Just as BMW is officially releasing photographs of the new 3-series, I’m in a cold and wet Munich driving the ‘new’ diesel Convertible. It’s the current model, of course, and is further proof of BMW’s ability to brilliantly manage the life-cycle of its models. Since the existing cabrio still has two years to run before the new one arrives, why not inject some interest by launching a niche within a niche, especially when there is only one direct competitor?
Once Audi successfully launched diesel variants of the A4 soft-top two years ago, a BMW rival was inevitable. The initial response is the manual-only four-cylinder 320 Cd. It goes on sale across Europe (including the UK) in March, priced £400 above the 168bhp petrol 320 Ci, and available in £28,350 SE and £30,675 Sport versions. For the moment, there is no competitor for Audi’s 2.5-litre V6 A4 Cabriolet – currently the only six-cylinder diesel soft-top sold in the UK – which is not to say we won’t see a 330 Cd before the new 3-series cabrio arrives.
Mechanically, the 320 Cd tracks the equivalent coupé, though the complexity of the power-operated roof and extra body strengthening unavoidably send the scales higher. A 190kg penalty takes the diesel convertible to a weighty 1605kg, forcing the engineers to lower the gearing (2.79 final drive, versus 2.56) to try to maintain a semblance of sparkling acceleration. Even so, the 0-62mph time increases by 0.9sec to 9.7sec, while the combined fuel economy number slips from 49.5mpg to 44.8mpg.