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LIFESTYLE: NEW NUMBERS AND OLD FAVOURITES

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The handsome new convertible from BMW brings an edge of practicality while the Land Rover Discovery 4 is still a hard act to follow on the functional side

 

BMW 428i Convertible

BMW’s 4 Series is a new name plate that has been added to the BMW stable. This completes the series from 1 Series all the way to 7 Series in the current manufacturing line-up. The odd numbers are the regular vehicles while the even numbers are the sportier versions – and the new 4 Series is no exception.

The 4 Series is easily distinguishable from the 3 Series thanks to the absence of rear doors. As you inspect the beautiful lines of the vehicle, you come to realise just how different this 4 Series is to the 3 Series. The elongated bonnet, lower roofline and steeply raked rear window enhance the sporty coupé look. Add to this the large air intakes on the front bumper with an upside-down L-shaped vent behind the front wheel  for the air to escape after cooling the brakes and the rather aggressive-looking headlights, and you do you appreciate that this is actually a different vehicle to the 3 Series.

This new hard-top convertible, or tin top as many call it, has some unique features. To start with, the top is split into three sections, with the rear window and C-pillars being separated from the roof, which is split in two. These three sections are sandwiched together before being lowered into the stowage compartment in the boot. All this is done at the touch of a button. The one new feature that has to be mentioned is the luggage compartment loading aid. As you may be aware that once the roof is down, even though there is a fair amount of luggage space, you cannot always access it. So this new feature effectively raises the boot lid and the folded roof up and out of the way so you can load or unload with ease. This is a first, and I think BMW engineers need to be commended for this genial invention. One drawback is that some of the luggage space is taken up by the various mechanical contraptions that control this action. That being said, I would still take the loading aid.

Like all BMWs, the 4 Series Convertible is also available in the various lines, namely Comfort, Luxury and Sport. These are based on drivers’ personalities. The interior layout is typical BMW cockpit style with the information screen placed on top of the dashboard. The two-tone dashboard adds to the overall classy look and feel of the interior, with the lower section in the same colour as the seats (that is as long as you don’t opt for black). Like most vehicles today, the 428i is well equipped with all the necessary features being standard; however, there is a comprehensive list of nice-to-haves as optional extras. The seats on the convertible now have a vent just below the headrest. This allows you to push hot or cold air through it so as to create an air scarf around your neck. This feature will be used mainly during the cooler months when the sun is out but not the heat. I did try it out, and it worked well.

This all leads to the most important feature of the vehicle, which is driving with the top down. Just imagine this: on a sunny day driving along the coast with the wind in your hair and the slight growl from the engine – what more could you ask for?

The 428i is fitted with a two-litre twin turbo engine, which is enough to catapult you to 100 km/h in just under 6,5 seconds (claimed). Best of all is that the overall fuel consumption is 6,6 l / 100 km for the eight-speed automatic version. I managed to get to an overall 7,1 l / 100 km.

Driving the vehicle puts a smile on your face, no matter how bad your day has been. Even if the weather is bad and you have the roof up, you just feel alive driving this vehicle. The excellent feedback from the steering wheel allows you to feel in control all the time. Thanks to all the electronic aids, you don’t even have to worry about taking a corner too fast, as the vehicle will just correct itself. The silky-smooth gear changes make you doubt if there are any gears, so push the sport button and click the paddle shift and this perception changes. The vehicle becomes a boy racer’s dream, with quick, precise gear changes at the touch.

I have to concede that this new convertible from BMW is the best that they have produced. With its clean lines and sexy looks, it’s a winner in my book.

 

Land Rover Discovery 4

The Discovery – or Disco as it is affectionately called – has captured many a heart worldwide. The latest version of the Disco is no different, or is it?

