A tale of two cities. The BMW 335i Cabriolet.

A tale of two cities. The BMW 335i Cabriolet.

BMW 335i
The BMW 335i Cabriolet, much has been written about the Coupe and it’s wonderful engine, but for drivers with extra change in their pockets, is the Cabriolet the better proposition? After all, no longer is the Cabriolet sporting a soft folding roof, rather, BMW has seen fit to engineer a folding hard top to it’s newest convertible.

First Impressions

Breaking with the tradition of offering a lighter canvas roof in exchange for a more elegant looking 3-piece split folding roof made of lightweight steel. It allows the Cabriolet to maintain it’s Coupe-ish appearance with the roof up. Casual observers will never know the difference.

The car starts off at the front visually similar to that of the Coupe, it’s a rather muted and sedated looking machine. Not something that shouts at you, but rather a more discreet sense of being. Think of the 335i as more of that attractive librarian in the corner, or the quiet secretary typing away. Visually not a siren but she still has her charm.

Flame surfacing has pretty much tapered off rather well down the BMW range and this car pulls it off nicely, Bangle has said of his cars, that it is not a case of BMW’s flame surfacing being toned down, but rather, it’s us getting used to the concave and convex shapes we see everyday.

As we move our eyes down towards the side of the car, it does seem to get better, with the roof up, the overall shape and silhouette echoes the Coupe’s. Until you notice a thin strip of chrome that surrounds the passenger compartment to differentiate this topless lass. The thin stripe of chrome separates the roof from the rest of the car, allowing those with a keen eye to spot the Cabriolet when the roof is up. The shut lines ever present on the roof has been a bone of contention for many, with plenty of criticisms coming it’s way, that the lines detract from the overall look of the car. Attractiveness is always a personal matter of opinion and no one can ever be right or wrong. Some say the cut lines in the roof make the car look ugly. Like a huge scar slashed across a super model’s body. It’s a harsh statement to make, though, as my i personally don’t see it as such. It’s a Cabriolet, so i think we should see it as such. And in doing so, i praise the elegant solution BMW has come up with. Sure it’s a 3-piece roof with the shut lines to prove it, but in doing so, BMW has managed to keep the profile of the car very similar to that of the Coupe’s, without the need to has an overtly long windscreen or a big round hunch up it’s rear.

Towards the back though, is probably the car’s best angle, the way the cutline slash that runs alongside the car just shortly after the front wheel arches, tapers nicely towards the rear, ends with the rear lights delivering a beautiful and elegant finish to this visual episode. There’s a pronounced shutline for the boot that’s necessary for the roof mechanism to operate, but that still does not detract from the overall look of the 335i Cabriolet. The boot when opened delivers 350 litres of space when the roof is up, but drops to 210 litres of space with the roof down. Fitting things into the back with the roof down though requires the use of the remote, which raises the roof slightly to allow for easier access into the boot. (Still rather useless with the roof down in my opinion, Had to make use of the folding rear seats to place a fan i bought)

Visually from the back, other that the badging, twin rear pipes are the only giveaway to this car’s potent engine lurking up front. (And what an engine!)

Getting inside

Opening the long slender doors is one of those great moments of joy which brings a warm smile to your face. With ‘Comfort Access’, Starting the engine or getting in and out of the car is just a matter of touch. Once inside, the fully adjustable and comfortable leather seats with SunReflective technology contains modified pigments inside the leather to reflect infra-red radiation contained in sunlight. Effectively, preventing the seats from overheating, especially with the roof down. Visibility thanks to the folding metal roof is superb all round and inside, large windows give a very light and airy feel to the cabin. Rear passenger space is adequate but for those up front, it’s a treat. iDrive complements the driving experience with 8 individually numbered buttons to allow for multiple favourite settings.

Build quality inside the car is wonderful and feels solid. Everything shuts with a solid thump and no squeaks or rattles to speak of either with the top-up or down. Superbly solid car.

This particular model with the automatic transmission has the sports steering wheel with the paddle flaps on the wheel, allowing for upshifts and downshifts on the fly without the need for the drivers hands to leave the wheel. It does take some getting used to though, with constant thought needed to remember how it works. It’s not as intuitive as other systems employed by other cars. Upshifts require the usualy pull of the fingertips, but the downshift, the driver has to use his thumb to push the flaps downwards. I’d prefer the right-flap up, left-flap down method on other cars though. Once comfortable, hold the brakes, push the starter button and that’s where the fun starts.

