Highlight: The rear-wheel drive 2011 M3 Convertible features a V8 engine, a first in a production BMW M3.
Test vehicle’s MSRP: $78,425 (Base price starts at $67,925)
Why the M3 Designation: The M-series is the high-performance version of the BMW. Just as Mercedes has the AMG version and Chrysler has the SRT-8 high-performance line for their vehicles, BMW has the M-series.
Major Standard Features: 18-inch wheels and high-performance wheels; a 6-speed manual transmission; self-leveling Xenon headlights; flared front (and rear) fenders for a more athletic look; power front seats with 4-way lumbar support; rear seat easy-entry with memory for front seats; sliding/adjustable front center armrest; front-seat mounted airbags; high-performance ABS; special suspension with twin-joint spring-strut front axle, sub-frame, front axle tie-rod and stiffening plate in aluminum, rear axle sub-frame in steel, track control arm and spring strut in aluminum and lightweight steel construction; keyless push-button starter; and a power-folding retractable hardtop with an integrated rear-window defroster
Standard Audio System: 10-speaker AM/FM stereo/CD with Radio Data System, Auto-Store, MP3 capability and HD radio
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Maintenance Included in Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Ipod And USB Adapter: a $400 option, which was included in our test vehicle
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 4.0-liter, 8-cylinder/414-hp
Standard Fuel-Mileage: 14-city/20-hwy
What’s New: For the 2011 model-year, the M3 convertible receives BMW’s signature M Drive system as standard equipment, which allows one to personalize the steering characteristics of the vehicle from comfort oriented to direct/sporting oriented. Also the four-seater convertible adds BMW’s new fuel-efficient Automatic Stop-Start feature, which we’ll describe later.
Pros: Ironically, when one thinks of a performance vehicle, fuel-savings isn’t usually associated with it. However, with fuel savings being at the top of most consumers shopping list these days due to the fluctuating gas prices, the M3 offers the German brand’s exclusive Automatic Stop-Start System. With this system, the engine is instantly stopped when the vehicle brakes are applied and the vehicle is stopped for 3 seconds or more. All accessories continue operating, such as infotainment, climate control, power windows, but the engine is not burning any fuel because it is essentially paused. And once the driver lifts off the brake pedal (or turn the steering wheel as if to initiate a right turn), the engine instantly re-starts. BMW estimates consumers can receive up to a 5 percent fuel-saving benefit with this technology.
Moreover, BMW has also designed an all-new, aluminum chassis specifically for the M3. Virtually all of the front-end components are aluminum, including the front struts, swivel bearings and central sub-frame. By having all of this protection below the engine, this helps to maximize the lateral stiffness of the entire front section of the M3, when the vehicle is being pushed to the limits.
Added to this, the electronic Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which is a standard feature on the M3, helps to monitor the driving condition of this high-performance vehicle and intervenes by automatically applying the brakes, while simultaneously reducing engine power so as to stabilize the vehicle to help avoid major over-or under-steer situations, which could lead to an accident.
Furthermore, the driving experience behind the M3 can be enhanced with the optional Electronic Damper Control (EDC), which allows the driver to tailor the vehicle’s chassis dynamics to his or her preference through one of three modes: Sport, Normal and Comfort. With this feature, BMW has designed the M3 so that the driver has the option to individually configure specific parameters, thus adjusting the response of the car to his (her) personal preferences. Yes, this is a true driver’s car with the top up or down.
Also one can’t have a well-informed M3 without opting for BMW’s optional Technology Package, which consisted of the M Drive System, a keyless entry system and a navigation system. With the navigation system, occupants can immediately gain online access to the vehicle’s Google Maps database to quickly find a desired business with just a key word. The Convenience Plan also includes Critical Calling, a BMW service that can connect the driver to a requested party via a response specialist in case one’s mobile phone is not in the vehicle or its battery is discharged.
Furthermore, for those folks who aren’t interested in shifting gears manually, the M3 can be outfitted with the optional Double-clutch (clutch-less) automatic transmission.
Finally, for those looking to add a little more flair to the sophisticated looking M3, a 19-inch factory ordered wheel (tire-package) is available.
Cons: While we loved this hardtop drop-top convertible, we did have a few concerns. First all of the rear seats are designed more for kids than adults. However, with a high-performance drop-top like this, who’s thinking of kids?
Also heated (and cooled front) seats, a rearview camera, and a Satellite radio subscription at least for 1-year should all be standard features in this high-dollar BMW. Furthermore, we found the front cupholders to be quite flimsy, as if they were an after-thought. As the German automaker should know, cupholders are just as important to American car buyers as a radio or a/c.
The Verdict: : This is the perfect all-weather vehicle to cruise around in with its easy-to use power operated top. With the top up or down, this vehicle has a lot of swag. From the growling pitch coming from the 8-cylinder engine oozing from underneath the hood via the dual exhausts pipes to the easy-to-use iDrive system, which controls everything from the audio system to the navigation system, this BMW is worth every bit of the near $80,000 asking price. Yes, while the price is sort of steep, especially when adding on options - some which we believe should be standard – there is nothing like being behind the wheel of the M3.