BMW makes a very sporty hardtop coupe in its entry 3 Series. By the way, the top comes down, too.
The underpinning for the BMW 335i and 328i convertible is a performance chassis. The 3L, straight 6 churns out 300 horsepower for the 335i through twin turbochargers. The same unboosted engine musters 230 horsepower.
Using the new inline 6 banger also dictates a longer hood. Add the kidney grille and the BMW 3 marches in step with the German automaker's distinctive styling tradition.
That's enough to propel the 335i to 60 mph in a snarling 5.7 seconds. The 328i makes it in 7.2 seconds. Both use the six-speed automatic transmission. The manual is fractionally quicker, but both takeoffs are headsnappers.
The retractable three-piece hardtop opens up in a brisk 22 seconds but takes 23 seconds to close. Presumably BMW engineers are working on that.
The extra horsepower of the 335i comes in at $49,875 base while the 328i starts are a modest $43,975. The 328i tester came to $49,625 all togged out.
Fuel economy is 20 city and 30 highway for the 328i and 20/29 for the 335i. That's for the automatic transmission. The near equality stems from the turbo charger of the 335i running only under hard acceleration and not at all on highway straights.
In either case, what you get is a sporter that gathers the road in its teeth, grabbing curves and not letting go. If the problem is the curve, these 3s are the answer. The dynamic stability control is unobtrusive.
|BMW 328i Convertible
•Engines: 3.0L I-6
•Dimensions: 109" wheelbase; 181" length
•Base price: $43,975; As tested $49,625
•Fuel economy: 20/30 mpg
The tradeoff is a firm ride that transfers road imperfections. It's a fine straight-ahead cruiser as well. There's plenty of front seat space—sprawl room almost. The driving position is fine, helped by the 10-way power seat and the tilt steering wheel. The leather seats are mildly bolstered.
The thick steering wheel's leather has a nice feel to it. The three-spoker won't let you rest your mitts on the spokes but with a BMW you shouldn't be driving that way in the first place.
There are a couple of thoughtful interior touches (besides the burl walnut trim). The leather is treated with a sun-reflective technology said to reduce surface temperature by 36 degrees. It's used on seats, armrests, headrests and (thankfully) the gearshift knob. It's standard on the 335i and optional on the 328i. Get it.
Other available nice touches include retractable headlight washer, auto dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors, navigation system with real-time traffic info, interior "ambience" lighting, puddle lighting from the door handles, and door storage pockets that retract.
The convertibles also boast roll-over sensors that turn on rear seat headrest roll bars. The windshield frame does that same job for front seat occupants.
And the top comes down.