Monday 16 January 2017

Beemer with specs appeal

Published 11/06/2011 | 05:00

BMW118d
MSPORTCONVERTIBLE
RATING 84/100
BMW118d MSPORTCONVERTIBLE RATING 84/100

I got lucky -- well sort of -- at long last. Good weather coincided with me driving a convertible. But my luck was to run out -- in a most unexpected fashion. For one glorious June afternoon, this got a chance to be what it was born to be -- a fair-weather friend. And that's where I was to enjoy, and regret, my sojourn in its leather-clad cabin.

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The 1-series has made huge strides since the first tentative and none-too reassuring steps way back when.

This convertible had all sorts of new stuff with a fascinating piece of work that directs air from around the front of the car to cut down on drag.

The air is directed into two channels in the front apron. This is then pushed out of a narrow aperture into the wheel arch.

As such it more or less envelopes the side of the front wheels -- yes like a curtain -- and apparently significantly reduces turbulence.

They say they've taken this aero curtain technology from racing experience and fitted it to this motor now.

Can't say I noticed that much of a difference one way or the other, though it is claimed to have a beneficial effect on fuel consumption.

Stands to reason, I suppose, but I still think there is nothing to beat a light, well disciplined right foot to save the euro dribbling out the tailpipe.

Mind you, between the curtain and everything else (stop/start technology, frugal diesel engine) they have on this, the 118d M Sport I had has a road tax rate of just €156 while the ordinary 118d version is even lower at €104. Not bad for a fashionable, sprightly little Beemer, is it?

But, let's be honest, if you are going to spend from around €35,000, you want to feel the fun of driving a car like this.

It is a lot of money these days for two decent seats.

It all comes down to enjoying the bit of pep in the engine with the hood in the boot and warm air on your head as you squirt along a decent road.

Oh! Yes and a pair of sunglasses (nearly always something I forget) to keep your eyes safe.

They have upped the spec levels a fair bit, claiming all that extra bling (they'll love me for that) is worth €1,800 but, decent people, they say they are not charging for it.

But I have to say the sumptuous difference was the black Boston leather upholstery (and they are charging for that -- an extra €1,726.08).

Despite all the misery and heartache of this world, there were a few moments of freedom away from it all when I got this up and running. I really did enjoy a few driving stints.

Now there are two ways of looking at a car like this.

One is the cost, for a bit of smart motoring. It is hard to make a practical case for it, of course.

And I won't insult those of us who are struggling like hell to make ends meet.

On the other hand there are people with a few high-and-dry euro who feel, rightly, they deserve something for their hard work (or whatever). More luck to them I say. Go and enjoy it every time there's a blue sky.

But don't do what I did (here's where my luck ran out).

Do not decide you are going to sit in it and read the papers and then slither off into a slumber as you try to stretch legs beyond the physical capacity of the cabin.

There I was with a big ould red face on me trying to get upright, laden with the realisation

I had nodded off for an hour in a twisted foetal position, and now had a searing pain/stiffness across my lower back and down my leg.

Lesson learned.

Since then the weather has not permitted such lounging, so the roof was back up (press of a button and a tiny wait) to withstand some seriously heavy downpours.

On dry and wet roads the handling was adroit, the steering (electric) was unerringly honest and the driving made easy by a taut chassis.

The 1-series probably does not have the iconic status of the likes of the Audi TT and its convertible version, which remains a tremendous piece of machinery.

But with this latest manifestation BMW have managed to make you think twice.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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