To steal a line from Homer Simpson (I work at FOX, it was either him or House), the BMW M3 convertible is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.
Global warming is the root of all of life’s problems today, isn’t it?
The 414-horsepower M3 convertible is rated at 19 mpg … highway. There is just no way to make that sound good. A Chevy Suburban manages the same figure and gets 14 mpg in the city, which is 1 mpg better than the BMW can muster.
The M3 convertible is technically a subcompact car.
In a year, 11.4 tons of carbon dioxide will make its way out of the M3’s tailpipe, doing its best to turn Buffalo, N.Y., into the next Las Vegas, or so they say.
At least you get to reap the benefits.
Many will argue that chopping the top on the M3 is like kneecapping an Olympic athlete just before the games. The loss in structural rigidity and added weight of the conversion takes the edge off of one of the world’s great sports cars, relegating it to also-ran status among high-performance automobiles.
Many of these people have not driven the M3 convertible.
Sure, it’s a lot heavier than the hardtop version, about 400 pounds, and a fair bit slower. On a racetrack, the increased flexibility should certainly take a toll on handling, cutting into lap times significantly and keep you yet again from setting the club record this year.
You do take your M3 to the track, don’t you?
No, well then you really won’t miss any of that. Yes, all of the negatives are noticeable, but only when you push the M3 convertible to its limits and the incredibly extralegal speeds that accompany them. If you’re that guy, stick with the M3 coupe, it suits you better.
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Since winters are supposedly going the way of the dodo bird, why not indulge yourself and let the sun shine in. In the event that the weather isn’t changing as much as they say, and your snowbound town remains so, the M3 convertible is a good way to hedge your bets.
For 2008, the 3 Series has joined the ranks of the hardtop convertible crowd, installing a three-piece unit that raises and lowers in about 22 seconds, allowing you to change your mind at just about every stoplight.
Top up the roof looks good, without the awkwardness these designs often have, though it does take a big chunk of trunk with it when it is stowed away. It doesn’t make the car look exactly like the coupe, but close enough, and the road-hugging M3 bodywork and cool power bump on the hood are what catch most people’s attention anyway.
The 4.0-liter engine the hump conceals is a marvel, and not a typical V-8. The same as the one found in all M3s, it is a high-revving unit that delivers its power in a very different way than a big American or Mercedes-Benz motor, hiding it up near the 8,400 rpm redline.
The sound you find there almost as satisfying as what happens to the car when you make the trip. With the pedal down it’s like a BMW-powered Messerschmitt Me 264 on the way down a runway, at least the Hollywood version.
Top speed in the M3 convertible is limited to 155 mph, so it likely won’t reach take-off velocity, but it makes a joke of accelerating under that speed. Zero to 60 mph takes about 5 seconds, but more impressive is the punch the engine has on the highway.
With the six-speed manual sitting in top gear it’s relatively sluggish, but downshift a few gears to get the revs up and you merely have to think about going quicker, and you are. Keeping the engine near max power takes some fancy foot and hand coordination, but the rewards are well worth it, and a nearly perfect clutch and transmission that never seems to find the wrong gear make it easy to do.
Even with the extra pounds, the M3 convertible feels light on its feet, especially for a car carrying eight cylinders up front. BMW keeps the weight balance close to neutral, and the car reacts to steering inputs the way a small sports car should.
There are a number of electronic aids helping out, including Dynamic Stability Control for traction and Electronic Damping Control for the suspension that can be tightened up for the twisties or softened for date night. Everything can be adjusted or turned-off altogether to add to the fun if you enjoy taking matters into your own hands.
The steering wheel they talk to the car through is nice and chunky and covered in soft leather that feels like it is lined with the stuff from those mattresses we have been led to believe that the astronauts sleep on. You can hold onto it all day, and the seats do the same with the rest of you.
Adjustable every way you need them too, including inflatable side bolsters that can accommodate everyone from Mr. Burns to Mayor Quimby, they fit the overall sport/comfort equation of the M3 convertible just right, and are one of the few things in the interior that remind you that you paid nearly twice as much as a base 3 Series to own one.
They also have a special sun-reflective coating developed by BASF that BMW says will keep the seats 36 degrees cooler than normal in direct sunlight. Doomsday types claim we can expect about an 8-degree rise in temperature, so these should do just fine.
The example I tested was relatively stripped down, without a navigation system or BMW’s I Drive multimedia system. The audio controls could’ve been from the first M3 produced way back in 1986, and the display is eerily similar to the one found in a BMW-owned MINI Cooper. This is great for Cooper owners, a downer for the guy who spends $64,950 for the M3 convertible. It is another reminder that the money you spent on the car went towards performance and not much else.
My car had the optional 19-inch wheels with sport tires that felt great in the handling department, less so over construction plates and the general ruttiness of streets near my home. The $500 "carbon leather" interior trim is a better look than wood in a sports car as far as I’m concerned, but could just as easily have been called "leather rattan." I’d be interested to see if the weave of the material holds up better over the long run than my wife’s clothes hamper has.
I don’t know if the M3 convertible as a whole gets better with age, but you definitely enjoy it more the more you drive it. As everything about it becomes familiar, the car becomes an extension of your driving will and you soon forget about how it looks altogether, only how it feels.
Still, the question remains: “Do I really want to spend more than 65 grand on a 3 Series?”
If you don’t plan to try at least a little white-knuckle driving at some point during your ownership of the car, I submit that the answer is no. You don’t want to be that guy.
If you have any doubts about this, perhaps I can show you something in a 335i convertible, or even a 328i. Both are much more affordable and still a hoot to drive.
Of course then you would just be breathing in all of the hot air from the M3s passing by, and you probably don’t want to be that guy, either.
2008 BMW M3 CONVERTIBLE
Base Price: $64,950
As Tested: $70,925
Type: Front-engine, rear-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door convertible
Engine: 4.0-liter V-8
Power: 414 horsepower, 295 pound-foot torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
MPG: 13 city/19 hwy
What do you think of the M3 Convertible?
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