Driving the 2007 BMW 335i Convertible puts you in a state of engineering nirvana. BMW's twin-turbo power train, launched last year, makes beautiful sounds and delivers fantastic throttle response. Oh, the 335i Convertible has plenty of available cabin gadgets plus a slick retractable hardtop, but the technology that impresses us most about this car lives under the hood.
The 335i Convertible looks really good, too, as long as you direct your gaze to the front of the car. The front and sides of the car sport subtle raised edges, which break up the otherwise too-smooth sheet metal. The front wheels sit just behind the bumper, and the hood only rises a little above them. With the hardtop up, the roofline curves over the cabin in good proportion to the rest of the car. With the top down, the 335i Convertible avoids looking like a bathtub, a problem with many four-seat convertibles. Unfortunately, the rear starts to look a little tubby, with too-high fenders over the rear wheels and a bland back end.
Retractable hardtops are trendy right now, and we've previously seen them on the Mazda MX-5, the Volvo C70, and the Volkswagen EOS. In form, the BMW's is most like the one on the Eos in the way it stacks its multiple roof panels. When the roof is up on the 335i Convertible, it feels almost as solid as a static roof, providing good insulation for the cabin. However, it takes a while to open and close, and there is only a sliver of usable trunk space when it is down.
Our review car didn't come with navigation, although it is an option. But we did have a smart key, Bluetooth cell phone integration, and BMW's premium stereo, which comes standard.
Test the tech: Summer road trip
Given that we had a convertible and some beautiful weather, we tested out the 335i Convertible with a road trip to Lake Tahoe. Our first snag hit before we left, as we figured out how many people we could take. Three people and luggage was a comfortable maximum, as there isn't much trunk room even with the top up. When we wanted to cruise around the mountains with the top down, we had to pile up our bags in one of the rear seats. BMW provides a cover that can go over the rear seats, making a secondary trunk, but it's no good if you have three people. With two people, the 335i Convertible makes a good touring car.
All occupants had good things to say about the car's comfort over a 5-hour freeway trip, with a significant amount of time spent in heavy traffic. The front seats offered a variety of power adjustments, including the ability to extend the front of the seat for thigh support, useful for those with long legs. The rear seats aren't adjustable but have a nice contour. There's a separator between the two rear seats, which would make it very uncomfortable to try to cram three people back there.
Driving mountain roads to Lake Tahoe proved exhilarating in the 335i Convertible. Even in sixth gear, it pulled the long grades without difficulty. It was incredibly agile for passing other cars, especially all those SUVs that insisted on sitting in the left lane and barely meeting the speed limit. For part of the trip, we had the top down. At high speeds, the front-seat passengers could still hear each other, but the rear-seat passenger was left out. One danger we found was that the 335i Convertible gets far past the legal speed limit very easily, cruising above 90 mph. We often found ourselves going faster than we realized and had to lift off the accelerator before we got too far on the wrong side of the law.
Although tight on space, the 335i Convertible handles paved roads over all manner of terrain very well. It provides a comfortable ride for passengers and, with the top down, extra sun and air in a stylish package.
In the cabin
With a red leather interior, the cabin of our 335i Convertible looked a little gaudy, but the sports seats, part of the $1,900 Sport package, were comfortable and offered nice lateral support. While we like the metal strip that separates the upper and lower parts of the dashboard, the black plastic covering the center stack looks dated. We wholly approve of BMW's new steering wheel design, which uses three spokes and metal trim covering the lower parts of the curving hub.
There is a hole in the dashboard for BMW's smart key, but you don't need to use it. The key can stay in your pocket while you turn over the engine by pushing the start button on the dashboard. You also don't need to push the unlock button on the key to open the doors--if the key is in proximity to the car, you only need to touch the door handle and the lock will pop open.
The standard stereo in the 335i Convertible uses 11 speakers and digital sound processing. Along with standard bass and treble settings, there is a seven-band equalizer where you can really fine-tune the sound. Another setting lets you switch between music and theater modes, the latter being surround sound. We found the audio quality of this system to be quite good, producing strong bass and excellent clarity, although the highs could have been a little brighter.