MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Our 2007 BMW 3 Series (hardtop) Convertible 335i was nimble, maneuverable, well balanced and an outright blast when we pressed the pedal literally to the metal. It was powered by a twin turbocharged 3.0- liter inline six cylinder engine that made 300 horsepower and generated a matching 300 pounds- feet of torque at an awfully low 1,400 rpm.
Our test vehicle was equipped with a six speed automatic that shifted imperceptibly. There was also a six- speed manual transmission which we tested on our drive back to the hotel. This car could get from zero to 60 mph in a scant 5.5 seconds.
The test route took us on some of the surface streets here, then to downtown Miami and on through Coconut Grove. In other words, there weren't a lot of places to let the 335i stretch out.
However, we did find the car comfortable at low speeds. The interior was swathed in leather and there was plenty of gray poplar wood trim. The horizontal layout of the interior made the car more spacious. With windows up, we shut out the din of the morning rush to work. We've always found BMWs very civil at low speeds. We could do and have done a lot worse in terms of ambience when sitting in traffic.
Once we got to SW 316th St (it's a two- lane highway), we could really get into the 335i. Acceleration was quick, steering was sharp and the suspension was capable. But it could have been a bit firmer. We came across some deceptively deep undulating spots in the road where our test car got a bit bouncy. However, we were going a lot faster than the law allowed.
We've come to expect this kind of road mastery out of any BMW. But what we didn't expect BMW to do was to change its venerable 3 Series soft top convertible into a retractable hardtop convertible.
But just like everything else that BMW does, a lot of thought went into the new BMW 3 Series convertible. The 328i, which we didn't test here, has a 3.0- liter inline six cylinder engine that makes 230 horsepower. Except for engines the two cars are identical.
And except for steel versus cloth, the 2007 BMW 3 Series hardtop convertible is a convertible. It is not meant, nor does it double as coupe. In fact, BMW has a 3 Series coupe with a different roof line.
BMW designers and engineers were smart. They did not compromise the characteristics of their venerable 3 Series convertible just to give it a retractable hardtop. They compensated for the added weight by removing pounds elsewhere. Thus, the convertible still weighs about 450 lbs more than the coupe.
The belt line remains well below occupant shoulders so that when the top is down passengers still get the sense that they are outside versus inside looking out. The top lowers into the trunk in 22 second and comes out in 23 second. Although we won't describe it here, the movement is clean, simple and fast.
With the top up, trunk space was 12.4 cubic ft and it was 7.4 cubic ft. with the top down. What's more, the top can be stopped in mid action so that you can remove something from the trunk without letting the top all the way up to gain access. And the top can be raised our lowered with the key fob from outside the car.
Over the years, the BMW 3 Series performance and economy has been approved. When the car first came to market in 1986, the engine generated 168 horsepower, it had a 0- 60 mph time of 9.6 seconds and it got 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the hwy. The numbers for the latest generation are: 300 horsepower (335i), 0- 60 mph 5.5 mph and 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the hwy.
Prices start at $43,975 for the 328i convertible and $49,875 for the 335i. Although we lament the passing of the soft top BMW 3 Series, its hardtop replacement is an admirable piece of machinery.