The convertible 323ci E46 represents the completion of the 2000 renewal of the regular 3-series lineup, a makeover that began with the rollout of the sedans for 1999.
Augmented by BMW's VANOS variable-valve-timing system, the 2.5 straight-six is smooth and has sweet torque traits, but even so, its 170 hp.
The interior is significantly upgraded from the prior generation. The dash and the trim are upgraded to better suit the car's (and driver's) rung on the status ladder. All four seats are more coddling. With belts mounted to the front seatbacks, there's no annoying strap to flap in the wind when the top's down or to snag one's bouffant while crawling into the back. There's also a button on each seatback to motor the front seats forward double-quick for even easier rear-seat entry (the seats even know to return to their original positions).
The rear seat adds almost four inches of much needed legroom, and the 2.3-inch-wider rear backrest allows two pairs of shoulders to nestle in and fully face forward -- unlike in the previous model. Add in the new car's improved aerodynamics, which reduce the wind noise and draft, and it's clear that the E46 is a more civilized BMW.
Trunk space is increased -- at least when the softtop is up. The top well that hangs down into the trunk can now be raised to free up three cubic feet of space. Doing so brings total luggage volume to 11 (up from nine in the E36 ragtop).
The rear window is at last made of scratchproof glass, and it's heated. Although the blind spots are wider than in the old car, they're not dangerously so. The optional electrohydraulic power top ($1400, including wood trim, an auto-dimming mirror, and a built-in garage-door opener) works the same as last year's, but it's seven seconds quicker.
Augmenting the 3-cabrio's already impressive safety résumé; (front and front side airbags, seatbelt pretensioners) are ISOFIX child safety-seat anchor points and the incorporation of last year's $1450 optional rollover protection as standard equipment. Within 0.11 second of sensing an impending rollover, two roll hoops spring out of the rear headrests.
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Exterior: The exterior of this unit is in excellent shape with no major flaws.
Interior: The interior is in excellent condition.
Mechanical: This vehicle is "Insight Certified" with no known mechanical defects after completing a 144 point mechanical inspection with required maintenance performed.
Tires: The tires are in excellent health with plenty of tread life remaining.