2011 BMW 3-Series Convertible
There are cars we like, and then there are cars we love. Cars we like get good reviews. Cars we love win 10Best awards. After awarding 10Best trophies to the BMW 3-series for the last 19 years in a row, it’s clear that we’re in love, even through multiple generations and model changes. Of course, every change made to the 3 could upset, or even destroy, its unique balance of attributes. Fortunately, BMW has controlled the pace of 3-series evolution, and the regular but subtle styling updates and the phasing in of new technologies have never diluted the driving experience for which the model’s known.
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BMW 3-Series Convertible (2011)
The sedan and wagon models underwent mid-cycle refreshes for 2009, getting off easy with just a tasteful cosmetic nip/tuck and nearly no other changes. Now BMW has released images and info on the face-lifted 2011 3-series coupe and convertible, which involve not just new looks, but also the 335i swapping its awesome twin-turbo motor for one with just one turbo.
Carefully Honed Package
While all of today’s 3-series variants are clearly related, the low-slung coupe and convertible models do not share many exterior pieces with their more upright four-door siblings. And for 2011, the two- and four-door 3-series grow even further apart visually. Up front, the nose has been smoothed and appears lower and wider, thanks to larger apertures for the trademark kidney grille and bigger bi-xenon headlamps. Replacing the current trio of lower air intakes is a squared-off, full-width opening with outboard fog lamps and a pair of horizontal chrome blades that, frankly, might have been better left in the knife drawer. Considering how sharp the current coupe’s front end is, we’re not quite ready to embrace the 2011’s newfound bluntness as an improvement, although we do look forward to staring down some Audis with the Bimmers’ bright new LED «angel eyes.»
The rear end also adopts slick LED lighting, as well as a new bumper, although the bumper is more sculpted, not less. New rocker panels and side mirrors round out the exterior changes. The nose job and butt lift add roughly an inch and a half of overall length, rendering the 2011 coupe and convertible the longest 3-series models ever, measuring about three and a half inches longer than the sedan.
Inside, the 2011 models bear no changes of consequence, other than newly designed (and still-optional) steering-wheel shift paddles for models equipped with automatic transmissions. iDrive remains optional, not standard. Given how well-executed the intimate cabin of the 3-series is, no news is good news.
335i: Same Thrills, Less Guilt
Mechanically, the entry-level 328i coupes and convertibles are carry-overs, with their shared 3.0-liter inline-six continuing to serve up 230 hp at 6500 rpm and 200 lb-ft of torque at 2750 rpm. Here again, no news is fine: there are few roads on which the 328i can’t put a smile on the driver’s face, and the willing engine is effortless in its power delivery. Fuel economy shouldn’t change from the 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway ratings (the heavier convertibles return slightly less) of the 2010 model, regardless of transmission choice.
Bigger changes, however, were made to the zesty 335i and its sweet, turbocharged BMW six. Introduced just over three years ago, the prodigious and velvety N54 still ranks among the engines we’d deem least in need of improvement. But with an eye on rising emissions and fuel-economy mandates around the world, BMW designed the new N55, dismissing the tag-team turbos in favor a single, twin-scroll turbocharger that BMW claims is even quicker to spool than the twin setup. The N55 also features BMW’s Valvetronic variable valve timing and lift system. Thus endowed and aided by direct injection, the all-aluminum N55 matches the N54’s 300-hp output at the same 5800 rpm. The N55 engine also serves up the same 300 lb-ft of torque, but starts doing so 200 revs lower, at 1200 rpm, and max torque is on tap all the way through 5000 rpm. Redline is 7000 rpm. The 335i sedan also will switch to the N55 as soon as production of the 2011 coupes begins.
More Choices than Ever
As with the 328i, the 2011 335i will be offered with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. (Sadly, BMW won’t offer the 3er with an N55/eight-speed automatic combo, as is planned for the upcoming 535i GT.) But BMW will continue to make xDrive all-wheel drive available on all 3-series coupes. No matter the transmission or to how many wheels the power is delivered, every 335i promises to be plenty quick: BMW estimates that the manual-equipped rear-wheel-drive 335i coupe can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, with the droptop requiring 5.5 seconds. Add another 0.2 second to each time for the automatics. Even quicker is the xDrive-equipped 335i coupe, which overcomes all-wheel drive’s inherent weight penalty and hustles to 60 in a claimed 5.2 seconds in manual form and 5.3 with the auto. Those stats seem conservative to us, as we’ve repeatedly seen high fours from 335i coupes in the past. We expect to squeeze similar numbers from the 2011 model.
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