The Bottom Line
BMW has been in the convertible business for many years with their 3-series, but 2009 sees a host of new competitors -- many of which share the hardtop-convertible design. So how is the old hand holding up against its new competitors? I took a 328i convertible on the Mother of All Road Trips to find out. Read on.
- Great to drive
- Smartly packaged hardtop
- Reasonably priced for all you get
- Not much, really
- Base price: $45,125
- Price as tested: $52,155
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 17 MPG city/27 MPG highway
- Best rivals: Audi A5, Lexus IS C
Guide Review - 2009 BMW 328i Convertible
My job is to drive cars and tell you what's wrong with them. BMW's 3-series convertible is one of those vehicles that makes my job extraordinarily difficult, because when you get right down to it, there isn't much that it does wrong. My wife and I took a 328i convertible on a colossal 2,500 mile road trip through the Pacific Northwest, from San Francisco to the northwest corner of Washington State and back again. We drove on every imaginable sort of road, through every imaginable sort of weather, in just about every imaginable sort of situation. No question, it was one of the most thorough tests I've ever put a car through. Before we set out, I figured my review would be an epic novel that I'd have to struggle to edit down to one page -- and yet here I am, writing a short-form review and bulking it up with filler about how long I expected my review to be.
It's admirable, almost infuriating, how well the 328i does... well, everything. It's good looking. It's quiet. It's powerful (even with the 328i's smaller 230 hp engine) and reasonably economical. It's fantastic to drive, with a comfortable ride and the sort of handling balance that only a rear-wheel-drive car can achieve. It's so quiet with the top up that you can forget it's a convertible, and it's so rigid with the top down that you can forget it even has a roof. Even trunk space (link goes to photo) -- the biggest shortcoming in most hardtop convertibles -- really isn't all that bad. Lowering the top requires deployment of a trunk divider that cuts cargo space is a paltry 7 cubic feet, but BMW has engineered the folding roof to make good use of what little room there is. We were able to coerce a couple of small suitcases into riding back there, although our soft-sided bags had to ride in the back seat (which is tight but tolerable for humans).
At the end of the day, the 3-series convertible is the best hardtop-convertible on the market. Period. By comparison, the Volvo C70 and the just-introduced Lexus IS-C are dull and the Infiniti G37 is cramped and poorly engineered. Audi's new A5 Cabriolet is the Bimmer's closest competitor; it's brilliant in every respect and costs around $3,000 less -- but it's a soft top, so it's not exactly in the same league. Shop around if you like, but you'll save time by going straight to the BMW dealership, because if a hardtop convertible is what you want, the BMW 3-series is the way to go. -- Aaron Gold