By on April 25, 2007

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335i_convertiblefront.jpgWhen the BMW dealer handed me the plastic fob, he insisted I drive the 335i Convertible with the top down. Despite the cool, foggy San Francisco weather, I held the plipper’s unlock button down and watched the show. As the hardtop began its elaborate three part dance into the trunk, I felt that old familiar flutter. The feeling was born when I started driving lessons in my Dad’s 1963 Chevrolet Impala rag top, survived my first car (a 1962 VW Beetle convertible) and lead to my current stable of drop tops. Would the 335i live up to its predecessors?

The 335i Convertible’s roof design preserves its tin top twin’s clean lines. The drop top's rear deck provides the main visual difference between the two models; the convertible’s is significantly larger and thus, more handsome than the sedan's. Other than that, the convertible’s got a chrome strip outlining the retractable roof, a sat/nav dingus on the trunk lid (it wouldn’t survive roof origami for long) and panel gaps on the rear roof pillar. Both vehicles offer such an aesthetically elegant design that they almost seem, dare I say it, Italian.

335i_convertibleside.jpgI intended to drive with the top down for a few blocks. A few blocks turned into a few miles and before I knew it, I’d driven 60 miles, moving from the city fog to Napa Valley sunshine. The 335i Convertible’s windshield is pushed well forward; you feel quite exposed to the elements. Luckily, the air movement in the cabin is well controlled– to the point where I eventually noticed that I was driving lethargically. So I installed the roof and prepared to attack the back roads.

Exploring the gizmology, I became convinced that Bimmer’s boffins have decided to make it as difficult as possible to make adjustments, so that iDrive seems better by default. For example, I wanted to adjust the turn signal so that it winked thrice when lightly touched. The manual doesn’t explain this procedure, so I will.

335i_convertibleinterior.jpgFirst, the vehicle must be running but not in motion. Next, push down twice on the toggle switch located on the front of the turn signal stalk. Then engage another switch at the tip of this same stalk. Flip the first switch five times and the one at the tip once. Flip the first switch once and then the one at the tip again and be quick about it; if you take more than eight seconds, it reverts back to the original display and setting. Done.

Thankfully, I only had to go through this one time; iDrive owners face a lifetime of questioning (did you really intend to change this radio station? Of course I did, you electronic ninny, why would I push the button in the first place?).

335i_convertiblecorner.jpgAnyway, with the roof in place, the 335i Convertible’s body integrity is luxuriously outstanding. Many retractable hardtops creak and groan on rough roads. Although footwear differences between the two models may account for the aural disparity, I swear the 335i Convertible is quieter than the 335i Coupe. The tin top dished all the silence I needed to fully enjoy the Bimmer’s superb sound system and my easily paired Bluetooth compatible phone.

Which was just as well: BMW could have phoned-in the 335i Convertible’s dynamics. All its controls and responses felt heavier and more remote than the coupe’s. Turn in wasn’t nearly as crisp. Braking seemed far less immediate. Worst of all, the convertible’s tardy throttle response evoked an unreasonable facsimile of turbo lag. In the 335i coupe, simply thinking about the go-pedal brings immediate satisfaction. In this application, you have to step on the pedal like you mean it.

storm.jpgFrom a pure performance standpoint, the convertible is 85 percent of the coupe. Some of the difference can be attributed to the smaller wheels on my tester, which lacked the sport package. On the positive side, the softer tire setup muted all harshness from road blemishes and provided an astonishingly unruffled ride. I missed the paddle shifters, only available with the sport package, but the 335i Convertible’s magic carpet composure sang its siren song to my inner geezer.

My tester included BMW’s much maligned [optional] active steering. I admit that it takes time to get used to the helm’s abrupt turn in, but I appreciate how the wheel-by-wire system improves navigating at low speeds in parking lots. The price for all this technology: $57k MSRP. That's only $3k more than the previous drop top. Not bad for a brace of turbos and a retractable hardtop.

335i_convertiblerear.jpgHas BMW built the ultimate convertible? If you’re a prestige convertible shopper who values comfort over performance, or someone who wants to schlep the kids al fresco without risking interior defilement, that’s a yes. If you’re looking for a no compromise wind-in-the-hair thrill ride, the new M3 convertible is bound to be all that.

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52 Comments on “BMW 335i Convertible Review...”


