THE RIDE: Two-door, four-passenger 2008 BMW 128i soft-top convertible.
DOWN THE ROAD: Move over 3 Series. BMW has a new entry-level car for the United States. The 128i is a pleasure to drive, boasting 0 to 60 mph in a mere 7 seconds when equipped with an automatic transmission. The soft top can open in 22 seconds. There is abundant passing ability in this peppy car, whether you're on the highway or stuck in peak-hour traffic.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: Power comes from a responsive 3.0-liter DOHC inline-6 cylinder engine. Mated to a 6-speed manual or the optional 6-speed automatic transmission, the 128i churns out 230 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 200 pounds-feet of torque at 2750 rpm. Suspension is left up to an aluminum double-pivot front and a five-link independent rear. The rack and pinion power steering is quick and precise, resulting in a nicely damped ride. We applaud BMW for the run-flat 16-inch tires, which should make for a secure long-distance travel. Delivering decent braking are 11.8-inch vented front and rear discs.
LOOK & FEEL: It's obvious this is a BMW when your eyes focus on the kidney-shaped grille, which is flanked by clear halogen headlights and fog lamps, L-shaped tail lamps and dual exhaust pipes. The interior is pleasing enough with top-notch materials used to deck out the dashboard, instrument panel and center console. A wood strip on the dash and door handles is inviting. The three-spoke, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel conveys a solid feel to the driver. There is plenty of space in this convertible, which easily can fit two golf bags in the trunk with the top down. A trip computer between the round analog speedometer and tachometer gauges, automatic headlights, dynamic cruise control, heated power windows, power door locks and windows and remote keyless entry are among the numerous standard features.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, adaptive brake lights, stability and traction control, antiskid system, rollover protection system, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.
OUT THE DOOR: $33,100, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Xenon headlights are available for an extra $800. The $3,500 premium package comes with a digital compass mirror, automatic-dimming mirrors and rearview mirrors, power front seats with lumbar support, universal garage door opener and BMW Assist.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 205/55 R16; wheelbase, 104.7 inches; length, 172.2 inches; weight, 3,252 pounds; fuel capacity, 14 gallons; highway, 27 mpg; city, 18 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: With summer here, this all-new convertible from BMW makes perfect sense to take out on the road. The 128i is lively, quick on its feet and should delight aficionados of top-down motoring.