BMW's hard-top convertible
24 October 2006

BMW has ditched its long-held tradition of 50/50 weight distribution to build the fourth-generation 3-series cabriolet with a folding metal roof.Shown here before its world debut at January’s Detroit motor show, the tin-top version of BMW’s best-selling 3-series will go on sale here in March 2007, with prices likely to start from £30k.

BMW hasn’t issued official weight distribution figures, but says the car’s improved all-weather ability, space, security and cabin noise will be more beneficial than the marginal shift in weight.

Visibility will also be better than in the previous fabric-roofed model. Thin C-pillars and a low shoulder line mean the size of the side and rear windows has been increased by more than 30 per cent.

BMW says driving pleasure is still top of the agenda. Although additional floor strengthening and motors for the new roof add 200kg to the kerb weight, this is still BMW’s most torsionally rigid cabriolet. A sophisticated five-link suspension set-up at the rear should also help to cope with the extra mass.

It takes 22 seconds for the fully automatic roof to split into three steel-plate sections and stack into the 350-litre double-hinged boot. When the roof is down, storage capacity drops to 210 litres.

The cabrio features a host of safety equipment including stability control and pop-up roll bars installed behind the rear seats.

Petrol engines available from launch will include the 320i’s 168bhp 2.0-litre four-pot and two 3.0-litre straight sixes: a new 218bhp 325i and the 268bhp 330i. Topping the range will be the 335i twin-turbo unit. A diesel derivative, the 330d, will initially be available too.

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All engines will be fitted with a six-speed manual or an optional auto ’box.

Jon Quirk

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