  • avatar

    Croon all you like, but please don’t dare say it looks Italian. This is the first BMW I actually look forward to driving one day.

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    But can you put two sets of golf clubs in the trunk AND put the roof down?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Jay, Thanks for the great review. But I can’t help but worry that you’re being slowly absorbed into the Borg. Not only have you stopped whining about iDrive (a must for all car reviewers), but you seem to actually like it.

    In time, you will hate driving cars where you can’t change the length of time of the turn signal by simply spending 18 hours fiddling with iDrive. You will forget the allure of a great shifter and think of shifting as simply pushing a paddle near the steering wheel. And you will tihnk it normal that you need a special printout to give to valet drivers so they can figure out how to park your car for you.

    And then BMW will own you.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    the problem is that this car looks like some cohesion of artificial italian sleekness plus stagnant german boredom of narcistic german self- glorification. bmw copies themselves. and the c- pillar connection to the rear fender looks ugly and oldish, and because it`s connected in the line of breaking surfaces, it looks amateur. also interior part under central console looks flat- jugsawed, thanks god there are no three primitive looking grey plastic shift knobs for A/C as on 7- series. interesting driving machine with boring looks. I guess, mitsu 300gt rectractable hardtop when released in 95 , was much more interesting proposal. what do i know.

  • avatar

    Sad to hear that the convertible's significant extra mass (400 pounds?) takes such a toll on the handling and responsiveness. Those are the best bits of the coupe. I ran the 2006 and 2007 through my site's price comparison. Equipped with one another's standard features (xenon lights, pass through), the MSRP difference is actually $3,655. The 2007 also has some additional standard content, such as dual zone climate control, that is worth about $700. So the net increase is about $3,000. Seems a steal for the hard top and pair of turbos. TrueDelta's page for the 3-Series: http://www.truedelta.com/models/3-Series.php

  • avatar

    up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, A, B, select, start lets you play Contra on the Nav screen too.

  • avatar

    Change the number of blinks of the turn signal? Are you kidding?

    Why the heck would anyone ever need to change this? You push the stalk and it blinks, when you don’t want it to blink you let go. Done.

    Auto manufacturers are just getting silly in their attempts to make vehicles more luxurious. I think they’re using all this stuff to dangle technology in front of buys to distract them for shortcomings in the basic car. And considered you talked for over a paragraph about the turn signal setting, something most people won’t even bother with, almost as much at the handling, which they will live with each day, I’d say the distraction is working.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    After reading the review this AM, I saw one of these with temporary tags and top down, pull behind me and eventually pass by weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic. Lovely vehicle.

    The driver also got to sit at a red light behind me staring my new TTAC bumper sticker :)

  • avatar
    nweaver

    I love the looks. Did someone secretly replace Chris Bangle with someone who knows how to design a car?

    Pity it is so pricey.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    SherbornSean,
    In time, you will hate driving cars where you can’t change the length of time of the turn signal by simply spending 18 hours fiddling with iDrive.
    Hilarious. And hell yes! I abhor the idea of iDrive, nav systems, and any computer screen in my dashboard. The idea that they are appealing to driving enthusiasts is completely beyond me. But the scariest part to me is:
    You will forget the allure of a great shifter and think of shifting as simply pushing a paddle near the steering wheel.

    Jay, how was the wine? ;-)

  • avatar
    SwatLax

    I too am confused by programmable turning signals. Do all iDrive BMWs offer this? Other manufacturers?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    cool car, of course. BMW, wonderfull. Retractable hard top, better for the city where i live. I am concerned by luggage space with the roof down, tho.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    If they BMW was really catering to their demographic, iDrive would disable the turnsignal and automatically give everyone the finger.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    This is slightly off topic, but I have yet to be convinced that any OEM Nav/stereo system is as good as the aftermarket offerings. You may lose the use of some steering wheel controls, but you won’t lose your mind trying to operate the thing. BTW, I’m also not convinced that nav and stereo systems should be combined. When systems try to do everything, they usually end up doing nothing well. There is a beauty in a system that knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, just take a look at your cell phone.

    I think car makers often offer gadetry for the sake of gagetry and don’t question whether it really makes any sense. Love to see a manufacturer offer a retro vehicle with a minimum of frills. Don’t want to take basic as far as Lotus, but something in between a Lotus and what we have now with most upmarket manufacturers would be refreshing.

