It looks longer with the top down. Bigger yet sleeker at the same time. From the right angle, the 2015 BMW 228i xDrive Cabriolet looks downright purposeful. Adjust your position a little and it takes on the playful charm that is the strongest virtue of any compact convertible – but especially this one. Put the roof back up and the 228i Cab could best be described as a “cute dork”, but in a very lovable way.
The 2015 BMW 228i xDrive Cabriolet walks that line between “seriously sporty” and “fun and frivolous” really, really well. Hop in, whack on your Ray Bans and put the roof down – you’ll feel a million bucks. Take a turn down a winding road, press the drive selection button twice to get to Sport+ and hit the go pedal – you’ll feel a few more million bucks.
BMW does an amazing job with driving modes. Perhaps more than any other manufacturer the differences between Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ are pronounced and useful. Eco Pro has routinely returned a 10 percent improvement in economy when used in other tests and did so again here. The first 200 km I did in only Eco Pro (give or take the kilometre or two it took me to remember to turn it on during a couple of trips) and recorded an average of 9.0 L/100 km. The little Eco Pro gauge told me I’d saved 20 km. The rest of the week I spent driving in Sport+ or Sport and ended up on 10 L/100 km – so the measurements bear out. If you’re wondering, official five-cycle NRCan ratings are 10.4/7.1/8.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
Having done my civic duty and tested the Eco Pro mode, I switched briefly to Comfort, letting the adaptive suspension smooth out my morning commute and letting the electric steering assistance give my T-rex arms a rest for a short while. I didn’t stay there long. Comfort is not high on my list of priorities and the steering was too light, suspension too soft and throttle too soggy in this mode. Instead, every time I got in the car going forward I mashed that drive select button twice with the urgency and insistence of a toddler wanting more pureed banana. Sport+ is where the Cabriolet really comes to life. Throttle response is sharper, the engine revs more happily as the transmission keeps things boiling and the suspension firms up appreciably. Most importantly of all, the steering regains some heft – helping you feel more connected to the road beneath.
The mode doesn’t change the directness of the steering, it’s already pretty sharp with no vagueness in all three modes. It merely allows more of the haptic feedback from the road to travel into your hands. This increases confidence and also means your at-speed inputs are smoother, what with a heavier wheel being more appropriately difficult to turn and all.
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The 228i’s engine is the same magical mystery of all the “28i” trim engines. BMW’s 2.0L turbocharged four with its 241 hp at 5,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft at 1,450 has far more character than it really should. It’s peppy and rev-happy with a strong pull off the line and convincing roll-on acceleration for highway merging or passing. The paddle shifters are fun, but unnecessary as the eight-speed automatic shuffles smoothly into the right gear for most operations. Even the kick down happens quickly enough to render pre-selecting a lower gear an exercise in ego only. In comfort mode, the transmission is smooth and largely invisible, in Sport+ it wakes up and gets to work. Exactly as you’d like.