What is it?
Naturally, the BMW 3-Series Convertible does exactly what it says – with tin. Unlike the Audi A5 and Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet (yes, it’s in the same price ballpark as the E-Class), the BMW drop-top has a folding metal roof. An exquisite piece of mechanical engineering the three-piece canopy is, too – but you do pay the price, both literally and by way of losing boot space. The upside, of course, is the refinement, dynamics and bad weather protection of a coupe.
BMW wasn’t about to throw away its hard-advertised ‘ultimate driving machine’ reputation by making the 3-Series Convertible softer than an Italian penalty appeal. It is, however, carrying more weight than an equivalent coupe – around two adults’ worth – the result of chassis strengthening and all the widgets needed to make the three-piece roof fold. Thus, BMW’s traditionally unyielding suspension has been slackened. The result: a silkier BMW with very little dynamic compromise. It’s very nearly as shake free and sharp steering as the other 3-Series models – which means it’s the most engaging executive convertible to drive.
BMW has evidently worked hard on wind flutter, too – keeping it away, that is. Of the myriad engines, only the 320i and 325i petrols are lacking pace, and even though the thought of a four-cylinder diesel convertible is depressing, get over yourself: the 320d has more than enough quiet strength for the job. Obviously the six-cylinder cars are preferable – especially the 330d, which is brutally quick even with the six-speed auto option ticked.
On the inside
If you’re not an upwardly mobile cliche and have things to carry, like kids and stuff, then BMW’s versatility claims about the 3-Series Convertible will have you crying.
The driving position, quality and sense of frontal space are as per the coupe – adjustable, predictable, comfortable – but from there backwards it’s apparent there’s a transmission tunnel and origami roof to conceal. Boot space is half that of the Mercedes E-Class Convertible and two thirds of the Audi A5, and only small people will be able to use the back seats.
Of course there are seemingly millions of these clogging up suburban Britain, but the Convertible is the least popular/most exclusive. Running costs and reliability follow your assumptions: pretty reasonable (diesel) and very good (petrol). The Convertible premium is excessive, with a 320d SE Convertible costing almost £8,000 more than a 320d SE saloon. Damn. Still, bask in the glory of the 320d’s 55.4mpg economy. Heck, even the six-cylinder 330d with 384lb ft and 245bhp returns an impressive 46.3mpg.