That's the case with the 2010 BMW 335i convertible, which is a very competent, sure-footed long-distance tourer, but can make the mundane drive to work and back more fun than it should be. Don't expect to do much carpooling, though – there's enough room up front for the longest-legged NBA player, but it comes at the expense of any unfortunate soul stuck in back. If you need a usable rear seat, opt for the four-door 3-Series sedan.
In between is this 335i convertible, with a base price of $51,200, and a total sticker of $54,025. That includes a shipping fee of $875, and a few options such as heated front seats ($500), "Titanium Silver Metallic" paint (also $500), and a plug-in for an iPod and USB (a pricey $400). Options not included on the test car: A navigation system, and the six-speed automatic transmission. That's fine: I have a map, and the six-speed manual transmission works very well.
The 335i's engine is a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder with twin turbochargers, and while the 300 horsepower it produces is plenty, acceleration is not particularly impressive. I'd be as happy with the less expensive 328i, which also has the 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, but without turbocharging.
Inside, the 335i convertible is nicely outfitted in leather and burl walnut trim. Typical of BMW, safety features abound, and include electronic stability control, traction control, cruise control that senses the presence of vehicles in front of you, and even a "brake drying" feature, which senses when you are driving in the rain, and gently applies the brakes to skim water off the brake discs.
Since the BMW 3-Series debuted in 1977, the car has been a benchmark for entry-level European imports, though the car and its price have grown substantially in the past 33 years. While it is no longer entry-level, it remains a benchmark that has been so elusive for competitors to match.
2010 BMW 335i convertible
Price as tested:
17 miles per gallon city driving, 26 mpg highway.
Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive convertible with a 3.0-liter, 300-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission.