Open topped motoring the BMW Convertible way
Our pictures, from our spy specialists Automedia, show that the new BMW - at the moment the second metal-roofed convertible in the premium segment after the Volvo C70 - draws heavily on the styling of the recently-revealed Coupé model, with short front overhangs, a bold swage line running along the doors and a stretched, rakish tail.
The car is expected to be shown in final production form at the Los Angeles Motor Show in December,and will get to SA in the second quarter of 2007.
Like the Volvo the BMW has a three-piece metal roof in place, allowing a better roofline shape and avoiding the "big bum" look of cars such as the Peugeot 307 Cabriolet and the Renault Megane Cabriolet.
This arrangement also allows for more boot space.
The transition from open to closed position is expected be one of the quickest in the class, too, with the electric operation controlled via a button mounted next to the gearlever.
Final production versions of the newcomer will be fitted with body-coloured roofs.
Behind the disguise in our pictures are the same light units as on the Coupé, with distinctive headlamps up front and LED taillights.
The BMW's combination of a complex compact folding roof with one of the longest wheelbases in the sector will mean class-leading practicality.
So there should be space for two tall adults in the rear and enough room in the boot for several pieces of luggage.
Extra chassis strengthening has made the model heavier than before.
With the top up you'd be hard put to differentiate the Convertible from the normal coupe
However, BMW's decision to employ a folding metal roof means considerable improvements have been made in structural stiffness - so crash protection, security, and refinement is better than on the previous-generation car.
The newcomer will be available with the same line-up of powerful six-cylinder engines as the Coupé.
From launch, there will be a 162 kW 2.5-litre unit for the 325i and BMW's latest twin-turbo-charged, direct-injection 3-litre petrol motor under the bonnet of the 335i.
Producing 228 kW and 400Nm of torque, the turbo unit will propel the new drop-top from 0-100 km/h in around six seconds on the way to a limited top speed of 250 km/h.
As with its 2.5-litre brother, the 3-litre Convertible will be available with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.
Diesel engines and low-power petrol units are set to join the line-up later in 2008.
Unique features inside the car include seatbelts which slide forward to the driver and passenger as soon as the doors are pulled shut.