Just when we thought we'd heard all that BMW had to say during the 2008 Detroit auto show, the company confirmed that a convertible will be joining the M3 lineup. The car's official unveiling will take place at the Geneva show in early March.
A convertible M3 is nothing new, nor are we surprised that one will be arriving on the E93 platform. All three previous M3 generations have been available topless, two of which were brought to the U.S. market. This is, however, the first M3 to get a retractable hardtop in its convertible form.
Based on the 3-series hardtop convertible, the droptop M3 features the same 414-hp V-8 engine as the coupe and sedan. The M team has made improvements to the convertible to improve torsional stiffness, and they've fitted the car with unique suspension tuning.
Convertible-specific features include the same special leather that debuted on the 3-series hardtop convertible. The seats resist heating from the sun's rays when the car is in direct sunlight with the top down. An automatic climate control system that monitors outdoor temperature and sunlight is also standard.
But wait, that's not all. BMW also took the opportunity to tell us about the long-rumored dual-clutch automated manual transmission that will be an option on all three M3 variants. It's called M DCT (for dual-clutch transmission) and has seven speeds like BMW's single-clutch SMG that's an option on the M5 and M6. The M DCT should fix the jerkiness problems seen with the SMG and not only improve everyday comfort but performance as well.
The new gearbox has a system called Drivelogic that allows drivers to select from eleven different shift programs. There are five automatic and six manual programs, including one with launch control that takes advantage of all of the onboard electronics to make you look good in front of your friends.
To keep things smooth - and to hear the roar of the 8400-rpm engine - the transmission will blip the throttle between downshifts if necessary. When a manual program is selected, race-style shift lights illuminate above the tachometer to inform the driver of the optimum shift point. Gears can be selected either by the console-mounted shift lever or paddles behind the steering wheel.
So how quickly does this thing shift? There is a consistent two tenths of a second improvement on 0-to-62 mph times over the standard six-speed manual on all three M3 body styles. The convertible makes the dash in 5.1 seconds (versus 5.3 for the manual) and the coupe - the quickest of the M3 range - gets to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds when equipped with the M DCT.
If you must have all-out speed and wind in your hair, this may be the car for you. Since the convertible adds weight and becomes more flexy, we'll stick with the fixed-roof coupe or sedan M3s. Just make sure it has the slick new transmission.
Click the link below for high-resolution M3 convertible images.