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While near the end of its product cycle, the 3 Series received a number of visual and functional updates in 2011. To that end, the existing models benefit from little more than fine-tuning. Notably, as of 2012 the M3 4-door is no more; this is a 3 Series variant those wanting to travel at 150 mph (with their kids) will certainly miss. Going forward, the new sedan makes its debut first, after which BMW will fill in the coupe, convertible and wagon gaps.
The seemingly still-new 2011 3 Series benefits from a number of small visual updates, including new hood and front fascia, new headlights featuring an "eyebrow" for the daytime running lights, reshaped exterior mirrors with enhanced aerodynamics, and a new rear treatment that visually widens the car. Additionally, the 3 Series coupe and convertible receive a new side-skirt design. On top of the visual changes is a host of new options, combined with new variations in color, trim and upholstery.
The fourth-generation 3 Series Convertibles enter their sophomore year as virtual carryovers, although the 328i does gain the 335i's standard chrome exhaust tips and adds paddle shifters to the optional Steptronic automatic transmission on any car also fitted with the Sport Package.
The 3 Series has long served as BMW's most popular line – up until the recent arrival of the 1 Series – and the most affordable entrée to the realm of the Ultimate Driving Machine. While convertibles have been part of the 3 Series lineup for over 20 years, the fourth and latest generation introduced in 2007 is the first to have a retractable top made of lightweight steel instead of conventional fabric. In offering this impressive open-and-shut case for itself, the Convertible does sacrifice some people and cargo space compared to the Coupe. However, both the 328i and more powerful 335i have the dynamic character to please enthusiast drivers and maintain strong competitive positions against prime four-passenger drop-top rivals, including the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz CLK 350, Saab 9-3 and Volvo C70.