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BMW 3-Series

Like Tiger Woods tinkering with his swing, the BMW 3-Series has always been about obsessively refining a formula that leaves rivals fighting over second place: the athletic chassis, the uncanny balance and poise, the creamy stroke of its in-line six-cylinder engines. But the new 335i convertible adds a couple unexpected shots to its game.

Dual turbochargers, a first for a BMW convertible, boost the 3.0-liter engine to a healthy three hundred horsepower. The spectacular engine delivers right-now thrust all the way to its 7,000 rpm peak; it may well be the most seamless turbocharged power plant in history. The convertible's stout structure is vastly more rigid than the previous model's, reducing cabin vibration and allowing more precise suspension tuning. And although plenty of convertibles have adopted power hardtops, BMW's first such attempt is special. This piece of origami art unfurls in a class-best twenty-two seconds, maintains outward visibility with generous side and rear glass, and folds so compactly that designers didn't have to mess with the 3-Series's taut shape.

Summer-shorts wearers will appreciate special reflective leather tanning that reduces temperatures by up to thirty-seven degrees compared with conventional upholstery. The rear seats fold to create a ready cargo shelf, and a pass-through to the trunk allows clubs to be stored longitudinally, leaving room for two adults in back. And though the convertible does add nearly 375 pounds to the coupe's weight, there's little loss in speed or handling. A six-speed manual shifter will satisfy purists; a new, optional ZF six-speed automatic is among the smoothest and quickest of its kind. Of course, some things never change. A 3-Series on a back road is like Tiger leading on the back nine: You already know how it will shake out.

SCORECARD

BMW 335i convertible
Price: $49,875
Engine: Twin-turbocharged
3.0-liter in-line six
Horsepower: 300
Torque: 300 pound-feet
Weight: 3,946 pounds
Zero to 60 mph: 5.5 seconds

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