- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

The new fourth generation 2007 BMW 3 Series Convertible features a first-for-BMW retractable hardtop with a 3-piece steel roof, that provides not only enhanced safety and security, but improved vehicle dynamics as well.

There will be two versions of the fresh air tourer available: the BMW 328i; and the BMW 335i. Both are powered by an inline, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. The 328i is normally aspirated, features Valvetronic technology and magnesium/aluminum composite construction, is rated at 230 horsepower and delivers 200 pounds-feet of torque. The 335i drop-top comes equipped with twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection, pumping out 300 horses and a like amount of torque. It’s BMW’s first turbocharged gas engine in more than 20 years.

The 328i motor mates to either a Getrag Type I, six-speed manual gearbox or a GM6 six-speed automatic, while the 335i engine is coupled to either a ZF Type G, 6-speed manual, or a ZF 6HP 19TU 6-speed automatic transmission. Both the 328i and the 335i offer an optionally available STEPTRONIC automatic with both Sport and manual modes, featuring F1-type paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Both cars are rear wheel drive, with no current offering of an all-wheel drive model, and both seat four adults comfortably.

In terms if its visual appeal, the new 3-Series Convertible has evolved dramatically beyond its predecessors. At first glance, the differences may not be readily apparent to the casual observer, but this latest iteration is, in essence, a fresh interpretation of the traditional shape. The proportions are exceptionally well balanced, creating an unmistakable silhouette. The lengthy hood with its dramatically sculpted features, speaks to BMW’s tradition of inline six-cylinder engines. The hood extends beyond the standard Xenon adaptive headlamps giving the car a somewhat sinister look.

The wheelbase is long, while both the front and rear overhangs are noticeably short (the front’s is almost nonexistent). The passenger compartment is set back and the roofline is low with sharply raked angles for both windshield and backlight. The new convertible’s lines which consist of the shoulder, character and sill, emphasize the car’s sleek aerodynamics. The wheel well arches wrap tightly around the low profile wheels and tires add significantly to the low, sporty stance and racy aura. The Hofmeister kink evidenced in the C pillar disappears when the 3-piece roof is stowed. Top operation delivers open air motoring at the touch of a single switch in a mere 22 seconds, and returns to the coupe-like configuration in 23 seconds, both steps including window operation. With the top up, a chrome window surround strongly suggests the look of a Coupe. The tail lights fit flush, wrapping around the rear corners, giving the car a wider look, while the dual exhaust tips hint at the vehicle’s prowess.

Moving inside, the interior lines are equally elegant, flowing smoothly and harmoniously over the instrument panel and door surfaces. Passengers in the highly supportive front and rear seats benefit from the center console with specific controls and amenities. An optional Dakota leather interior features a Sun-Reflective Technology that reflects UV rays, keeping seat surfaces cooler.

I was able to experience both versions of the new 3-Series convertible during the press launch, and while the 335i obviously packs more punch with its higher output, the 328i is entirely satisfactory. My longer term Crimson Red test vehicle happened to be the 328i, which came with the base price set at $43,200. The interior was executed in Black Dakota leather. Options on my test Bimmer drop-top included: the Cold Weather Package with heated front seats, headlight washers and thru-loading system with cargo bag; the Premium Package consisting of leather upholstery,integrated garage door opener, auto-dimming rear view mirror and side mirrors, power-folding side mirrors, compass, lumbar support and BMW Assist & Bluetooth System; the Sport Package with 18-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, front sport seats and Sport suspension; Comfort Access with comfort Load; and Destination charge. Extras brought the final sticker to $49,075 before tax and license.

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