when the car is parked in tight spots.
A welcome bonus is the fuel economy. After logging more than 1,100-plus kilometres on the round-trip, the mileage display reads 8.6 litres/100 km – an impressive number and not too far off the official fuel economy rating of 8.1 for combined driving. When I thought this road trip couldn't get any better, it did.
- Base price: $71,050; as tested: $89,485
- Engine: 3.0-litre, turbocharged I-6
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.1 combined
- Alternatives: Audi A5/S5 Cabriolet, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet, Infiniti Q60 Convertible
Refreshes to the exterior styling include a sharply contoured front end with hexagonally-shaped LED headlights, a large air intake, and redesigned full-LED rear lights. Love the clean, crisp lines.
High-quality elegant cabin. Lots of buttons, knobs, and dials – but the layout is intuitive and easy to navigate. A removable wind deflector keeps locks in place; while a heated vent on the back of the front seats keeps your neck warm on cooler nights. A smartphone connectivity package adds Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, and a WiFi hot-spot to access high-speed Internet for up to 10 mobile devices.
The 320-horsepower 3.0-litre turbocharged-six engine is gutsy and powerful with a deep exhaust note that rumbles to life instantly. Nail the throttle and the growl intensifies. The ride is composed and sporty with a low centre of gravity, tight steering, and stiff suspension. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts through gears seamlessly and effortlessly. BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system works like a charm on rain-slicked roads. An auto stop-start function kills the engine when stopped to save fuel.
Loaded with safety features – it has everything from high-beam assist, which turns the high beams on-and-off depending on the oncoming traffic, to blind spot detection to active cruise control with a stop-and-go function, to adaptive LED headlights. Unfortunately, the aforementioned technology costs extra.
Don't bring golf clubs for the ride if you have rear-seat passengers on board. Cargo space is tight with the roof up or down, but I managed to squeeze in two small, soft suitcases.
An everyday convertible you can drive year-round thanks to its hard-top roof, all-wheel-drive system, and seating for four.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.