It's been a while since I spent time behind the wheel of a 3-series and I forgot how different the car feels from a 1-series. For one thing, this 335d feels huge compared with our Four Seasons 135i, particularly when you look across the dashboard. I didn't forget how well the 3-series drives, but the refresher in driving dynamics was quite welcome. I loved every minute behind the wheel last night, even though most of that time was spent sitting in traffic due to a little snow activity. Speaking of snow, the 3-series performed flawlessly in the snow despite the fact it lacked winter rubber; it was equipped with all-season tires. I found the 335d to be just as easy to drive in the white stuff as our 135i equipped with winter tires.
The new iDrive is spectacular and very easy to use. I can't imagine anyone having a difficult time using this system, but I'm willing to bet at least a few journalists dismiss it entirely because they remember iDrive 1.0 and all the shortcomings of that system. For members of the iPod generation, this is a very intuitive way to control most of the infotainment equipment in the car. As a bonus, the iPod connector charges my second-generation iPod touch (our Four Seasons Jaguar XF and Four Seasons Infiniti EX35 only charge the first-generation models) in addition to playing the music.
As far as the 335d engine goes, I'd like a little less power. The fuel economy rating of 23/36 mpg isn't BAD, but those numbers don't scream economy to me in the way we've come to expect from a diesel engine. I'd imagine a 3-series capable of 40 mpg on the highway would do BMW a lot of good for marketing purposes, but the reality is this 335d engine can be used to power larger vehicles like the X5 or 7-series and it costs a lot less for BMW to certify one diesel engine for the U.S. line than two or three, even if that means each of the three vehicles doesn't have the ideal diesel under the hood.
If you're a diehard fan of diesel engines and the 3-series, this may be just what you're looking for. But if you just want a 3-series that's economical, the 328i isn't a bad choice, and the saving on the sticker will fill your tank for a few years.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor