D he test car arrives at an inopportune time. It is deep winter in early February 1991, snow covers the region around Stuttgart, at night the thermometer shows minus ten degrees. The green metallic-colored BMW 318i Cabrio has sturdy winter tires approved for up to 190 km /h. Not only do they have the necessary grip, they also provide a visual signal on this car. There is no pure fair-weather toy here, but an all-weather convertible with no airs - a thing for all cases, even for bad weather.
Downsizing for the BMW convertible
The reason for renewed contact with the BMW 3 Series Convertible, which has been in production since 1985, is the third engine variant, a four-cylinder, which was added to the range just before the end of production in 1993. In contrast to the much later two-seater Z3, BMW started here with the six-cylinder - first with the 170 hp 2.5 liter, then with the 129 hp two-liter.
The four-cylinder in the BMW 318i convertible is well known the three-seater sedan, internal code number E 30, and from the former five-seater named 518i. In all of these cars it has 113 hp, and just like the two six-cylinder engines, it also has a toothed belt drive for the overhead camshaft.
The six-in-a-row cars from Munich already had a legendary reputation back then, and so the news ensures in terms of downsizing in terms of number of cylinders, not exactly for euphoria. On the other hand, the number of bread and butter cylinders in connection with BMW engines is not exactly negative, just think of the three-progenitors 2002, 2002 ti and tii, which have long since ceased to be produced.
Big price advantage compared to the six-cylinder
Then there is the price difference between four and six cylinders, completely emotionless. The new BMW 318i convertible in the basic version costs exactly 43,400 marks, exactly 12,500 marks less than the top model 325i and at least 4,000 marks less than the 320i in between.
In view of the weather conditions that hate convertibles, we do not drive open-top, as will later become fashionable, for the photo with the roof open and frozen cheeks through snowdrifts, but enjoy the comfort that this convertible also in winter offers. The heating of the BMW 318i Cabriolet fights bravely and successfully against the not entirely species-appropriate use, the windows, even in severe temperaturescan be reliably defrosted - even the non-glass rear window, on which a small fan is struggling.
The soft and silky is gone
Photographer HP Seufert insists on an open picture and it shows With all the might, how wrong the season is: The BMW 318i Convertible on an icy parking lot high above Stuttgart at night, deep tire tracks in the snow, the cold can be felt. And you can feel that only a four-cylinder works here. The soft and silky is gone.
But what remains doesn't seem so bad at all, surprisingly even better in parts. The torque curve of the four-cylinder is superior to that of the six-cylinder of the same size - more pulling power is available in the lower speed range. It's pure motor physics; With a given displacement, many cylinders generate more power at higher speeds, while a few cylinders provide more torque.
The improvement is immediately noticeable in the accelerator, but the language of the measured values is even clearer than the feeling. In fifth gear, the BMW 318i Convertible only needs 18 seconds to accelerate from 80 to 120 km /h. The six-cylinder 320i has almost 22. Consumption is also lower, although from today's perspective it is not small. It is 10.7 liters per 100 kilometers, it can be normal.
A powerful four-cylinder
The BMW 318i Convertible weighs exactly 1,269 kilograms, and its temperament is quite pleasing, with 11.5 seconds for acceleration to 100 km /h and a top speed of 190 km /h. In terms of driving performance, this good automobile is an Austin-Healey 3000, who would have thought that?
By the way, you can tell that he is mature in his six years of production. Even the torsional tendency of the body of the BMW 318i Cabriolet, with its side members, which are about six centimeters higher than that of the sedan, and additional struts between the B-pillar and the rear strut domes, seems to be less than that of the first examples. Only the wind noise has remained the same - from 120 km /h it gets loud in the cozy cabin.
Place in the sun
From today's perspective, the old BMW 3 Series Convertible has received the bonus of everyday suitability, but gained an increasingly nostalgic appeal. At a time when the ingenious convertible performance mainly consists of feeling as little of the wind as possible when driving open-top, the old-fashioned, uncontrolled turbulence is still popular here. The windshield of the BMW 318i Convertible is steeply upright, you really sit outdoors, it is the much-quoted place in the sun.
The prices are rising, for good, unmistakable pieces you have to pay 10,000 euros. Michael Schröder, Motor Klassik editor and as a hobby biker a fearless windy face, bought a neat 3-series convertible two years ago for personal enjoyment, a BMW 318i convertible by the way. He is satisfied with the engine choice and does not miss the six-cylinder.
How did ex-colleague Gert Hack once put it in connection with the quality of BMW engines? The one you're driving is always the best anyway.