  • avatar
    nmcheese

    My main complaint with this car is that it weighs nearly as much as an early 1990′s 735i.

    Weight is the enemy of any new car that is trying to be fun.

  • avatar
    velvet fog

    I looked at one last weekend. Nice car, liked the interior but I don’t think you could get even one set of clubs in the back with the top down.

  • avatar

    My good friend over at BMW (who wishes to remain nameless) says the 335i Convertible will stash two small sets of clubs, or one large and one small, with the hardtop deployed. That's nine cubic feet. With the tin top tumbled… they don't know. It's not in the official bumph. Which is not a good sign. Nor is the fact that the EPA rates the 335i Convertible as a subcompact, with the top retracted. So now you know, or, you know, not.

  • avatar
    miked

    z31 – you were so close. it’s B A not A B.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konami_code

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    This is the 2nd car on my list of next to own. Lovely vehicle and a good amount of go. I’m betting the manual with the sport package would help improve the driving experience quite a bit. It’s still not going to perform and nicely as the coupe due to the extra weight and higher center of gravity. Lets not forget this thing is almost 2 tons.

    While the new M3 I’m sure will be great you are going to be looking at 60k+ for the coupe and 65k+ for the vert. the 335i vert seems a good compromise, just opt for the manual and sport package.

    I’ll be interested in how the 1 series coupe and cabrio will be when it comes here sometime next year. An M1 would be awesome. Imagine a reasonably affordable BMW what a concept.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    jay – curious to learn how you found the backseat accommodations? room for two full-scale adults? sufficiently comfortable?

  • avatar
    Badgermike

    I looked at one last week, the back seat has room for 2 legless dwarfs, and with the top down there was almost no room in the trunk, maybe room for a few pizzas.

  • avatar
    Jim H

    Out of my price range, but very pretty. :) Well, actually it’s not out of my price range if I give up other hobbies (horses, volleyball tournaments that require travel, and wine — see, I have to draw the line at wine! ;) ).

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Uh, 57k? So, for just under 60k, you get a 3 series convertible. Doesn’t a Boxster S go for the same price? What’s the price of a 2 yr old 911?

    Not saying it’s not a great car, but for 20 grand less, you get a 328i coupe with the sport pkge, row your own transmission and leather. Doesn’t have that kick arse engine or the sweet top, but 20 grand is a lot of scratch.

    It will be interesting to see the depreciation curve on this convertible.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    $57,000???

  • avatar
    Seth

    Bimmers or shall we say Beemers cost more… Thats why Toyota is becoming numero uno. Now if BMW sold these for less.. hmmm wonder if they’d become top dog sales wise.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Seth–I think we shall say “Bimmers.”
    If I recall, Beemers are motorcycles.

    Do any of these hardtop convertables that use trunk space have any kind of sensor to prevent the roof from crumpling itself trying to jam itself into your Samsonites? Even paint damage would be bad.

  • avatar
    fellswoop

    Bimmers or shall we say Beemers

    you shall say Bimmers. Beemers are BMW motorcycles.

    http://www.bimmercenter.com/article_001_name.html

  • avatar

    BMW – the ultimate driving machine simulator.

  • avatar
    Drew

    I haven't seen an e90 3 convertible in person, but I have seen a number of coupes. While the coupe is much better than the sedan, I think that says more about the sedan than the coupe. There's just something …off…about the proportions of the coupe. Something rear of the B pillar is not right. It almost looks a bit stretched. I might be biased owning an e46 sedan, but to me the e46 was the height of recent BMW style both externally and internally. I've driven an e90 330i and while it certainly does drive nicely, it had enough shortcomings that I'll keep my e46.

  • avatar

    RF:

    It’s going to be rated a subcompact because, as in all convertibles, there’s far less rear shoulder room than in a coupe. Also probably a smaller trunk.

    Drew:

    It would make sense to write a separate review of the convertible to note how much the extra weight affects the car’s responsiveness and handling. And the news does not sound good.

  • avatar
    Drew


    It would make sense to write a separate review of the convertible to note how much the extra weight affects the car’s responsiveness and handling. And the news does not sound good.

    That may be true, but nowhere does the review mention what the weight difference between the two is!

