2006 BMW M3 Review – Convertible – CNET Reviews

26 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2006 BMW M3 Review – Convertible – CNET Reviews

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The good: The 2006 BMW M3 pleases enthusiasts of both performance and technology with near race-spec power and handling. Satellite radio provides a soundtrack to the racetrack, and a rudimentary navigation unit spares drivers the hassle of BMW’s iDrive interface.

The bad: The 2006 BMW M3 is a high-priced, high-performance gas guzzler that can be balky when cold and at slow speeds. The veteran sports car shows its age with the lack of any MP3-playback ability.

The bottom line: The current iteration of BMW’s signature sports car blends competition power and handling with the comfort of a workaday sedan. Cockpit tech is less than impressive for a car with a price tag of nearly 70 grand, and fuel consumption and emissions are high. But it sure is fun to drive.

Even though it’s near the end of its production run based on the outgoing E46 3 Series, the 2006 BMW M3 is still a very desirable performance icon.

It may no longer be the most modern car in its class, but with its 3.2-liter, 333-horsepower engine, its sequential manual gearbox (SMG), and its well-appointed interior, it more than holds its own and has well-earned M-car cachet.

The 2006 BMW M3 does show its age in its somewhat dated cabin electronics: MP3 capability even for CDs is nil, and the navigation system, while useful, has fewer features than most newer systems. Sirius Satellite Radio is available as a dealer-installed option, though, and the car is prewired for Bluetooth compatibility.

While 300 pounds heavier than the coupe, the M3 convertible is still blisteringly quick and capable, delivering plenty of smooth, refined power. An excellent combination of sports handling and comfort contributes to the M3 being a race car of the road with real room for four. The undeniable sunny-day attraction of top-down motoring and the stress-reducing capability of the SMG to operate fully automatically in traffic if desired make the M3 convertible as fine a car for everyday use as it is for high-performance driving.

With an intuitive rollover-protection system and a range of other standard features, the latest M3 convertible is about as safe as soft-top sports cars can hope to be.

But like all BMWs, a 2006 BMW M3 doesn’t come cheap: The convertible starts at $56,600. Our test car had the Cold Weather Package ($750); a Harman Kardon sound system ($675); a rudimentary nav system ($1,800); Michelin Pilot Sport tires ($1,750); and an SMG gearbox ($2,400). For power lumbar support in the front seats, add $400, and xenon headlights will set you back another $700.

On top of that, factor in the $695 destination charge and a $1,300 gas-guzzler penalty, and the grand total comes to $67,070.

The 2006 BMW M3 is built for high-performance motoring in comfort, a fact immediately apparent as you slip into its firmly padded and wonderfully accommodating seats. The M-branded, leather-wrapped steering wheel provides audio- and cruise-control toggles, giving the driver a fine office from which to go about the M3’s business. Instrument-panel design is classic BMW, with a large hooded pod for the main gauges and a center stack angled toward the driver for easier access to the audio and climate controls.

Our convertible was fitted with an optional DVD-based satellite navigation system, controlled via an LCD interface in the center of the dash. Compared with more modern systems, including those in newer BMWs, the nav interface is limited. Destinations may be entered by zip code, from the address book, by direct address entry using the main knob to choose letters and numbers, or by moving the map cursor.

But the map-cursor method is cumbersome and best suited to nearby locations, as the map scale can’t be changed during the process. There is no voice-recognition ability, and the system is slow to present directions, but once calculated, they are displayed in a useful turn-by-turn list with voice guidance. The screen itself is usually easily visible, although glare in some light can make it difficult.


The navigation screen also multitasks by integrating audio, trip computer, and phone-system controls, as well as by displaying a bunch of useful information on demand, including the miles to empty, outside temperature, and time; speed; and distance calculations. System controls are marked hard buttons to the sides of the screen and a master rotary control to its lower right. We found the interface simpler and more intuitive than BMW’s more recent iDrive system.

The navigation screen doubles as an audio controller, a trip computer, and a phone-system interface, and it flips up for access to the CD player.

The 2006 BMW M3‘s telephone system is compatible with Bluetooth phones and has a number of useful features, including address-book storage and saving the last-dialed and eight most-dialed numbers for quick access.

In a nifty techno touch, the CD player is revealed by pressing the eject button, which causes the nav-system LCD to automatically flip up for access. Audio-system sound quality is good, but choices are limited to AM/FM radio and commercial format CDs. Neither MP3 CDs nor MP3 players–such as iPods–are in the program, although Sirius Satellite Radio is available.

As expected in a high-priced luxury car, the top is fully automatic, with no manual latching necessary. To operate it, you can press and hold one of the iconically marked buttons below the HVAC controls on the center stack. It can be dropped or raised quickly, but the car must be at rest for safety reasons.

With the top up, the 2006 BMW M3‘s interior sound level is higher than in the coupe, although it’s not overly loud. With the top down, wind is at a pleasant level, at least at legal highway speeds. Our test model had the Cold Weather Package, which includes heated front seats and retractable headlight washers.

To the rear, the M3 convertible’s backlight is glass, with a heater element, for long-term, all-weather visibility. With the top up, we found that the wide C-pillars between the rear screen and the rear quarter windows impaired visibility. The outside mirrors help a bit, but care is necessary in parking lots.

Unlike many convertible sports cars, the M3 has ample room for rear-seat passengers.


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