Spring 2007 marks the introduction of BMW’s new 3 Series Convertible. Available initially in 325i and 335i guises, but followed closely by smaller engined variants and diesel-powered models, BMW’s new open-top will deliver the ultimate in performance and refinement thanks to a number of innovations. Featuring the first electronically operated folding hard-top roof offered by BMW, the world’s first car to be offered with SunReflective seat cooling leather and a brace of all-new powerplants, the 3 Series Convertible is set to remain the segment leader.
The fourth generation of BMW’s open-top four-seater heralds a new chapter in the history of the BMW Convertible. While the existing triple-layered fabric roofs currently showcased in the 6 Series Convertible and the Z4 Roadster are unsurpassed in heat and noise insulation, the designers of the new 3 Series Convertible decided to raise the bar again. The model now comes with a three-piece electronically-operated retractable hard-top – a first for BMW.
Stowed or raised in approximately 22 seconds, the new roof has been introduced, not only for added security, but also for better visibility and a greater feeling of space and light for occupants. Because the roof features a larger rear glass windscreen and side windows, visibility has improved by 38 per cent compared to the outgoing 3 Series Convertible.
The unique way in which the roof folds also maximises available boot space. With the roof up 350 litres of storage capacity beckons while with the roof down, the boot can still accommodate up to 210 litres of luggage. In another world first, the rear seat backrests of a 3 Series Convertible can also be folded flat to provide additional storage space. As an option, a through loading system with transport bag can also be specified to allow for longer or bulkier items to be accommodated and it can still be used when the folding metal roof is lowered. For added practicality, a stowed roof can be electronically raised out of the boot area to allow for longer items such as golf clubs to be secured before being folded away again.
The new BMW 3 Series Convertible can also be specified with the world’s first Sun-Reflective Technology leather upholstery. Now owners of BMW’s latest four-seat sun-trap can enjoy the warm weather and leave the roof down for prolonged periods without singeing themselves on the seats or armrests. Special pigments embedded into the leather help reflect infra-red radiation ensuring treated areas that are exposed to sunlight for a prolonged period can remain up to 20 degrees cooler compared to untreated leather.
BMW is renowned for producing some of the most innovative powerplants and the new 3 Series Convertible features a range of engines that set them apart from the competition. A choice of two petrol engines, both with new High-Precision Direct Injection technology, offer the best blend of performance and economy. Further engine variants will follow during the model’s life cycle.
The new High-Precision Direct Injection system on the BMW 3 Series Convertible uses centrally-mounted piezo crystal injectors spraying atomised fuel vapour directly into the combustion chamber. Combined with Bi-VANOS variable valve technology the system delivers the most efficient burn of fuel for maximum power and parsimonious economy.
The fruits of this technology are highlighted by the impressive performance figures posted by all of the petrol-powered 3 Series Convertibles. The 325i Convertible with its all-new 218hp six-cylinder engine develops 270Nm of torque. The open-topped 325i covers the 62mph sprint in 7.6 seconds and can attain a top speed of 152mph. However, it is still capable of a combined consumption figure of 35.8mpg.
Representing the flagship of the range is the 335i Convertible with its twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre engine. Using an aluminium cylinder block rather than the magnesium alloy unit from the 325i Convertible, but with the added benefit of lag-free forced induction, the 335i posts a zero to 62mph time of 5.8 seconds. The 306hp engine, higher than the output of the E36 BMW M3, has been restricted to a 155mph top speed. Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 28.5mpg. Peak torque of 400Nm from just 1,300rpm through to 5,000rpm gives the driver a real surge of effortless power, acceleration and flexibility.
Both the 325i Convertible and the 335i Convertible come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. A new six-speed automatic transmission featuring steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles first shown on the 3 Series Coupé can also be specified.
Following the introduction of the 325i Convertible and the 335i Convertible, three further engines will be introduced. The 320i Convertible with its all-new 170hp four-cylinder engine will accelerate from zero to 62mph in 9.2 seconds before going on to a top speed of 136mph, yet still manages 42.2mpg on the combined cycle.
The 3.0-litre straight-six powering the 330i Convertible is the world’s lightest production six-cylinder engine and is also one of the highest performing. The 2,996cc 272hp unit is capable of propelling the 330i Convertible from zero to 62mph in 6.7 seconds and is electronically limited to 155mph. The car returns an excellent fuel consumption figure of 34.9mpg on the combined cycle.
For those who prefer the enhanced economy of a diesel engine without wishing to lose any on-road performance the 231hp 330d Convertible is also offered. With a torque curve flatter than a 14th Century map of the world, the 500Nm peak output of the second-generation common rail engined 330d Convertible offers smooth and swift motoring. Zero to 62mph is dispatched in 7.1 seconds and top speed is 152mph. The 330d Convertible posts a combined consumption figure of 40.9mpg.
The BMW 3 Series Convertible will make its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on 7 January, 2007. It will go on sale in the UK in March, 2007, with prices starting at £33,030 for the 325i and £37,895 for the 335i.