04-14-2003: 2003 BMW M3 Convertible

Opening up an enclosed car usually increases the fun quotient exponentially. Would you rather drive a Sebring coupe or a Sebring convertible? However, removing the top usually results in more weight and less structural rigidity. For these reasons, hardcore enthusiasts who value performance over style generally prefer a hardtop. BMW‘s excellent M3 convertible does make concessions to weight and rigidity, but only minimally. The abilities of the 333-horsepower M3 are so great that the penalties that come from taking off the top could be likened to Superman seeing through walls in black and white instead of color: He’ll still get the job done.

The considerable pleasures of open-air motoring are all present in the M3. In addition to unlimited headroom, the lack of a roof lets the gorgeous engine and exhaust notes fill the cabin. Wind noise and buffeting don’t get intrusive until speeds reach triple digits. A smoothly integrated hard tonneau conceals the folded top and maintains the continuity of the M3’s silhouette. A near match, performance-wise, to the $79,165 Carrera Cabriolet, the $55,195 M3 convertible quivers a bit more, offers a larger back seat, and sells for about $24,000 less.

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