That can’t be a coupe-cabrio! Where’s the huge backside, the stupid wedgy profile and enormously overlong windscreen?
It certainly is a CC – BMW’s first ever in fact – although you’re right, it doesn’t look anywhere near as frumpy as a Peugeot 307 CC or Focus CC.
How has BMW managed that?
The steel top folds into three sections (two parts roof, one part rear screen) that stack on top of each other, rather than the two plus fiddly side bits of most of the BMW’s rivals. The advantages of the triple-decker are that it stores more easily, leaving a flatter rear deck so the front screen doesn’t sweep right back over the driver’s head. Most other CCs have huge windscreens to keep the length of the roof section short, so that it takes up less room when folded. The problem is they look awful and the driver misses out on the full drop-top experience because the header rail is so close to their head. But roof-down, the BMW looks great; roof-up, it could easily pass for a proper coupe. The design team even managed to include BM’s Hoffmeister kink in the rear side window.
So it’s a metal top. Must weigh a bit compared with the old model?
Weight is up, and those with the biggest engines top the scales at a lardy 1825kg. Some blame lies with the 335i’s mightily powerful, but chunky, twin-turbo petrol engine, not available previously. BMW has worked hard to keep the weight difference between coupe and cabrio to the same 200kg as on the old 3-series range. There’s also a huge increase in torsional rigidity: the new body is 50 percent stiffer than the old.
I hope I’m not expected to expend any energy to enjoy the sun.
Not a bit. Providing the rear load cover is in place (so there’s enough space to fold the top safely), all that’s required is a gentle tug on the switch in the centre console between the front seats. What follows is both quick (22sec) and quiet (very). Opened up, the roof stores neatly behind a flat panel. Very neat.
Is it practical?
Up front it’s just like any other 3-series, although there are now six buttons on the dash to store iDrive favourites like radio stations or addresses for the sat nav system – countering criticism that the multi-controller is still counter-intuitive. Other 3-series cars get the extra buttons, too. Passengers in the rear benefit from increased shoulder and elbow room, plus an increase in light entering the cabin thanks to the much bigger glass area. Like all CCs, boot space with the roof erect is generous – in this case 350 litres – although with the hood stowed, that falls to 250 litres. But you can fold the rear seats down, 911-style, to carry big loads without damaging the upholstery. There’s even a fitted lugagge kit for that space.
So how does it drive?
At the launch in Arizona BMW was keen to point out that a chopped coupe would never be as great to drive as the closed car on which it’s based, but perhaps it was being overly modest. Although heavier and bendier than the fixed-roof 3-series, the cabrio is still composed, controlled and fun to drive with good body control and a compliant ride that suggests that BMW might be getting the hang of using run-flat tyre technology. The body feels impressively rigid too, exhibiting only the slightest wobble of rear-view mirror to betray its roofless nature. As with other Threes, there’s the option of the variable-geared active steering, but we’d stick with the regular hydraulic steering for its more realistic feel, even if it can be slightly heavy at low parking speeds. Four petrol engines will be available from launch: a 168bhp four-pot in the 320i that manages an impressively diesel-like 42.8mpg; a 215bhp 3.0 six in the 325i; a 268bhp 3.0 six in the 330i; and the mighty twin-turbo 3.0 in the 302bhp 335i. All are available with the standard six-speed manual ‘box, or optional six-speed auto that’s so efficient it barely affects fuel consumption. But if economy is your thing, the 330d’s 41.5mpg should impress. There’ll be a 320d later but no 335d: BMW reckons that engine’s mega torque output would be too much for the lid-less body. We only had the chance to drive the 335i, whose performance feels only slightly less staggering than the lighter coupe version. Sixty-two takes 5.8sec – just 0.3sec longer – and its mid-range punch is monstrous, yet it’ll still squeeze 28.5miles from a gallon of unleaded.
BMW’s first coupe-cabriolet isn’t as groundbreaking as Mazda’s recent MX-5 Roadster Coupe, which stores its top without stealing any boot space. But it is still clever, retaining the elegance of a coupe and much of its dynamic qualities, too. Factor in the range of tuneful, powerful and frugal engines and you’re looking at the new class leader.