2007 BMW 335 Reviews
Cars.com Expert Reviews
The refrain "The Ultimate Driving Machine" kept coming to mind when driving BMW's new 335i coupe around town. The 335i features the most powerful engine ever offered in a 3 Series coupe or sedan, yet it didn't behave badly in daily driving, as many performance-oriented models do. If there were ever a superb mix of power, style and drivability exemplified by BMW's trademark slogan, this is it.
Of course, even in this 3 Series the price tag seems excessive. BMWs have never been the most affordable of cars, but these days it seems the price of entry keeps going up. To get the ultimate BMW 3 Series — at least until a higher-powered M3 arrives next year — you'll most likely pay full price; BMW isn't really known for incentives. Is the driving experience worth the price of admission? Of course.
BMW debuted its coupe body style with less-powerful engines earlier in 2006, so the style is already familiar to buyers. It's a stylish look that — though slightly resembling the recent Pontiac GTO — maintains a touch of elegance to match its low profile. A sedan version is available.
The 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six-cylinder engine, on the other hand, is truly new and exciting. What's best about the powerplant is the utter absence of turbo lag. Turbocharging is a time-tested technology that boosts an engine's power to levels it couldn't otherwise produce. Because it can take time for a turbocharger to spool up, there's often some hesitation during acceleration before it kicks in. Even today's best turbos exhibit some turbo lag. If the 335i does, it is imperceptible to my gut — where, just like a drop in a roller coaster, you usually feel the effects of turbo lag.
There are probably many gearheads who try to measure turbo lag, but most buyers could go through an entire test drive and not realize the 300-horsepower, 300-pounds-feet-of-torque engine even has a turbo — or two — attached. It's actually that second turbocharger that helps lessen the lag, but it's a bit too technical to bother with. If you want a full explanation, BMW provides one on its website here.
A turbo six-cylinder is more fuel-efficient than a larger V-8. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for the 335i is 19/29 mpg (city/highway) with the six-speed manual transmission and 20/29 mpg with the six-speed automatic. My manual-transmission test car's trip computer showed mileage in the mid-20s during my week of driving. Not too shabby, although premium fuel is of course required.
All that technology works together seamlessly to launch the 335i up to speed briskly — zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds. The outgoing M3 — BMW's ultra-performance 3 Series — does the same sprint in 4.8 seconds and costs about $9,000 more. The speed comes smoothly and deceptively fast in the 335i, unlike the more brutish M3. That smooth power could lead owners to rack up a lot of speeding tickets because the 335i hustles to speeds much higher than what normally registers with a driver's senses. Consider yourself warned.
My only beef with BMW here is its allegiance to tall, thin manual shifters. While the automotive world has largely agreed that stubby, short-throw shifters are preferred in performance cars, BMW goes its own way with this rickety tool. If the shifting process weren't such a smooth affair, the flimsy feel of such a tall shifter would hurt the experience even more, especially since it's the only part of the car that feels like it might break at any time. True enthusiasts will want a manual, and I sure wish I could tell them their right hand would enjoy rowing the gears.
Ride & Handling
The other major benefit of the 335i coupe when compared to an M3 is that even with its performance orientation the suspension isn't harsh; you can actually live through a mindless commute Monday through Friday in the 335i. BMW's trademark steering is there too, which means it's both a bit on the heavy side and pinpoint accurate.
Precise handling is one of those BMW traits that never goes out of style. The car will move exactly where you want it, exactly how you think it will. There's never any odd feedback or off-target steering, and there's rarely a slip of the rear wheels.
Even with so much power going to the rear wheels, it's harnessed exceptionally well. When accelerating around a corner, the heavy BMW doesn't come unglued, and that makes for confident driving. Pushing the 335i to its limits is where the drivetrain excels. Nothing performs better than a rear-wheel-drive sports car, except maybe a mid-engine rear-wheel-drive sports car — think Ferrari. It's one of those driving experiences that you usually have to be aware of to enjoy, but a driving novice will still get ignorantly blissful thrills in the 335i. Rarely does a vehicle play this razor-thin line between enthusiast and mass-market so well.
Road and wind noise aren't really a major concern among luxury brands these days, and the solid structure of the 335i mutes most outside annoyances. There is some road noise on certain surfaces, but that's mainly due to the wide run-flat tires.
My test car had bright red leather, which would be fine if this were a black vehicle. Red on silver, however, is not my taste, and the leather had a lipstick appearance — just distressing. The 3 Series coupe's interior features more of the same high-quality materials and eccentric layouts BMW has been putting out for the past few years, so there won't be many surprises for aficionados.
Coupe drivers are greeted by a low-slung driver's seat that is form-fitting — those of the John Goodman size need not attempt getting in — and comfortable. The tight side bolsters hug well while cornering and didn't pinch my sides during hum-drum driving, unlike those in other sports-oriented models I've tested. There are optional power-adjustable sport bolsters, as well, for those who are picky about waist-hugging seats.
The coupe's rear seat is pretty much unusable except by small children and the most petite of adults. Just imagine they're designer, leather briefcase pedestals and they'll seem much more logical. At least the rear seats fold flat to give a bit more usable cargo space.
The front seat belts are automatically extended by little arms from the rear passenger cabin instead of being fixed in the side-impact-airbag-equipped front seats. It takes some getting used to for a frequent car hopper like myself, but has become common in German coupes. After a few days you won't notice the little R2-D2-like devices.
The 335i coupe comes with numerous standard safety features, as you'd expect in a luxury car of any make. An electronic stability system and traction control are of course included, but the 335i also features a system that allows the manual-transmission-equipped 335i to stay in place for a brief instant when stopped on an incline when the driver lifts his foot off the brake to apply the gas; there's no rolling backward. If that's not a cool enough gadget for you, there's also a system that dries the brake rotors in wet weather.
A crash sensor, which automatically turns on hazard and interior lights when the doors are unlocked after an impact, is also standard, along with antilock brakes, seat belt pretensioners, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 3 Series sedan its highest rating, Good, in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests. The coupe hasn't been tested as of publication.
There are a bevy of standard and optional features for the 335i, just as a $40,000 coupe should have. Attractive features like eight-way power front seats, automatic air conditioning, a moonroof, ambient lighting, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a surround-sound stereo are standard. You could live without most options besides the leather upholstery and heated seats and still keep the price under $45,000. An automatic transmission and shift paddles are optional, but the manual transmission is probably preferable.
335i Coupe in the Market
Even though Infiniti is preparing a new G35 coupe to compete with the 335i, there really is no competition for this BMW. BMW owners are very loyal, and at this time neither Mercedes-Benz nor Audi makes a two-door coupe that is this performance-oriented.
There is such a distinct driving feel to the 335i that even if other vehicles best it on the spec sheet, the BMW often comes out on top regardless. Would I love a more attainable sporty BMW? Yes, but because of the superb new twin-turbo engine, the standard techno gadgets and the high-quality feel, the $40,000 price tag sounds more sensible than when I first saw it and got sticker shock.
|Send David an email|