BMW 3 Series Convertible review
Great to drive, top up or down, the 3-Series is roomy, well built and has a brilliant roof.
Driving The 3-Series is a convertible that feels taut. There's a complete lack of body twist and no shaking around the A-pillars. A tiny amount of vibration is noticeable in the steering, but the 3-Series has far better body control than many rivals, and remains admirably composed over rough surfaces. The suspension initially feels a little firm, although the superior stiffness means it actually has a soothing ride. It also maintains the usual 3-Series traits of sharp, communicative steering, strong brakes and a near-perfect handling balance, so it's one of the most involving drop-tops in its sector to drive. All engines are impressive, but particularly the 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol and diesel units. The 335i and 335d provide stunning pace, though all units are characterful and mated to either a slick manual or intuitive, crisp auto.
Marketplace BMW started the two-door, four-seat compact executive cabriolet market back in 1986, and has remained a class leader ever since. So this latest model is big news - especially since BMW's engineers have ditched the canvass roof for a folding metal one. Thing is, if you see one coming the other way with the roof up, chances are you won't notice it. The aggressive nose is nearly identical to the Coupe's, and the new metal roof makes it even harder to tell apart. In profile, the differences are easier to spot - the Convertible has a flatter, less curved rear screen and unique tail lights - but overall, the roof is amazingly well integrated. And in operation, it's a work of art. It follows rival Volvo C70 in having a folding metal roof - the Saab 9-3 Audi A4 and Mercedes CLK have all stuck to fabric roofs.
Owning The key design brief for BMW's design team was to avoid the bulbous back end from which so many coupe-cabriolets suffer. It has certainly achieved this, with an admirably low rear deck. But the price is a three-piece folding roof, which compromises boot space. With the top folded, boot space is down on the old car, while the space is awkwardly shaped, too. Still, the BMW has a trick up its sleeve called Boot Access. Press a button in the load area and the roof panels rise up to widen the opening. It's also a genuine four-seater, with reasonable accommodation in the rear for adults. In fact, comfort is a real strong point. The driving position is faultless and the combination of the inward-sloping side windows, rakish windscreen and effective optional wind deflector mean buffeting is well suppressed. But the 3-Series is expensive. Even the base model costs more than £30,000, so it's fortunate equipment is generous. Needless to say, retained values will be excellent, and work by BMW's efficiency team means fuel economy of all models is impressive. There's even an all-inclusive servicing package for a one-off cost; this is one premium drop-top whose running costs are kept well in check.