They call it the smallest town in the smallest state, but what Block Island, Rhode Island, lacks in size, it makes up for in heart. Well, heart and stunning oceanside vistas on winding roads that seemed to be carved out of glacial rock specifically for the BMW 335i convertible. Before firing up the 335i's twin turbochargers, I performed the car's signature mechanical magic trick--I clicked a button on the key fob (there's also a switch on the center console) and watched the hardtop neatly stack itself until 22 seconds later--presto!--it vanished into the trunk.
The roughly 10 square miles of Block Island, with many curves and dips, offered the optimal setting for thoroughly working out the six-speed manual transmission. Thanks to its nearly 50-50 weight distribution, the 335i nimbly handled the knockabout course without so much as a steering wheel shake, even on sand-swept gravelly paths. Though I was enjoying the ocean breezes, it saddened me that I never got a shot at the optional six-speed paddle-shifter automatic version, which has gotten raves. I did, however, take solace in the 13-speaker Logic 7 audio system, which comes with an auxiliary input jack for MP3 players--so you can kick back with your favorite boys of summer, be they Beach, Backstreet, or Soggy Bottom.
$49,875; $54,450 as tested
300-hp 3-liter inline-6 engine; 300 pound-feet of torque; 19/28 mpg
Specially treated reflective leather keeps the seats cool in direct sunlight (or about 30 degrees cooler than scorching hot, anyway), and an optional rear-seat wind blocker shields hairdos. Plus, large side windows mean that visibility isn't a problem when the top is up.
Trunk space is tight, especially if the top's down--it shrinks from 12.4 to 7.4 cubic feet.
"The 335i is an extrapolation of the beloved classic BMW 2002," says Mike Spinelli, managing editor of Jalopnik.com. "Its torque-y and responsive twin-turbo inline-6 is an everlasting gobstopper of an engine that keeps on giving."