3-Series (E46, E90)Chat relating to the BMW 3-Series from 1999 to Current. Models include: BMW 316i, BMW 318i, BMW 318Ci, BMW 320i, BMW 323i, BMW 325i, BMW 330i, BMW 328 Ci, BMW 328i, BMW 325i/xi, BMW 330Ci, BMW 320d, BMW 330d, BMW 335d.
I live in the Seattle area and am considering the purchase of an E46 M3 coupe or convertible. I currently drive an Acura TL Type-S and am itching for my first BMW experience. I bought the sedan thinking it would be best having two small children but have found I rarely use the back seats - we always take the SUV when transporting the kids. The trunk room is nice though but I don't use it that often. I'm regretting not having stuck with a sports car although I am extremely happy with the TL. I've always owned Japanese sports cars with front wheel or all-wheel drive.
I have always wanted to own a rear-wheel drive sports car and/or a convertible. My budget is about $45K. It HAS to be a 4-seater. A used E46 M3 seems like it is hands down the best choice (although I'm considering a low mileage Supra Twin Turbo with a sport top too.) The Audi A4 Cabrio would be an option if it didn't have such a wimpy engine, the new S4 Cabrio is out of my price range and I'm not interested in having a gas guzzling 8 cylinder engine.
I'm really interested in hearing some comments from people who have either driven both E46 3 series Coupes and Convertibles, or have driven any convertible and live in the Northwest (San Francisco up to Vancouver BC) or other areas of the country that don't have really dry weather (maybe the Northeast?)
It seems like the best idea is to do like my father and have a small, less expensive roadster (like a Z3, Miata, 350Z, etc.) as a third car. However I have neither the budget nor do I like having money sunk into assets that I am not getting a lot of use out of.
I know the covertible is 300 pounds heavier but all test drive reports say this makes no significant difference in the driving pleasure. Heck, you could throw a cold air intake on it and reprogram the computer to burn Premium only and the extra horse power would probably bring the acceleration in line with the coupe (but what's a half second difference anyway.) I know the trunk space is small but it sounds like it is only really bad with the top down and I would consider the back seats additional "trunk space". My other concern is road noise. I'm an audiophile and like listing to loud music alot. Obviously the acoustics will suck with the top down but how does the noise compare with the top up to a coupe? Living in my area of the country, it seems like the coupe is the more practical decision being less expensive, larger trunk, and ligther/more rigid. I'm really itching though to see what owning a convertible is like. This is a large expenditure though and I want to make the best decision possible. An insights would be greatly appreciated.
One of the main reasons I didnt order a convertable and went for the coupe is around practicality.
One simple thing - the rear seats do not fold down as the roll bars are built in or around them and I need my car to be able to carry long loads - I think you can have a ski hatch fitted but that was not enough for me!
I can completely relate as our situations appear very similar: trunk space not a huge factor, room for four is a necessity, doing duty - with refinement, as a four season vehicle is paramount, and a satisfying audio system is icing.
After looking at, and driving many candidates - including the TL-S (with which we spent some three days evaluating), Dear Wife and I recently bought a 2001 325i 5 speed convertible with the sport and premium packages.
I imagine many here would concur that the folding top car is not as rigid as the hard top - which is correct. Frankly though, the convertible's structure is so stiff that only very-very bad surfaces produce some shaking of the cowl/windshield frame area. Otherwise, the car is impressively solid. Perhaps not one's first choice for auto crossing but, unless you must have every last oz of handling, I suspect you would find the convertible satisfying.
As you suspect, trunk space is limited but not unmanageable. Rear seat space - ditto, but usable for short trips with tall people, or the inverse.
The top is a fully lined and insulated assembly. Therefore, for a convertible, the car is impressively quiet with the top raised. It may not be coupe quite but it is quite reasonable. Because it is so quiet sound quality from the stereo system is not horribly compromised. Indeed, our car came with the optional Harmon/Kardon system and it sounds very nice. Certainly not as full range and transparent as a Magnaplanar/Bryston combination but nice. Be sure to bring a car home with the H/K option.
Performance wise, I cannot comment on the M3's - I've not driven one. I can tell you this however, our 5 speed 325i felt much more lively than the TL-S auto we spent several days with. The TL-S was - I don't know....tooo, generic. I can only suspect that the M3 would be a hoot. I also think the 330i would be a nice compromise between the 325 and the M3. If you go with a 325 or 330 be certain to order the sport package. Great handling and not at all punishing. Stiffer than the TL and nearly as compliant. Automatics, in any car, sap some performance and lots of involvement so - unless you are the shiftless sort, do opt for the manual transmission
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