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Drive Life : January 14th 2011
1HERSA1 F020 20 Friday, January 14, 2011 The Sydney Morning Herald DriveLIFE used J BMW 335i CONVERTIBLE Security and insulation are just two benefits of trading the rag-top for a folding metal lid, writes David Morley. NUTS AND BOLTS ENGINE 3.0-litre twin-turbo 6-cyl TRANSMISSIONS 6-sp man/ 6-sp auto/7-sp auto FUEL ECONOMY (combined) 8.8L/100km SAFETY RATING (howsafeisyourcar.com.au) LIKES Fun to drive. Lovely engine. Six-speed automatic is one of the best in the business. Great safety package and rating despite convertible roof. Sat-nav and a television all part of the deal. DISLIKES Complex folding metal roof is great until it stops working or gets damaged in a crash. Extra weight of the roof takes edge off performance, handling and fuel economy. Expensive, even as a used car. Only four seats. Not much boot space with the roof down. NEED TO KNOW Check roof operation for grinding or scraping noises. Check for water leaks. Musty carpet smell is a giveaway. The service record should be complete. Skipped services on a car like this are a big no-no. What's the car's owner history? Some car companies have embraced traditional canvas roofs for their latest convertible models. There are good reasons for this but security and crashworthiness are not necessarily among them. This is why BMW moved to a folding metal roof for its all-new 3-Series convertible, which arrived in early 2007. The car remains a proper four- seater and the new model actually has more rear-seat shoulder room than the soft-top it replaced, despite the extra gizmos and the metal roof. It also made for better visibility, thanks to a bigger glass area. Buyers also had other metal- roof advantages, including the security of a steel roof, better insulation from ambient temperature and noise and a car that looked classy, roof up or down. On the downside, you got a more complicated car -- which could be a disadvantage as the years wear on -- and there was a weight penalty to consider. In this case, a whopping 200-kilogram hike over the fixed- roof 3-Series Coupe. In safety terms, the drop-top meant no side-curtain airbags but every other electronic and pyrotechnic aid was there to help give the lidless BMW its five-star safety rating. But when it came to performance, the extra weight had a bigger effect. The convertible was not tardy thanks to its wonderful twin- turbocharged, 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine. But it didn't feel quite as lively as its 335i Coupe sibling, hence its tendency to use a bit more fuel. The extra mass really showed up through the corners. The BMW was still every inch a driver's car but it just lacked the driver involvement of the coupe. One thing that didn't change, though, was the excellence of the six-speed automatic gearbox, which gave silky smooth changes. The biggest potential issue likely to face someone buying a 335i convertible is that of service history. Like most cars, BMWs do not reward owners who skip servicing or otherwise try to do it on the cheap. Any BMW this new -- and of this value -- absolutely must have a fully stamped service book to make it to your shortlist. Modern BMWs have a very sophisticated service regime, where the car calculates when a service is due according to parameters such as how far it has travelled, how many cold starts it's been subjected to and how hard it's been driven. From that information, the on- board computer can judge for itself when a service is required and alerts the owner via the dashboard. It's clever and it can ultimately save the owner money but it absolutely cannot be ignored. The other thing we'd check closely is whether the car has been crashed. It's not the end of the world if the repairs have been done correctly but any rear-end collision has the potential to disturb all that precision engineering that allows the folding top to work and, crucially, keep water and dust out. Make sure there's no musty smell in the cabin that suggests the carpets are, or have been, wet. The first of these vehicles are now coming out of their factory warranty, so it's worth quizzing the seller on why they're moving on.
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