The first thing you notice with the latest Discovery 4 is the change of nameplate on the bonnet. Gone is the Land Rover name and it its place is a rather bold Discovery nameplate. This is in keeping with the overall change at Land Rover to create specific brands within its stable. It started with the Range Rover Evoque and is now making its way through the rest of the Land Rover family. Later this year the Freelander replacement will be launched in South Africa, but in keeping with the new model line-up it will be named Discovery Sport.

Another striking feature is the LED headlight surrounds that add to the overall vehicle presence, which the test vehicle had, with its black mag wheels and Discovery lettering on the bonnet. Added to this were dark-tinted rear windows (known as the privacy package), which made the vehicle look more like a celebrity limo then a family SUV. The trademark boxy look has not changed, and the split rear tailgate is still as it was. The split-level roofline has also survived the change, although this is not noticeable from the outside, thanks to the roof rails. To be honest, the outside has not had too much of a change apart from looking a lot cooler thanks to the sporty add-ons.

Inside you are welcomed by luxurious leather seats and enough space for five adults. Two foldaway seats disappear into the floor of the luggage compartment when you need the luggage space. These seats can seat adults for short distances. The rear seats have ample headroom and thanks to the elevated seating, have a panoramic view over the front passengers. There is also climate control vents in the roof and C-pillars so everyone is comfortable. The panoramic roof allows all the passengers, including the two right at the back, to feel like they are in an open space with ample light. This can be closed by a netlike fabric, so you can still get some light coming through.

The cockpit still has individual adjustable armrests for the front seat passengers that exude lounge chair comfort. The four-spoke steering wheel has  buttons for telephone, radio, cruise control and some other features. The dashboard display has been cleaned up to give a fresher, more minimalistic look with clear speed and tachometer lettering. Between the two dials is the information LCD display, which informs the driver of everything that is happening to the vehicle from fuel range to driving mode and the angle of the wheels. To the left of the steering wheel is the infotainment system with touchscreen control. This screen is large and bright enough for the sunny days you will spend off the beaten track. To add some additional class to the cabin, there is a chrono watch that has been placed just below this screen.

The next big change is that there is no longer a chunky gear. In its place is a dial similar to that fitted to the Jaguar XJ I tested last month. Just in front of this dial are more buttons that control the height of the vehicle, as well as the driving mode. Unlike  normal vehicles that have sport and comfort settings, this vehicle has settings for any type of road surface you can imagine: from mud and sand to snow and rocks. This vehicle can do it all. The body can also be dropped for getting in and out of the vehicle, but I think it will be used more for entering low-roofed mall parking. The body can also be lifted to ensure that you can go through the mud ruts or wade through more than a puddle of water. All that’s needed is to select the correct setting and leave the rest to vehicle.

The three-litre V6 supercharged petrol engine was smooth and quiet. It produced no turbo lag and gave a rather smooth ride on the road. Off the beaten track, it was much of the same. The one challenge is that the petrol version is thirsty, so you may want to consider the diesel option.

This SUV has luxury and comfort that is equivalent to that of a limousine. Add to this the space and its off-road ability, and you have an impressive vehicle. But this vehicle has even more, for example some practical features like a fridge in the front central armrest seats that can be folded for loading. All this, and a brand that is up there with all the luxury brands. This is so much more than a footballer wife’s car it is one of the best all-round vehicles on the road today. So if you are in the market for a vehicle that you will enjoy driving daily and would like the space and/or to go on the odd off the beaten track while keeping the family happy, this is one to put at the top of the list. The Disco legend lives on.

Manufacturer specifications

BMW 428i Convertible

Engine: 2,0 l  Four-cylinder Turbo

Power: 180 kW

Torque: 350 Nm

0–100 km/h: 6,4 s (claimed)

Fuel: Average 6,8 l /100 km

CO2: 159 g/km

Price: From R595 000

Land Rover Discovery 4

Engine: 3,0 l V6-cylinder Supercharged

Power: 250 KW

Torque: 450 Nm

0–100 km/h: 8,1 s (claimed)

Fuel: Average 12,0 l /100 km

CO2: 285 g/km

Price: From R700 300

Author: Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