It's a well-known fact that the automotive press has run out of superlatives for the BMW 3-series lineup. In the case of the M3, the ultimate 3-series, the praise is typically amplified. Well, not so much for the convertible M3. You see, the automotive press has a penchant for very odd vehicles the general buying public simply doesn't understand, so we tend to eschew the cars "normal" people want. As a member of the press, I'm required to beg BMW for an M3 wagon instead of this goofy M3 convertible. The truth is, neither model makes much sense.
The M dual-clutch automatic's gearshift lever isn't particularly intuitive to use; the movement between R and D is hardly natural, and the gearshifter itself looks and feels wimpy. Inserting a 414-hp V-8 M powertrain into a convertible is indeed extravagant, but when you're looking for extravagance, you want extravagance, even if you have to pay a gas-guzzler tax for the privilege. But when you're spending well over $75K, what's another $1700?
Phil, Mr. Convertible-and-Sunroof Basher, do you hate the sky? I respect your opinion, but I have no problem with the M3 as a droptop--or even with a sunroof. The most hard-core M3 is the coupe, certainly, but only the M3 convertible lets the 4.0-liter V-8's glorious motor music fully embrace the car's occupants.
It's hard to complain about driving top-down in a convertible on a perfect summer day, and it can't get much more effortless than doing it in the BMW M3 convertible. The single-button top control is perfectly positioned at the back of the lower console and there are no latches or hooks; just push the lever to lower the top, pull to raise it. It's quick and quiet, and bystanders find it mesmerizing. Unfortunately, there isn't a reassuring electronic "ding" to signify that the top is done opening or closing, something I've come to rely on in convertibles with power-operated tops.
You know you've been sniffing the performance-car glue a bit heavily when any variant of the 414-hp BMW M3 feels soft. Indeed, it's worth noting that our fleet has been spectacularly stacked as of late with the likes of a Porsche 911 S, a Honda S2000 CR, and a Ford Shelby Mustang GT500. Even with that qualifier, it's hard to appreciate this heavy, two-pedal M3 as anything more than a fast warm-weather cruiser.
I'm with Phil on this one. An M3 convertible doesn't make much sense, especially in the form that BMW has produced here. I understand there's a market for this car - the boulevard cruisers in Southern California, Vegas, and Florida will love the hardtop, performance Bimmer. But it shouldn't be wearing the M badge.
I discovered two cars in one here but was unable to find the version I expected. Top down, this is the ultimate hair fluffer: smooth, swift, and efficient. BMW builds the best dampers money can buy which provide a poised ride, gentle engagement of bumps and tar strips, and excellent body control when cornering speeds enter the entertainment zone. The M3 flip-top is even better with its cap on. Now the mission intensifies and the mood is more seriously in pursuit of speed. Regrettably, there is excessive poise and polish. When I see the M - for magic - badge, I expect a clenched fist ready to hammer the road into submission. I want a ripped engine note, racy suspension tension, and a blood-thirsty bearing. None of that is present in this car, which reinforces my worst fear - that BMW is softening its most enjoyable products. The move to M-tuned SUVs, automatic transmissions, and boosted engines is not where I want the sacred roundel to go. One last gripe: after years of delivering idrive to its customers, BMW persists in petty annoyances such as abbreviating MILES as MLS. Note to idrive programmers: The common abbreviation for MILES in both America and England is MI, not MLS.