Going Topless

Push the button to drop the roof and everyone (and i mean EVERYONE), turns to stare at the mechanical ballet that takes place before their very eyes. I’ve been looking at it go up and down myself countless times and i’m still enjoying it. The precision, the smoothness and the technical ingenuity behind a 3-piece folding roof is something a canvas roof (or a 2-piece hard top for that matter) can never visually replicate. Especially when seeing it fold for the first time, it’s pretty darn cool.

With the roof down, the aural sensation of the twin turbocharged 3-litre straight six becomes even more pronounced. On idle, that’s a nice low but slightly shallow rumble, nothing really to give away it’s potential. But with 400nm of torque at just 1300rpm, mated to the slick and smooth 6-speed auto, traffic light drag races become so ridiculously simple it’s almost laughable. Just bury the throttle into the carpet and whoosh, you’re off. It’s strangely fast, in a good way, the car just glides and builds up speed so easily and quickly, once you taken your eyes off the road to take a glance at the speedometer, your into speeds endangering the right to keep your license.

The rear wind diffuser though is a must when driving with the top down, but fitting it will render the rear seats rather useless. A serious deficit in my opinion.

Driving this car along twisty roads is sometimes a matter of faith, the car responds eagerly and is so willing to spin up to the redline every single time, is just seems too easy sometimes. The suspension though is a tad soft and this car glides across the road which through tight turns, translates into not as focused or hard-edged driving dynamics.

The BMW 335i, although carrying more weight than the Coupe, is still usually very composed and balanced though the corners. Although, with active steering, trying to feel such composure might be a trifle difficult. It takes practice to get the car going fast on the right roads with fair amount of thought placed on weight distribution. Maybe it’s the way the suspension has been setup, it feels more suited to be a comfortable cruiser rather then the weekend sports car. The 335i takes to the bends nicely and with a lot of composure though, with a willing engine and easy handling, you’ll find yourself pushing harder and faster with each passing turn. Does it put a smile on my face? Sure does, but somehow, i still feel it’s lacking in a bit of character.

1st gear to 2nd gear upshifts with the hammer all the way down is wonderfully melodic, although still a tad muted. The car runs up to its redline so smoothly with a creamy and buttery cresendo just backing off into a single backfire before repeating the sequence. With the roof up, it’s becomes a muted roar. But once you’ve taken the roof down, when the sound bounces off the tall office buildings in the city district late into the night, it’s an experience to be remembered. The sound’s high pitched but not piercing, loud but not intrusive to conversations. This will be the one experience that will elude drivers of the 335i Coupe. Such a wonderful engine is meant to be heard and not shut away.

Take it down a notch, settle into a cruise and the car feels so much happier, highway speeds require the use of little revs and the engine runs at just above idle in 6th. Very comfortable and relaxed. With the 400nm of torque though, accelerating even in 6th is a breeze, and the car builds up speed steadily without and complaints. I’d say that cars much more suited to this sort of driving rather then having it’s neck wrung out. I’d be surprised if owners did otherwise as well.

To make it short and simple, this car if taken out of the right road at the right time can be a real delight, with a powerful engine up front, and superb balance all round, with strong brakes, the 335i Cabriolet can be made to perform when made to do so, but to allow the car to settle into a cruise really show’s what the car’s made for. A companion for those long distance trip with the occasional b-road thrown in, the car pretty much has it all, a powerful engine, a comfortable ride and proper driving dynamics when needed, all with the roof down.

Personal conclusion

Will i recommend people to buy one though? That’s a very hard question to answer, for drivers more focused on going fast and furious, they have the 335i Coupe to choose from instead. The Coupe’s probably the better and slightly cheaper alternative at a list price of $238,800. Plomp in a few more G’s and you can be behind the wheel of the Z4M Coupe or Z4M Roadster, both cars totally magical with the driving experience few other cars can match.

For those looking for a comfortable cruiser and whom quite frankly, just wants to be ‘seen’, there is no real need for all that power and grunt in the engine, (not in our local context anyway) perhaps the 325i Cabriolet will do at a list price of $215,800 which seems a lot better value for money. The 335i Cabriolet comes with all the bells and whistles and does pretty much everything, but at a list price of $265,800, it is still rather steep.

So unless you have a pocket full of cash waiting for a convertible that does everything, (Seats 4 easily, powerful engine and silly fast, with the comfort of a hard-top and typical style and driving dynamics that befits a BMW), go for the 335i Cabriolet. Otherwise, take a look at your other options before deciding. (Mercedes CLKs? Neh… lacks the visual flaunt and style of this BMW) The Z4Ms are some really tempting machines too you know.

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