Too late in life to buy a convertible? Rugrats already leaving footprints on the seat-backs? Don't despair... it's never really too late.
You just need the disposable income (or appropriate company car package) to get into something like this BMW 335i M Sport Convertible.
Four seats, something of a boot -- when the hard-topped folding roof is up -- and all the mod-cons, it's a mid-life crisis car that's almost versatile. It can get the endorphins pumping and yet still cart the kids.
The "v" word isn't one always associated with the Bavarian breed but if you consider the two-cars-in-one routine might soften the $126,900 blow a little - or look at the price of the not-much-quicker M3 Convertible, which is over $170,000.
As tested, the 335i M Sport Convertible had the seven-speed twin-clutch automated manual transmission (for $3500) and a few other options like metallic paint ($1840) and internet accessibility for $200, although my phone didn't seem to want to help in that process.
The features list is considerable - rain-sensing wipers, automatic bi-xenon headlights, sharp-looking 19in alloy wheels with low-profile runflat-tyres, remote central locking and keyless start, the broad-screened 3D satnav (although the topography has far more bumps in it for the Adelaide CBD than I remember) and infotainment screen, a first-rate sound system with hard drive and USB input.
There's also dual-zone climate control, electrochromatic rearvision mirrors, trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio link, fog lights and leather-trimmed seating with front pews power-adjustable and heated.
The 335i droptop has lost a turbo and reduced its thirst, but maintained its considerable outputs. While there are still a few Beemers punching with two turbos, several models have changed over to a single turbocharger for the three-litre straight-six.
The new intake system uses a twin-scroll unit that is pressurised by two exhaust feeds that (teamed with direct injection and variable valve timing) help it maintain the 225kW and 400Nm of the old engine but with a reduced thirst, down to 8.8 litres per 100km from 9.1.
The standard drivetrain has a six-speed manual but the test car had the optional seven speed twin-clutch automated manual, which is not short of smarts and delivers super-quick gearshifts - Sports mode is aggressive without being ridiculous and can be changed via paddles on the wheel.
Given that the sun floods in 23 seconds after you push the button, the leather trim has been treated with what the company calls SunReflective Technology to reduce the butt-frying effect that Australian sun can induce in convertibles.
There's also the ability to use brake energy to charge the battery but no Stop-Start system.
At first glance many may not even spot the roof seams that designate the metal roof can fold into the boot, and aside from the bootspace reductions the convertible offers the best of both worlds. Roof up it is a svelte machine and not much changes when the bootlid flips up to swallow the roof. It's still a looker.
Within the four-seater cabin, occupants get by at normal speeds with minimal buffeting - only at highway speeds will longer-haired folks get grumpy with the airflow. The front seat occupants don't have to stretch back for their seatbelts, as the belts are integrated into the seatbacks (it reminded me of early Range Rovers) to allow easier access for the rear occupants.
You'll want to travel light if the roof is to be removed - the 350-litre boot isn't cavernous to begin with and drops to 210 litres, so pack light.
There's no shortage of safety gear in the elegant little Beemer - dual front and side airbags, stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes.
There's also adaptive bi-xenon headlights with an auto-dipping high-beam, cruise control with braking function (great for maintaining speed down hills) and pop-up roll-bars behind the rear seats.
As packages go, there are few more amusing things to drive than a BMW convertible. When it's a turbo six, the pose can be quickly transformed into a swift exit, but without any fuss.
Only the restricted bootspace takes the shine from the updated droptop, which is a surprisingly easy car to live with day-to-day.
Despite sitting on lowered M Sport suspension and low-profile run-flat rubber that is wrapped around 19in wheels, the ride is not uncomfortably firm - it still doesn't like the nastier bits of broken bitumen but it's better than you'd expect looking at the wheel/tyre package.
Crashing through the ruptured road surfaces with the roof off doesn't get the bodyshell shimmying either - at 1700-odd kg it's a no lightweight but the payoff is body strength that is palpable on a rough road.
The rear leg and foot room isn't expansive but a family of four can slip, slop and slap their way to a day-trip destination in fine style.
Put the driver in on their own and fire up the electronics into Sports modes and the M Sport side of the title is more than apparent - straightline speed is approaching the M3 and the chassis (while not quite to M3 levels) has enough competence to cover ground on a twisty back-road in short order.
If you have any requirements for four seats but still feel the need to drive something that can blur the scenery, then this is a worthy contender.
Cart the kids, do the shopping, perform most duties without complaint, but if you adjust the mirrors properly so you can't see the other seats, it'll stop, turn and go well enough to make you forget there's room for the boss and the little uns, at least until they call to be picked up ... sorry, the phone dropped out.
BMW 335i M Sport Convertible
Price: from $126,900
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited km
Resale: 51% Source: Glass's Guide
Service Interval: 25,000km or 12-months
Economy: 8.8 l/100km, on test 13.5; 205g/km CO2
Saftey Equipment: Four airbags, ABS, EBD, stability control.
Crash Rating: 5 star
Engine: 225kW/400Nm 3-litre variable-valve direct-injection twin-scroll turbo in-line six-cylinder
Transmission: seven-speed twin-clutch automated manual
Body: 2-door, 4 seats
Dimensions: 4612mm (L); 1782mm (W); 1384mm (H); 2760mm (WB)
Tyre Size: 225/35 fr and 255/30 rr R19 run-flat safety tyres Spare TYRE run-flats