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2007 BMW 335i Convertible Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2007 BMW 335i

2007 BMW 335i Convertible
Drop everything…and you'll be down with that.

Text and Photos By: Rex Roy

EDITOR'S NOTE: To watch the introduction of the BMW 3 Series Convertible at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show click the PLAY button on the video window at the bottom of this page.

Top down. Windows down. Throttle down. This is the way to drive the 2007 BMW 335i Convertible.

BMW brought together journalists from across the globe to sample its new steel-roofed drop top. The epicenter of all things "3" was fashionable Scottsdale, Arizona. BMW kindly provided European-specification 3-Series. These are identical to their US counterparts with the exception of their useful convex driver side rearview mirror and a few other non-essential details.

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Somewhere north of Phoenix, however, we realized something was missing. The wonderfully powerful, twin-turbo six-cylinder of the 2007 BMW 335i Convertible unleashed yet another torrent of torque. Speeds easily escalated into triple digits, but there it wasn't. Again. The turbos are absolutely quiet. No whine. No huffing. No waste gate popping. Nothing but power accentuated by a perfectly flat, electronically modulated torque curve that peaks just off idle and doesn't fall off a Newton meter until the tach needle swings past 5000 rpm.

One can imagine BMW engineers scoffing at the typical noises associated with high-strung turbocharged cars, especially tuner specials. (If your mind is searching for a soundtrack, pick any scene from the Fast and The Furious franchise.) "Ve vill not have any of dat." With the top and windows down, we would have heard anything that was there to be heard. But the only thing audible was the smooth and refined note of BMW's most powerful non-M-series six-cylinder engine.

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Topping it off.
The news about this BMW is its retractable hard top. It's a beauty that goes up and down in cycles lasting not even 25 seconds. The "Dance of the Roof Panels" will mesmerize your friends or those stopped with you at a traffic light. The three-piece assembly folds neatly into the trunk, with the reverse-hinged deck lid opening wide like a snake to swallow it all.

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BMW approached the trunk with their expected engineering regime. When the top is raised, the trunk is plenty roomy. A moveable panel forms the top of the storage area, and has two positions; one for when the top is up, and a second when the top is stowed. With the top stowed, precious little room is left for luggage, but gear will fit on the trunk floor, tucked under the top. For those sunny days when you're running errands, there's always the back seat for grocery bags and the like.

Dealing with weight gain.
Known as the "3er Cabrio" in other world markets, BMW chassis engineers explained that Convertible weighs 452 lbs more than comparable coupes. This significant mass is put to good use reinforcing the body, and the resulting ride is quiver free and with the top up or down. Rattles and body shimmies are not part of this sports car's standard equipment.

Nearly every component that could be re-tuned for the extra weight was, with different specifications for dampers, springs, and bushings. Even with the extra mass, the Convertible feels agile and responsive. Our drive through the Arizona countryside offered high-speed sweepers that gave the BMW a chance to dig in. As if it were just waiting for us to ask, the chassis and powertrain were eager in their combined response.

A buffet free zone
Top down and windows up, the cockpit of the 335i is completely free of hair-mussing buffeting. Lowering the windows certainly increases air movement, but a good portion of this is quelled by the standard (and removable) wind blocker. The interior is so quiet sans top that it was possible – actually easy – to have a normal conversation while traveling over 100 mph. Don't try that in your Miata.

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Top up, the interior is fixed-roof quiet and finished — there is no exposed top hardware in sight. While we didn't travel with a db meter, our ears did not detect egregious road or wind noise. Visibility is excellent, as the retractable hard top enabled engineers to increase the glass area of the side rear windows compared to the previous generation's fabric-topped model. Furthermore, the front seats are extremely comfortable, and BMW now offers an infra-red reflecting leathers, helping to lower seating surface temperatures as much as 20F when left to bake in the open sun.

Picky picky
After hours behind the wheel, and our opinion of the new 3-Series's developed further. Unlike a previous positive experience in the 335i Coupe fitted with an automatic, the 6-speed manual provided for our top-down desert adventure was decidedly non-BMW. The shift action of the ZF-sourced gearbox was vague and rubbery. We'd complain about such shifter action in a Hyundai, so in this car it is completely unacceptable. (Perhaps the Getrag unit offered in the 328i is better?) Our recommendation is to go with the 6-speed automatic. It features well-timed, precise shifts, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, and surprisingly, better fuel economy.

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Inside, the design of the double-bump instrument cluster works practically, but is not aesthetically well balanced. More significant than this taste fairy comment is the operation of iDrive. Yes it works like a computer. You use a computer at a desk, not when you're piloting a two-ton 300-horsepower projectile. Our frustration level spiked even before we turned a tire, as we attempted to change the trip odometer's readout between English and metric. In the old days this was a simple procedure…often just pressing a single button. With iDrive, it's a multi-step exercise in cognitive and fine motor manipulation.

On the upside, the BMW's instrumentation and optional navigation system provided excellent visibility in all lighting conditions, including direct sunlight. A minor glitch, however, was that polarized glasses cause an odd blacked out area over one corner of the nav screen.

Top of heap
Carrying on a 20-year tradition of topless 3-Series, this fourth-generation car certainly represents a zenith. With forceful sweeping lines carried over unmolested from the striking 3-Series Coupe, a handsome top-up profile, hard top security, arguably practical 2+2 seating, all-weather comfort, and genetic BMW handling, this car deserves your attention when it arrives in dealerships this spring. As a matter of fact, many considering the Coupe might do better considering consider the Convertible. And don't purchase a Mercedes CLK, Audi S4, or Volvo C70 without first considering this BMW.

At press time, prices had not been announced, but expect the 328i Convertible to ring up in the low $40,000 range. Based on the cost differential between Coupe models, expect a $6,000 upcharge for the 335i.

2007 BMW 335i Convertible

Base price: To be announced in the Spring of 2007; estimated at $46,000
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six, 300 hp/300 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 180.6 x 70.2 x 54.5 in
Wheelbase: 108.7 in
Curb weight: 3957
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 19/28 mpg (manual); 20/29 mpg (automatic)
Safety equipment: Anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; front, side and curtain airbags
Major standard features: Climate control; power windows, locks, and mirrors;
17-inch wheels with run-flat tires; tilt/telescoping steering wheel with fingertip
audio & phone controls; eight-way power front seats
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles