Whether you prefer your open-top fix on a late autumn afternoon or on a spring morning, the latest 3 Series convertible will nevertheless offer a chic assault on the senses.
Convertible 3 Series now in SA
A feast of firsts
Well, not quite, but there is a significant one. This fourth generation 3 Series Convertible follows the global trend towards coupe-cabriolets and for the first in 20 years comes with a hard top.
While this may spell certain doom for some soft-top purists, others may also be pleased to know that this momentous development has also led to BMW's "Hofmeister kink" featuring on its first convertible. Incidentally, as the E93, this convertible is also the first to carry its own model name.
For what could be another first, BMW admits that this car is not the ultimate driver's car (wait until the M3's launch in September...), but does assure uncompromising dynamics. With the car losing its top, one would naturally assume significant flexing and scuttle shake, but it's possible to experience more road jitters from some sedans and hatchbacks.
Lose the top
Torsional rigidity has according to BMW been dramatically increased, though the car's weight is kept down by the use of plastic panels in parts of the body. This ensures that, even with the use of a folding hard top, the car is only about 200 kg heavier. And in typical BMW fashion, weight distribution is 50/50 (or very close to it) with the top up or down.
Dropping or raising the roof should take about 23 seconds, and all the roof functions can be operated via the remote control up to eight metres away.
Another useful feature is the use of sun reflective technology on the seats that results in an average temperature difference of 10 ℃. The leather is treated with a UV resistant veneer that makes it more resistant to fading and more colourfast.
Twin-turbo straight six
For the more traditional "fast', E93 for the first time also uses a twin-turbocharged straight six. The 335i's powerplant is used to much acclaim in the Coupe, while the 330i, which becomes available here from July, is powered by a naturally aspirated straight six.
For the 335i, figures worth noting are power and torque outputs of 225 kW and 400 Nm at 5 800 and from 1 400 r/min respectively. It is claimed to cover the 0 - 100 km/h sprint in 5.8 seconds.
The 330i delivers 200 kW at 6 700 r/min and peak torque of 320 Nm on tap at 2 750 r/min. Its 0 - 100 km/h acceleration time is quoted as 6.7 seconds.
Top speed on both models is limited to 250 km/h.
New automatic gearbox
The Three convertible also gets a new six-speed automatic transmission that should have shifts quicker by up to 40%. A meaty six-speed manual gearbox is the standard issue.
On the road, the six-speed manual gets the vote for driver interaction, though since this car also happens to be the ultimate posing machine, you could also get away with the very capable auto.
Many people don't really need an excuse to drop the top on their convertibles. While taking in the scents of the countryside or cooling off in the cool ocean breezes, choking on truck exhaust fumes or listening to the roar emitted by the 335i's twin tailpipes, should feature high on the list of things to do, spending time in the open top's cabin is not difficult to do.
Apart from the benefits of the sun reflective leather, the short A-pillar and wind deflector do a sterling job of keeping wind swirl and noise in the cabin down. Being able to conduct a regular conversation while barreling along a deserted road definitely deserves some bonus points.
On our launch drive, E93 displayed a general dislike of bumpy road surfaces, transmitting the shocks both through the seat and steering wheel. However, even in these conditions, the convertible never loses its composure.
All in all, this combination of breathtaking performance (compliments of the twin-turbo) and great looks (the rear looks particularly good in this iteration) should provide the ideal stop-gap until the true halo model blasts in later this year.
And, based as it is on the 3 Series and 3 Series coupe, the convertible comes equipped with most of the safety and comfort equipment one would expect, but further - Exclusive, Sport and Individual - packages are available.
335i - R577 000
335i Steptronic - R591 500
330i - R484 000
330i Steptronic - R498 500