The first thing I noticed when climbing into this updated 3-series was the new iDrive interface. Wow, is it ever impressive. It is very intuitive and has very impressive graphics. I instantly felt at home juggling through the various menus. Well done, BMW.
The next thing you notice, of course, is the torque of the twin-turbo diesel engine. In the cold and wet conditions of winter, the traction/stability control is working overtime keeping the rear tires in check. It's a good thing BMW has a good, smooth stability control system. The 335d is fast and the rest of the car is typical of a BMW. It has a slightly choppy ride on rough Michigan roads but it seems to be better than our Four Seasons 330i was, when I compare both on 17-inch wheels. This is no doubt helped by the fact that this 335d lacks the optional sport package. The steering is still lovely and most of the controls are intuitive and feel robust.
Still, I can't help thinking that the 335d is a bit of a lost soul in America. We don't offer cheaper car registration on vehicles that emit less CO2, like many European countries do, and we pay a substantial premium for diesel fuel in many regions of the country. Add in the fact that BMW's gasoline engines make good power and get pretty impressive fuel economy given their performance and I don't see a strong case for an expensive, mega powerful diesel sedan. I would happily give up some of the 335d's torque and fuel economy for the 335i, which is cheaper and less expensive to fill up (and purchase). Add in the fact that the gasoline engine sounds better, has more horsepower, and is offered with a manual transmission, and I'm going to have to say no to Dr. Diesel's sales pitch in this case. Now in a heavier, less sporty vehicle like the X5, I may sway back the other way. We'll see when we drive one.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor