A BMW Icon Gets Even Better
Few cars can stir up your juices like the BMW 3-Series convertibles. Over the last twenty years, they have become cars of choice for driving enthusiasts. Now, BMW has made these sporty icons even with more desirable by giving them a retractable hardtop and offering a dose of turbo power.
Both the 328i and the 335i get a metal top that folds into three pieces and disappears into the trunk. It’s like watching a finely choreographed ballet. After the roof separates from the windshield, the front section slides over the middle, and the back part goes on top, forming a steel sandwich. They then descend into the open bin. The whole operation takes only 22 seconds. The top can even be operated from the key fob, if you order the Comfort Access option.
Unlike some automakers, the designers at BMW were able to preserve the natural flow of the roofline with their hardtop convertible. In fact, with the top up, it looks almost identical to the 3-Series coupe. Furthermore, the retractable top does not intrude on the width of the back seat. Shoulder and hip room are three to five inches wider than on last year’s convertible. However, legroom is still as cramped as ever.
My test car was a metallic gray 335i model with red leather seats— quite an attractive combination. The leather is treated with infrared reflective pigment that can lower the temperature of the seats by 30 degrees. This makes top-down driving a lot more comfortable on a summer day. Also adding to the comfort is the lack of turbulence in the cabin. It’s quite civilized on the freeway. With the windows up, there’s no problem carrying on a conversation. But it’s even better if you add the optional wind blocker, then you eliminate almost all wind buffeting.
BMW has installed twin turbos on the three-liter six in the 335i model. This engine pumps out a solid 300 horsepower, up 75 from the previous 330i. As before, drivers have a choice of a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic with the Steptronic manual shift mode. While the power train is pulling nearly 4000 lbs. (over 300 lbs. more than the old convertible) it can rip off some impressive 0-60 times—5.5 seconds for the manual; 5.7 for the automatic. Furthermore, even with more weight and power, the 335i gets the same kind of gas mileage as the previous ragtop, 19-29 mpg. I had only one complaint with the six-speed manual in my test car. It sometimes wanted to snag fifth gear, instead of third on an up shift.
Out on the road, the 335i is everything you would hope for in a BMW. To start with this is a very solid convertible. It’s 50-percent stiffer than its predecessor. Hitting a pothole won’t send a shiver through your body. My test car was equipped with the optional Sport package, and the handling was superb. The steering, in particular, impressed me. It was so taut and precise that it made me feel like I was one with the car. Of course, the suspension did its part too, by enabling this machine to take corners like it was tied to the end of a tether. However, the sport suspension does exact a price. The ride on rough secondary roads can be rather unyielding.
If you want to buy a 335i convertible, be prepared to have your bank account lightened considerably. The base price is $49,875. My test car had a bottom line of $54,450.
Slick Convertible Hardtop
Very Responsive Engine
Base Price: $49,875
Engine: 3.0-ltr, twin turbo
Transmission: 6-sp auto
Brake: disc, ABS
Gas Mileage: 19-28 mpg
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