2008 BMW 335i Convertible



The BMW 3-series is without question one of our favorite cars, reigning on our yearly 10Best Cars list for the past 16 years. The current and much-praised, fifth-generation E90 version is no doubt the best, and is among the most rewarding cars to drive at any price. For 2008, and to no one's surprise, BMW is adding a convertible version, just as the company has for the past 20 years.

But, this is BMW's first foray into the expanding, hardtop-convertible parade. Other notable features are a much-improved, rapid-shifting six-speed automatic; special reflective leather to keep the seats cool (up to 30 degrees cooler than conventional leather) when the top is down; and, of course, the spectacular 300-hp twin-turbo inline-six that was introduced in last year's 335i coupe. In the U.S., the convertible will be offered as the aforementioned 300-hp 335i—the model we got an early drive in—as well as a 230-hp 328i when it goes on-sale at the end of March. Pricing isn't yet finalized, but the convertible premium will likely not change much from the outgoing model's, so expect to pay about $7000 more than comparable coupes; roughly $43,000 for the 328i and $48,000 for the 335i.

Changes from convertible to coupe in 23 seconds

Hardtop convertibles offer numerous advantages over their soft-top competitors, including coupe-like quietness and excellent visibility when the top is up. BMW reports that the rear side windows have grown 30 percent in the new 3-series convertible, while overall visibility is up 38 percent. To our eyes, visibility out of the convertible is essentially equivalent to that of the coupe.

Looks-wise, you probably won't spot the new convertible by its 3-series-coupe-like front-end, but rather from the rear, where the coupe's flowing roofline is replaced by a distinct line where the convertible's roof meets the trunk.

BMW's new top is a three-piece unit and, at the push of a center-console button or the key fob, stacks the front panel on top of the center panel, then the rear panel on top of both of those before disappearing into the trunk in 22 seconds. It takes a second longer to reverse the process, which is about seven seconds quicker than its closest competitor, the Volvo C70.

The downside of folding hardtops is that they're heavy and that the top can hog most of the trunk space when down. In the 3-series' case, the top itself adds 300 pounds, while the extra chassis reinforcements pack on another 150, so expect a 335i convertible to weigh about 4000 pounds. To BMW's credit, however, the convertible retains a 50-50 weight distribution and is claimed to have 50-percent stiffer torsional rigidity than the previous 3-series convertible. From the driver's seat, we can tell you that the new 3-series is among the stiffest in its class, with almost no perceptible quivers felt through either the seat or steering wheel.

The convertible's 12-cubic-foot trunk is actually one cube larger than the coupe's, but shrinks to 7 with the top down; still leaving usable space beneath the panels. That also compares favorably with the Volvo C70's 13 cubic feet top-up and 6 top-down. However, the Volvo has a nifty loading feature that electronically motors the roof panels out of the way for easier access to the trunk space with the top down. On the BMW, that feature is optional (part of the $500 Comfort Access, which also includes keyless unlocking/locking and starting) and doesn't work as well as there's no button (instead you must click the key fob twice), and even then doesn't make loading as easy as the Volvo does. However, the 3-series has a folding rear seat and a 16-inch-wide trunk pass through to accommodate the must-have set of golf clubs under the folded roof.



But how does it drive?

Has chopping the roof and adding weight spoiled the 3-series? Most definitely not. If anything, it's just a touch less-edgy than the stiffer and lighter 335i coupe and sedan, but the convertible still dances up a twisty mountain road in a way that will satisfy the enthusiast.

The surprisingly linear, 300-hp 3.0-liter direct-injection twin-turbo six barks with a satisfactory, very un-turbo-like snarl and is the least compromised turbo engine we've ever driven. Naturally it doesn't feel quite as strong as in the coupe; BMW predicts the convertible's 0-to-60-mph times will be 0.2-second slower than comparable coupe's. We blasted to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds in a 335i manual coupe, so that would put a manual 335i convertible at 5.1 seconds, and an automatic at 5.3. Still not exactly what you'd call slow.

While enthusiasts will probably prefer the standard six-speed manual transmission, opt for the new ZF six-speed automatic and the engine's boosted nature is concealed even more, to a point that it's basically indiscernible. BMW claims this new transmission shifts up to 40-percent quicker than other automatics, and even though it's a conventional automatic with a torque converter its shift times are approaching those of automated manuals, such as BMW's SMG. To us, this new automatic is up there with the Jaguar XK's tranny as among the best; both of which are far better than the clunky SMG. And who wouldn't want satisfying, right-now shifts without the bumbling between gears that happens with SMG? Wide-open-throttle upshifts happen with a reassuring kick approaching that of automated manuals.

As far as the 3-series' convertibleness is concerned, we did over a hundred miles with the top down, optional wind blocker in place, and windows up. If there's any degradation to structural rigidity with the top down, it's minimal, and even at 80 to 85 mph the cabin is reasonably quiet. Perhaps better, we were able to stay warm with outside temperatures in the low- to mid-40s.

Other 3-series traits remain: Terrifically comfortable seats, with optional power bolster adjustment (you must try these); properly weighted and responsive steering that's among the best; and a ride-handling balance its competitors would kill for.

The 3-series sedan, coupe, and now, convertible. You really can't go wrong no matter which one you choose. We'll take a deep breath as we await the 400-hp, V-8-powered M3. How much better can the 3-series get?

BY DAVE VANDERWERP (CAR AND DRIVER)

Here is the 2007 model by comparison

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There are several reasons why the new 2007 BMW 335i Convertible has been built with a retractable hardtop instead of a conventional cloth top.



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Most of them are practical but boring, like security and wind noise. But for Albin Dirndorfer, BMW’s project manager for the new 2007 3 Series Convertible, it is all about elegance


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We can see why Dirndorfer felt the urge to take his “elegance” metaphor a little too far. The new 335i convertible is an attractive mix of complex engineering and fine design.


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Although built from lightweight steel, the hardtop’s three folding panels don’t make the structure of the car any more rigid when the top is deployed. This chore is accomplished by chassis reinforcements built into the floorpan and rear bulkhead.


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This additional structure, plus the hardtop and its operating mechanism, pads on 452 pounds to the 3,571-pound 335i coupe for a total of 4,023 pounds.


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The twin-turbo, 300-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-6 in the 335i convertible might have the mass of 4,023 pounds to move around, but there’s not a quicker four-seat convertible short of a Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG. BMW claims this new convertible with its six-speed manual transmission will accelerate to 60 mph 5.8 seconds, just 0.3 second slower than a coupe with a six-speed manual.


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In order to maintain optimal front-to-rear weight distribution, plastic quarter panels are used up front. According to BMW, these new panels are not only 50 percent lighter than equivalent steel versions, they’re also dent-resistant.


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Go ahead and mark this as the only time BMW will ever draw technical inspiration from Saturn.


Set to go on sale in April for around $46,000, the 2007 BMW 335i Convertible will enter the market with few direct competitors.

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Source: BMWallSERIES

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