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BMW 3-series convertible (2006): first official pictures

Published: 24 October 2006

BMW 3-series convertible: the lowdown

Here's the car BMW said it wouldn't develop: a 3-series convertible with a folding hard-top. Although condemned by the R&D team for being too heavy, raising the centre of gravity and sapping dynamic ability, BMW has been forced to listen to the market and introduce a glass and steel-roofed cabrio. With a large boot and easy access for luggage, the 3-series convertible promises to be practical, and the extra glass compared with a fabric cabrio should make it airy too. Sun reflective leather is a claimed world first, too. But despite 'near 50:50 weight distribution', will the roof compromise BMW's ultimate driving machine mantra? The 3-series convertible goes on UK sale in March. Two six-cylinder petrol engines will be available at launch: the naturally aspirated 2.5- and the 3.0-litre twin-turbo. The 325i will cost £33,030, the 335i £37,895.

Plenty of performance

Until we drive it, we won't know if folding roof has impaired the 3-series coupe's decent dynamics. But one thing's for sure: the 335i won't disappoint in a straight line. The flagship model – until the V8-powered M3 arrives – runs BMW's new twin turbocharged 3.0-litre, tested by CAR Online in the 335i coupe. Delivering 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque, the blown petrol six despatches the 0-62mph sprint in 5.8sec. That's just 0.3sec slower than the lighter 335i coupe. Top speed is electronically reined in to 155mph. The other launch engine is the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated six, yielding 218bhp and 200lb ft. The 0-62mph dash takes 7.6sec, fuel consumption is a claimed 35.8mpg on the combined cycle and v-max is 152mph. Both engines are mated to a standard six-speed manual, with a six-speed auto, with quicker shifts than before and paddleshift manual over-ride, optional.

More engines to come

But the engine choice won't end there. Two more petrol units will flesh out the range in April 2007: the 170bhp 2.0-litre four and the 272bhp 3.0-litre six. BMW has also confirmed one diesel-powered cabrio, running the 231bhp 3.0-litre six. Expect more engines to follow later. We've driven the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel in the 335d coupe, but BMW isn't currently planning to sell the grunty unit – which kicks out 286bhp and a monstrous 427lb ft – in the convertible. You'll have to make do with a 197bhp 325d or a 163bhp 320d, both due in late 2007/early 2008. Then there's the M3, which follows with a 400bhp V8 and M differential for smoking, sideways action.

Raising the roof

While the next-generation Mercedes CLK and Audi cabriolet – to be badged A5 – will keep their fabric roofs, BMW is breaking new ground with its mid-size cabrio. The three piece roof mimics the coupe's lines pretty faithfully, and BMW appears to have avoided the fat arse-syndrome which afflicts so many coupe-cabrios. The roof stows in 22secs, at the click of a button on the remote if you've ticked that option box.

Practical too

BMW claims that the roof folds up compactly, to avoid impinging on boot space. Roof up, the boot swallows 350 litres of luggage, just 60 litres less than the coupe. With the roof folded away, boot capacity drops to 210. A number of features boost practicality. Press a button and an electric motor lifts the stowed roof, allowing access to the boot without having to raise the top. Unusually, the rear seats also fold flat, so that you can carry longer loads.

Glass vs fabric

BMW says the hard-top has been introduced to boost security and to improve visibility. With the larger rear and side glass, visibility is improved by 38 percent, compared with the old fabric roof 3-series.

Sun-reflective seats

BMW is claiming a world first with the introduction of sun-reflective leather upholstery, which can keep the seats up to 20degC cooler than untreated leather. Thanks to special pigments in the material, the seats won't get red hot even if you leave the roof down in the sun. Unfortunately, they are not anti-bird dropping resistant, however...

 

Sun-reflective seats

BMW is claiming a world first with the introduction of sun-reflective leather upholstery, which can keep the seats up to 20degC cooler than untreated leather. Thanks to special pigments in the material, the seats won't get red hot even if you leave the roof down in the sun. Unfortunately, they are not anti-bird dropping resistant, however...

 

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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