  • avatar
    Badgermike

    I have the sales brochures in front of me.
    335i Coupe unladen weight 3571 man. trans 3582 auto
    335i Convertible 3946 man. trans, 3957 auto trans.
    so, 375 lbs for the retractable top.

  • avatar
    Badgermike

    The weight difference between the 328i and the 335i is 154 pounds on the coupe, and 220 pounds on the convertible models. Any ideas why the big difference?

  • avatar
    James2

    Might I venture engine (aka twin turbos) and added standard equipment?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    RF: do you really mean “bumph”? I would have said “bumf”. But that’s just the overprecise Kraut in me asking.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    We tried this car with the older 6 cyl. The performance was dissapointing, and not just the acceleration. You could really feel the weight more than in the older rag tops. I suppose these are sold more as cruisers, and you can get the Z4. Still, the Z4 is not that attractive. I really wanted to like this car, but couldn’t quite justify the purchase.

    Yes, I thought of an older 911, but they don’t go for a great discount with only 2 years on them.

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    Hmmm. Won’t carry two full sets of golf clubs, you say. Well, speaking as part of the likely demographic for this car, many of whom golf…with a friend or spouse…this car is simply dumb.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    You really caught the basic gestalt of a convertible in this piece, Jay. There’s nothing more infuriating than seeing some twit who has the money to buy one of these great little cars, driving them with the top and the air-conditioning on, in the midst of a sunny spring or summer day. You are to be applauded for not giving into that mind-set.

    To my mind, the i-Drive is the only thing that really messes this car up. It can be assumed perhaps that by trying to put some many functions into one control system, the goal might have – only “might have” – been to keep it simple. But my belief is that if you have to break out a manual to learn how to work a control system, the idea of keeping something simply, has given way to what, back in the day, would have been called a “Rube Goldberg” device, after the late, great cartoonist who made his reputation of cartoons of overly complicated devices, designed to do simply tasks.

    Of course, when you spent the money one does on a convertible such as this, the owner probably wants to feel he or she got something substantial for their money. But for those of us who really want to see BMW put the emphasis on driving, I say scuttle the iDrive, at the first opportunity.

    I drove a new X5 recently and never used the dreaded iDrive, save a few times to turn on the radio; and even then, I got so tired of seeing that electronic eye peering at me, would usually just turn it off and listen to the machine tell me its limits, in terms of suspension, tires and engines. That’s sometimes, all the music you need.

  • avatar
    ToddL

    jkross22:
    Not saying it’s not a great car, but for 20 grand less, you get a 328i coupe with the sport pkge, row your own transmission and leather. Doesn’t have that kick arse engine or the sweet top, but 20 grand is a lot of scratch.

    I own an ’06 325i sedan manual with the sport package and wholehearedly concur. When I see the 335 convertible, it looks good – fast, hardtop convertible, etc … but it would cost $20k more than what I spent. So: +$20k, convertible, a little more than 1 sec faster to 60, a staggering 650 lbs heavier. Not for me.

    Oh, and the turbo motor may be kick arse but the non-turbo motors are still pretty sweet.

  • avatar
    wsn

    $57k for a economy car interior 3-series?

    For $63k, you can have the hardtop Lexus SC, much finer built. And don’t forget it’s an old model. An updated one would have much better performance.

    But of course, piston heads needs the rumored “handling” from the 335. But then, one should not start with a convertible in searching “handling”. Convertibles are for touring.

  • avatar
    ArkAngyl

    Am I the only one who hates hardtop convertibles…sure when in rains and stuff you’ve got your hard top…..but look at that shelf for a trunk….good lord it’s big…so ugly..

  • avatar
    ArkAngyl

    The G6, Sebring, SC430, Eos, and any other hardtop convertibles I’ve missed are just as ugly….

  • avatar
    Qusus

    I concur. However, gotta say SLK, SL look pretty good… top up or down.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    under 30K for a stripped Eos, with a trick-ier roof is more my pocketbook.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    WSN -

    Not all convertibles are for touring. 4-seat convertibles generally are though. Boxsters are not :)

    The 335 convertible is for the buyer who wants the best of a certain image. The “younger” feeling, 4-seater, high-end athletic imaged convertible.

    To be fair, it’s a damn fine 30k interior; but it’s still the same interior for 57k as it is for 30k. Same general body panels, build quality, etc.

