The BMW M3 hard-top convertible features razor-sharp handling, a tuneful powerplant and a surprisingly practical interior with fully functional rear seats. Though based off the outgoing 3-Series and nearing the end of its life span, the M3 is still well worth a look for those seeking an extremely sporty yet comfortable daily driver.
The M3 is also available in coupe form, while the sedan version has been discontinued until the next-generation M3 lineup arrives.
The M3's 4.0-liter V8 powerplant has two more cylinders than its predecessor, delivering 414 horsepower and maximum torque of 295 pound-feet at 3,900 rpm. The engine is the lightest V8 in the world, weighing less than the previous M3's inline-six. A fine example of BMW's outgoing high-revving "M" tradition, maximum engine speed in the 4.0-liter is a screaming 8,300 rpm. In the interests of fuel economy, BMW is currently abandoning high-revving naturally aspirated engines in favor of turbocharged units with much lower redlines.
The compact V8 can be paired with the either a standard six-speed manual or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The row-your-own unit helps the car accelerate from zero-to-sixty mph in a claimed 5.1 seconds, while the auto is rated at 4.9 ticks; both times are likely conservative by nearly half a second. Fuel economy is rated at 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway for the automatic, while the manual gets a 13/20 mpg estimate.
Stopping power is enhanced by internally-vented, cross-drilled cast iron discs measuring 14.2 inches in diameter at the front and 13.8 inches in the rear.
The majority of the M3's chassis is constructed from lightweight aluminum, helping to keep the weight down and the handling reflexes sharp. Also contributing to the M3's agile dynamic character is a near perfect 51/49 front to rear weight distribution.
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.
The M3 is visually distinguishable from lesser 3-Series models thanks to a unique body kit, a more aggressive front fascia, a slight power bulge on the hood and special wheels. Inside, the M3 maintains the simple yet elegant cabin of the standard 3er but adds numerous M badges, unique instruments and a fat-rimmed M steering wheel. The rear seats are surprisingly accommodating, and the trunk provides a reasonable amount of space.
A premium package offers power folding mirrors, universal garage opener, digital compass mirror, BMW Assist, Novillo Leather interior and choice of three optional interior trims.
The technology package includes EDC, M Drive, Comfort Access, and a navigation system.
Stand-alone options include 19" wheels, Extended Novillo Leather, Electronic Damping Control, a navigation system and a premium sound system.
The BMW M3 Convertible can also be ordered with EDC Electronic Damper Control. Adjusting damper forces electrohydraulically, EDC optimizes both the car's vertical vibration behavior as well as its yaw and roll motion in bends and its dynamic axle load distribution when applying the brakes and when accelerating.
The BMW M3 Convertible is available with a choice of four special M metallic paintwork colors: Melbourne Red metallic, Jerez Black, Interlagos Blue, and the M5/M6-sourced Silverstone.
Safety features include dual front, front side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
The M3 Convertible doesn't have any direct competitors because Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz thus far declined to produce drop-top versions of their CTS-V Coupe and C63 AMG Coupe models. The price of an M3 Convertible will buy open-air performance machines like the Chevrolet Corvette Convertible and the Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible, both of which the refinement of the BMW but offer more pure power.