Though the 3-Series sedan recently received a complete redesign, the current 3-Series coupe and convertible will solider on unchanged for the time being. Even with their aging designs, the two-door 3-Series models still provide communicative steering, athletic engines and one of the best ride/handling balances in the business.
The E92 3-Series convertible is BMW's first model with a retractable hardtop. BMW says this convertible is the perfect car for two-person backroad vacation adventures whenever the weather permits. Built on the same chassis and with the same engine choices as the 3-Series coupe, it gives up just a little weight and luggage room in return for the fun of top-down motoring in an all-season automobile.
The only variation between the 328i and 335i models is in the power plant. The 328i uses BMW's normally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six, offering 230 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 200 foot-pounds of torque at 2,750 rpm. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels through a standard six-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic with rapid-action Steptronic gear selection is optional.
The 335i has a new N54 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder with a single twin-scroll turbocharger, high-precision fuel injection, and an all-aluminum crankcase, pushing the car to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. The motor produces 300 horsepower at 5,800 rpm. Peak toque is 300 pound-feet, available from a mere 1,200 rpm, all the way up to 5,000 rpm.
BMW says the new N54 engine uses the same displacement as the previous engine, but only requires a single turbocharger as opposed to two. The new N54 single turbo setup also produces the same peak power but with a lower starting torque curve, as well as better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
Fuel economy for the 335i is rated at 19/28 city/highway mpg with the stick and 18/27 with the auto, while the manually-shifted 328i returns 17/26 mpg and the auto returns 18/27 mpg.
For those seeking even more power, BMW now offers a 335is Convertible model, gaining 20 horsepower, for a total of 320 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. The 335is Convertible also features, for the first time ever in a 3-Series in the U.S., a seven-speed Double Clutch Transmission (DCT). Efficiency checks in at 18/26 mpg with the stick and 17/24 mpg with the dual-clutch 'box.
There's also no sacrifice to the superb handling for which BMW is recognized. The car is solid on the track at speeds well in excess of highway limits, and yet is confident in tight cornering, due to a near-even front to rear weight balance
Stylistically, the 3-Series droptop was recently updated with new headlamps, LED tail lamps and mirrors, as well as a widened signature kidney grille with a new chrome frame. The new front and rear fascias add a little length to the car -- 1.14 inches up front and 0.12 inches out back. All Convertibles will now get adaptive Xenon headlamps as standard equipment and the revised lamps gain brighter LED corona rings, a BMW design staple.
Inside, the 3-Series Convertible receives some very minor updates. New additional wood trim options are added to the list and the some of the formerly black plastic trim takes on a more gray shade. The Convertible's leather trim now comes with a sun reflective pigment to keep the seats cooler when the top is down -- as much as 36 degrees Fahrenheit cooler for dark leather.
The folding top mechanism takes up some trunk space, and the folded top even more, providing just about enough trunk space for two roll-aboard suitcases. However, the rear seat backs neatly fold down to form a functional luggage shelf, so a week's vacation in the car can be handled with ease. Fortunately, the hardtop erects in just a few seconds, so all you have to do is remember to close it when you park the car in order to keep your luggage safe.
The upside to the slightly heavy and space-robbing hard-top roof design is that it closely resembles the look of a standard coupe when raised while also making for a quieter cabin and a lower chance of leaks on a rainy day.
ABS, stability control and traction control are all standard. Driver and passenger are protected by front, side, and knee airbags. Belt latch tensioners and belt force limiters are activated by sensor-controlled electronics based on type and severity of collision.
BMW also added three new colors to the 3-Series Convertible lineup, Deep Sea Blue Metallic, Vermillion Red Metallic, and Mineral White Metallic.
Those considering a new 3-Series Convertible should also look into the Infiniti G37 Convertible, the Audi A5 Convertible and the Lexus IS 250C or IS 350C.