    The real deal in the BMW range is to take european delivery on a 335i Sedan w/ just the sport package. For between 36-38k, you’ll get everything you need for both back-road bombing, stoplight racing, and family hauling. All while looking impeccable in your tailored italian suit.

    I hope to put my money where my mouth is within 2 years, and take my wife on a euro. delivery of a 335i w/ sport package. Drive from Munich down through Italy. Two lifetime memories all at once.

    Joe

  • avatar
    shoes

    “If they BMW was really catering to their demographic, iDrive would disable the turnsignal and automatically give everyone the finger.” -Well put, NickNick, I wish I had said that.

    Also, to SherBornSean, I admit to partial absorption by the Borg, but ultimate found a way to evade it. I-Drive is a big embarrassment for a company as great as BMW.

  • avatar
    tincanman99

    Thanks but I will be at the Audi booth ;) (as they seem to be barely separated at birth)

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    No one seems to have asked this but how does an Audi S4 Cabriolet compare w/ the Bimmer? Both are around the same price, but the Audi packs a V8 and AWD.

  • avatar
    ceyman

    We’re leaving for Munich next month to pick up my wife’s 335i convertible.

    The comments here have been interesting. $57K? Where’d you get that price? With standard transmission (who’d want any other kind in a sports sedan?), the sports package and WITHOUT the silly idrive, it came to right below $50K. Cheap? not hardly. It’s still $20K more than my Subaru Legacy GT, which I expect I will always prefer when both cars are in the driveway and there’s a twisty road to travel.

    But the handling during our test drives was acceptable. Not all-wheel-drive neutral, but no slouch, and for a convertible, satisfyingly stiff. Corner lean was fine and 0-60 in 5.5 seconds is fast enough in the real world. Unfortunately we couldn’t testdrive a standard, because there were none. What is it with Americans and automatic transmissions?

    With the top down there is no trunk. Forget it. The luggage we’ll need for our 2-week trip in Europe will rest in the flip-down back seat — an excellent feature, by the way.

    When we get back about the first of July I’d be glad to post an update, if anyone is interested.

    carl

  • avatar
    SaxMD

    I just returned from my German delivery of my 335i Convertible, loaded. I have owned a number of very nice cars in my life, but this one it by far the top of the list. Pricey – no question. Worth it – to me, no question. I would never own a ragtop, have always wanted a convertible, and this car fits the description perfectly. Aggressive, comfortable, powerful, fun, exceedingly well built, and with all the bells and whistles you could want. The iDrive takes some getting used to, but it is much more sophisticated than it was previously. As for performance, this car handles and feels just like the coupe, better than the sedan. I have shifted a stick all my life, but got the auto on this baby, and there has never been an automatic like it. With the paddle shifters, it is the ultimate. I love this car, and have no regrets about the price I paid. Yes, the trunk is small with the top down, but my wife and I have already packed for a week-long trip and put everything under the roof in the trunk. And if need be, the fold down back of the rear seat makes for plenty of storage. Carting 4 around – not for long and not with luggage, but is is not a bad rear seat. This is a great car and BMW has done itself proud.

  • avatar
    slonewall

    I’ve read many negative comments abt the idrive because it is hard to use, counter-intutitive or distracting. I have an 03 745 with an earlier generaiton idrive but it’s simple to use once you take the time to learn the basics and it is a very useful feature of the car. No pain no gain?

  • avatar
    Bryes

    No room for your golf clubs? Maybe the golfers here should play tennis. Country club communities with golf courses are having a rough go and the number of foreclosures are up. Generating enough income has been a problem.

    If BMW stylists are spending countless hours worrying about where the golf clubs will go, I think they can worry about other things. From an environmental standpoint golfing in the future may have a rough go, too.

    I can honestly say that I would most likely not buy a convertible due to the increased risk of developing skin cancer. I have blonde hair, so I would never put the top down during the day.

    At least BMW moved the windshield forward, which is a plus when you own a convertible. It’s not a plus in terms of skin cancer risk, but it’s a plus in terms of being exposed to the elements. I’ve ridden in convertibles and generally the windshields are so far back you don’t even know you’re in a convertible. What’s the point of owning a convertible if you’re not exposed to the elements? When you’re sitting in the back seat that’s fun, but when you’re sitting in the front seat it’s not so much fun.


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