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.
I forgot about the handy key-fob top-lowering feature that Joe described, but I was very impressed by the M3's top-down wind management. Even at 80 mph, conversation with your passenger requires barely raised voices. With the windows up and the top down on the highway, the M3 is quieter than some sealed-up sedans. The convertible top is very well integrated, too, and I think it compromises the look and function of the car less than is the case with most premium mid-size hardtop convertibles.
I agree with Joe about the shifter, too. I really shouldn't have to look down at the IP or the shifter itself to know what gear I'm in. Of course, BMW excels at complicating simple things ... The gearbox does its job very well and is pretty entertaining, but there's no way I'd pay an extra $2900 for it. Moreover, the (plastic?) paddles aren't very well-wrought, unlike the glorious metallic pieces in Mercedes-Benz AMG and other vehicles.
Finally, the steering seems surprisingly light for a BMW, let alone an M car. The Bimmer still tracks, turns in, and handles incredibly well, though, especially considering its two-ton-plus weight.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor