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erhaps your budget won't
quite stretch to Aston Martin's
Vantage V12 S Roadster, but
you're still keen on the idea
of open-topped motoring. If
so, let us suggest an excellent
alternative for less than
a third of the price - the
newly launched BMW
Turning a conventional
car into a cabrio very rarely
makes for a good drivers'
car. The roof of a saloon
or coupé doesn't just keep
out the rain and unwanted
intruders; it's also a major
So removing it tends to
dramatically reduce the strength of what's
left, and requires manufacturers to add
weight with substantial reinforcement.
And although both of these charges
can, to an extent, be levelled at the M235i
Cabriolet when compared to its truly
excellent Coupé sister, it's fair to say that
it has survived decapitation better than
almost anything else. When driven down a
bumpy road at high speed you sense some
extra motion as the bodyshell struggles to
deal with the undulations, and the extra
145kg of weight blunts reactions slightly
when compared to the eet-footed Coupé.
But it's still a great car, especially when
cruising with the roof down, enjoying the
cabin's snug insulation and experiencing
the engine's solid power delivery. The open
M235i can't match the level of grip o§ ered
by the (considerably more expensive) M4
that makes it a
car to drive at real-world speeds, and one
you don't need to thrash mercilessly to feel
you're getting the best from it. It's not a true
sports car, but it gets closer than any other
mainstream cabriolet we can think of.
Best bits: Handsome, well equipped
and great with the roof down.
Worst bits: Heavier and less rigid than
the Coupé; more expensive, too.
BMW M235I CABRIOLET
If you're looking to spend summer soaking up the rays in
a cabriolet, you'd be hard pressed to do better than this
BMW M235I CABRIOLET
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder,
0-62mph: 5 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
It's a great car when cruising with the roof
down, enjoying the cabin's snug insulation
How to get there from civilisation
Take the M1 north, turn onto the M6 and
then keep going until you get to Junction 40
in Cumbria. Turn right onto the A66 and pick
up the A686 at the next roundabout.
What's so great about it?
The Hartside Pass is a superb moorland
blast - a fast, � owing road with a great
variety of corners and superb views. It can
get busy at weekends, especially with
crowds of motorbikes, so it's best sampled
as a diversion on a midweek drive.
Any reasons to stop en route?
De� nitely - to take in the views. Or even
to catch a train: the road crosses the Settle
and Carlisle line at Langwathby, giving you
the chance to experience one of Britain's
most scenic railways. If you're sticking with
the car, then the Hartside Café (at 1,900ft)
commands a spectacular vista.
Best car to do it in?
One for a sports car that will feel fun without
going so fast that you end up breaking rocks
in a quarry. So we'd pick the Toyota GT86.
PENRITH TO ALSTON
Total length: 20 miles
Great British Drives
Mike Du� is European Editor for Car and Driver Magazine
PHOTO © BMW AG