Wheels

BMW M3 Convertible

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The teenager that still lives within the aging body of this car guy awakened when I pressed the start button and heard the sweet exhaust note from the high-revving engine.

I am behind the wheel of a new BMW M3 hardtop convertible, the newest body version of BMW’s high-performance sports car following the M3 coupe and sedan. The hardtop convertible, like its coupe and sedan siblings, is the fourth-generation BMW M3.

The BMW M (M for Motorsports) legend was born in 1987 with the introduction of the first M3 model with a 192-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and exceptional performance. The second BMW M3 was launched in 1995 and provided 240 horsepower and advanced technology.

In 2001, the third-generation BMW M3 raised the exhilaration factor with a high-revving 333-horsepower, six-cylinder engine. The fourth generation M3 introduced in 2007, builds upon BMW’s high-rev formula, coupled with lightweight technology, to transfer race-bred innovation and a 414-horsepower V8 to drivers seeking pulse-pounding performance.

Like a racecar, the M3’s muscular design is an integral part of its “performance envelope.” Look at the power dome on the front hood. It conceals the 414 horses underneath. The wheel-well extensions accommodate its wider stance. Note the signature dual chrome-plated twin exhaust tips and the air intakes in the front, sides and hood. And my M3 tester has optional 19-inch wheels with low-profile, high-performance tires.

The M3 design stirs emotions! One middle-age driver pulled alongside, lowered the window and shouted, “I like that car!” The M3 received many more accolades during my week behind the wheel.

At a glance, the M3 convertible looks like a coupe. The transformation from hardtop to convertible is a quick fingertip operation as the sectional roof panels rise and glide into the trunk.

The M3 convertible has multiple occupant safety features, including a rollover sensor system monitoring vertical and horizontal movement. At the same time, a computer evaluates current driving conditions, so that when the roof is open roll bars behind the headrests move up immediately in the event of a rollover.

The heartbeat of the fourth-generation BMW M3 is its engine, producing 414-horsepower at 8,300 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque at 3,900 rpm with 85 percent of the maximum torque available consistently through 6,500 rpm. The bottom line—immediate response to the gas pedal at all times, as my teenager and I experienced. Zero-to-60 mph acceleration is a blistering 4.5 seconds. This is the fastest production engine ever produced by BMW.

The M3 is a driving enthusiast’s dream machine. When I am behind the wheel the M3 tells me, “Go ahead, Bill, experience my torque at the next light; don’t worry, my suspension and these tires are designed to hug the corner at this speed; let’s show this sports car next to us what M3 performance is all about!”

The M3 offers 11 different shift patterns to suit the needs of individual drivers and five programs that allow for automatic operation of the transmission as well as six manual programs. I am awestruck by the technology, which I hadn’t managed to master completely after a week behind the wheel. My need for speed was sated by using the 7-speed double clutch transmission, which shifts gears without the slightest interruption in the flow of power.

The BMW M3 hardtop convertible has an aluminum chassis developed for the convertible, which is based upon the BMW 3 series convertible. All of the front-end components are aluminum and contribute to a 50/50 front/rear weight balance.
While the soul of the M3 is performance, the cockpit is designed for performance driving. My tester includes a premium audio system, satellite radio, navigation system, USB-enabled port for an iPod, heated front seats, power folding mirrors and more.

The base price of the BMW M3 convertible is $66,150; the M3 sedan $54,500; the M3 coupe $57,500. With numerous options, the price of my convertible is $81,745. The convertible’s estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway.

The new BMW M3 is one of the best performing and technologically advanced sports cars that I have driven.

The Hunt Spring 2009  Issue

This article was published in Wheels from the Spring 2009 issue.
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