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Open Air Review

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Story by Lisa MacFarlane & Zack Spencer

In the midst of packing for an extended overseas trip to Asia, I got the call. “Do you have time to pen an auto review before departing? The new Cabriolet has arrived.” Truth be told, I barely had time for a haircut, but how could I pass up the opportunity to take the 3 Series hardtop convertible for a spin – top down – when summer had finally made a guest appearance in Vancouver. “How’s Saturday”, I responded. The 2007 BMW 3 Series Cabriolet is a four-seat convertible with the choice of two different engines. My Saturday date was with a bright, Alpine White 328i with a naturally aspirated inline 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine producing 230 horsepower and 200 lb.-ft of torque. For the power-hungry, there’s another version: the 335i Cab boasting a twin turbocharged engine providing 300 hp and an impressive 300 lb.-ft torque.

After collecting the keyfob and a few pointers from friendly BMW Sales Master Cary Lau, I faced the first order of business: getting the top down. At the simple press of a button located between the front seats, the solid looking three-piece rooffolds smoothly and quietly, with what can only be described as mechanical genius, into the trunk. I would not care to wager a guess on how many hours of overtime the engineers at BMW must have clocked working on their new baby. It’s impressive to watch. If Barbie was thinking of trading in her red Corvette for a BMW, the white 3 Series Carbriolet I was sitting in could be it.

I felt taller, slimmer and blonder already. Inside the spacious cabin, real poplar grey wood inlays looked like a polished grand piano. The black leather interior of mytest unit was a real standout against the car’s white exterior. Fit and finish were excellent, most notably when the roof is stored. The top fits so seamlessly into the trunk, it’s as though it was built without a roof at all. Locking cabin storage compartments mean your stuff is safe if you park the car with the top down. Tilting rearview mirrors, backup sensors, heated seats, Bluetooth, iPod jack and rear passenger climate controls are all here.

A remote control key fob is an available option in the event you want to admire the roof going up and down from your front door. With the roof up, the trunk capacity stands at 12.4 cubic feet. With the roof stored, the cargo hold shrinks to 7.4. Although, it’s on the tight side, there is still room to accommodate a couple of weekender bags for a cruise to wine country, ifyou’re so inclined. Cleverly, BMW thought to not only include rear folding seats, but also a pass-through large enough for multiple snowboards, skis or a set of golf clubs.

Another smartfeature – grocery hooks, are conveniently built into the back seats for top down days when the roof is stored in the trunk and you’re hosting a barbeque for 20.

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After witnessing the roof going up in just 22 seconds, one woman turned to me and said, “My car can’t do that!” That’s just the beginning. The new roof is fully automatic (no need to unlatch the front) and the roof stores into the trunk while still leaving enough room for long objects, thanks to the ski pass-through. The advantages of a hardtop over a conventional convertible are many. A fixed roof provides a level of you drivers out

there who have been resisting a convertible because of hair vanity issues. In BMW’s new cab, you’ll arrive looking the same way as when you left. Two thumbs up from Barbie. In the unlikely event of a roll-over, BMW has included headrests that popup to protect occupants and bear the weight of the car. The 2007 3 Series Cabriolet’s acceleration is incredibly smooth. With good insulation from engine noise, the 230 hp moves the car along effortlessly and never did I feel the drive underpowered.

It’s what I’ve come to expect from BMW – a sporty ride with firm suspension and tight handling. The cab’s centre of gravity is low and will provide a sense of confidence forthe average driver zipping in and out ofthe corners on the Sea To Sky Highway. Zack and I cruised down to breezy English Bay to run some errands while noting the comprehensive safety technology, which includes adaptive headlights, dynamic stability control, traction control, multiple airbags and run flat tires. We stopped in at a local eyewear shop where I picked up a pair of white oversized Lacoste sunglasses to match the car. “What a poser,” Zack commented.

My Barbie transformation was really starting to take shape. Hardtops tend to have more curb appeal than ragtops and the new 3 Series is no exception. A number of people walking by the car as it sat parked on Denman, slowed to take a closer look. Top up, it’s a sturdy looking sports sedan. Top down, the body appears longer and more elegant. So who is the new 3 Series Cabriolet rightfor? Ifyou’re looking for a car with sports car performance, luxury ride, brand value and sense of fun, happy cruising to you.


“I felt taller, slimmer and blonder already.”

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Some things in life are worth the wait, and Vancouverites know this betterthan most. After a long, grey winter and a long, wet spring, we are more than readyfor some warm and sunny weather. It’s worth the wait to see the mountains, the blue ocean, the smiles on passing faces and the opportunity to enjoy all Vancouver has to offer. If you are a fan of BMW automobiles, the same is true: the wait for a new model to arrive may seem long, but it is certainly worth it. BMW introduces a new version of a series every six to seven years; the previous 3 Series E46 was introduced in 1999. A new model, called the E90, replaced the sedan version

of the E46 in 2005, butforthose who loved the looks of a coupe or craved the open-air driving of a convertible, the wait was a little bit longer. Well, a stunning new coupe arrived in 2006—and now, just in time for the summer, the all-new 3 Series convertible is here. This is not just any convertible: this is the first retractable hardtop in the BMW lineup, and it promises to revolutionize the way BMW owners look and feel about open-air driving. The roof is comprised of three panels that retract automatically, either with the push of a button inside the car or with the key-fob. Most drivers are likely use the button inside the car to take the roof down, but if you want to watch the roof’s subtle dance as it moves up and down, then do stand back and use the key. This car certainly makes passers-by stop, look and admire the elegance of its design.

After witnessing the roof going up in just 22 seconds, one woman turned to me and said, “My car can’t do that!” That’s just the beginning. The new roof is fully automatic (no need to unlatch the front) and the roof stores into the trunk while still leaving enough room for long objects, thanks to the ski pass-through. The advantages of a hardtop over a conventional convertible are many. A fixed roof provides a level of

security notfound in its cloth counterparts. The panels in the 3 Series have additional insulation, a welcome feature on cold days that also provides sound insulation when driving at highway speeds. With the roof up, the hard panels also help to provide rigidity and reduce body flex. Not only do hardtops provide drivers with more flexibility, hardtops also have a more sophisticated look thanks to their thinner side pillars. Most conventional convertibles have a small rear window: the new hardtop design has bigger rear window for better visibility.

Much credit is due to the vehicle’s designers: they have produced a stunning automobile from every angle, with the roof up or down. The E90 is a wonderful evolution from the E46, it embodies everything a BMW owner expects: athleticism, power and grace, all wrapped into one breathtaking design. I particularly like the signature BMW headlights; the grille that flows into the long hood; the simple crease that runs the length ofthe side panels; and the rear lights, which remind me of one of the most beautiful BMWs ever made, the 8 Series. To me, driving with the roof up and all the side windows down shows off the thin roofline the best.

With the roof retracted and the rear deck flat, nothing breaks the automobile’s clean lines or obstructs its rearvisibility. And with the roof down the beautiful interior is exposed for all to see. The 328i is offered with leatherette seats, and the 335i has Dakota leather. The leatherette is a particularly smart idea for a convertible because the seats are exposed to UV rays. Leatherette will still look new after many years of ownership, whereas a leather interior requires a bit more work to keep looking its best. Whichever your choice, the seats are wonderfully bolstered with plenty of adjustmentfor drivers of all sizes.

The latest 3 Series is a bit longerthan the outgoing model, so it has even more room inside. This is most evident in the back seat, which is big enough for adults but especially roomy for kids. (Man, I wish my family had a car like this when I was a kid; you wouldn’t have been able to get me out!) Front seat passengers are treated to a simple yet elegant design featuring the highest quality materials, and the radio and heat controls are logical and easy to navigate. Speaking of navigation, the 3 Series is available with the same I-Drive system found in other BMW vehicles.

“Man, I wish my family had a car like this when I was a kid;

you wouldn’t be able to get me out.”

The 328i is powered by a three-litre, in-line six cylinder engine with 230 hp and 200 pound feet of torque. This was the model Lisa MacFarlane and I had outfor a test drive on one ofthe most beautiful days this spring. I’m not sure if it was the Brian Jessel BMW license plate or the fact this was one ofthe veryfirst 3 Series convertibles on Vancouver’s roads, but we certainly got a lot of attention! When driving the 381,i the firstthing I noticed when driving is the lack of wind coming into the cabin, which means front passengers stay comfortable.

The heat and air conditioning also adjusts automatically, even when the roof is down, and the heated seats take the edge off if there is a chill in the air; overall, everything works to ensure the temperature inside the car remains optimal. The second thing that I noticed was the lack of flex in the body, even with the roof down, so uneven roads didn’t fluster the car one bit.

The engine and six-speed automatic are willing to do all the work, but if the driver wants to get more involved the automatic can be placed in the Steptronic mode and shifted back and forth for optimal engine performance; a six speed manual comes as standard equipment. Ifyou really wantto take it to the next level in performance, then the 335i with a three litre, in-line six cylinder with two turbo charges is the way to go.

This engine was recently given the International Engine of the Year award: since this award was introduced nine years ago, BMW has won more of these awards than any other manufacturer. With 300hp and 300 pound feet of torque, this motor is a wonder, one of the best motors I have used in many years. Best of all, all that torque comes on a very low rev, so the 335i gets very fast, very quickly. I call this engine “The Businessman’s Motor.”

It works in a sedate manner, for when you wantto drive in a relaxed style; but when asked, it can also give you a kick in the pants, sending the 3 Series scooting down the road while bringing a smile to yourface. What a potent combination: the beautiful 3 Series coupe, the slick retractable hardtop and the potent 300 hp motor. It sure sounds like a winnerto me. Vancouver really is the perfect place for a car like this.

In the winter we do get our share of nasty, cold and wet weather, but with a hardtop covering your head and keeping you warm, you can enjoythe luxurious interior and spirited ride. And when we do get one of those rare sunny days, just bring down the roof with the flick of a switch and you’ll be able to experience all Vancouver has to offer.

The opposite is true in the summer: you can keep the roof down all the time, putting it up only when we get a brief shower. Summer is here and so is the new 3 Series convertible: I think you’ll agree both were worth the wait.

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