Reviews

2009 BMW 335d

The familiar sedan you see here is the most fuel-efficient BMW sold in the United States since the 13-hp Isetta of the late 1950s. And before you look at the specs, where you might expect to see some yawn-inducing straight-line performance numbers, we should point out that the 335d will whup the first- and second-generation M3s in a stoplight drag race. In fact, the 335d nearly keeps up with the muscle-car 335i, a twin-turbo bully of a 3-series that gives the current M3-V-8 and all-a run for its money.

The switch to the “d” in the suffix of the newest 3-series’ name explains why it can travel almost 40 percent farther on a gallon of fuel-d stands for diesel. Just like the 335i, the newest 3-series uses a 3.0-liter, aluminum-block in-line six with piezo direct injection and two turbochargers. The 335d is available exclusively with a six-speed automatic-none of the manual transmissions in BMW’s arsenal can cope with the diesel’s massive 425 lb-ft of torque.

It’s doubtful that the lack of a clutch pedal will cost BMW many sales, as the 335d’s ZF-supplied gearbox is beautifully calibrated to work with the diesel powerplant. Its shifts-whether multiple-gear, rev-matched downshifts or flat-to-the-floor upshifts-are nearly imperceptible and perfectly timed. Concerns about missing out on the symphony of sound created by BMW’s gasoline engines are nixed after one run up the tach scale-the 335d sings the same hollow and haunting straight-six song that long has made the 3-series a favorite for fans of the music of combustion. There’s an overlay of diesel clatter below about 2500 rpm, but because BMW has remained faithful to the balanced in-line six engine layout, none of it translates to harshness. No, from just off idle to its redline, this diesel engine is damn near as smooth, rewarding, and quick as its gasoline counterpart.

In fact, the only place where the 335i feels quicker is in the first few feet off the line. Despite using one teensy turbocharger and one larger one to diminish lag (in place of the 335i’s identical twin turbos), the 335d is a bit hesitant to get going from a stop. Once moving, though, the engine’s computers perform a constant dance, routing intake and exhaust gases to either (or both) of the turbos to minimize lag and maximize output. As a driver, you’re aware of none of it-the 335d’s massive thrust is simply always at your disposal.

The 335d, like all 3-series sedans and wagons, receives a mild face-lift this year that gives the front a slightly more aggressive look thanks to revised headlights, a new fascia, and more prominent hood ribs. Handsome new taillights address the most controversial aspect of the original 2005 design, and a pronounced character line along the side recalls the brand-new 7-series. Inside, navigation-equipped 3-series models receive BMW’s much-improved, second-generation iDrive system (see the 7-series review on page 68 for more information).

If not by its sound, the diesel-powered 3-series is distinguishable from the outside by a round access panel in the driver’s-side rear bumper. That door is used to top off the AdBlue, a urea-based additive that’s sprayed into the exhaust to reduce enough of the diesel’s NOx emissions that the 335d is certified for sale in all fifty states. The 335d can store up to about six gallons of the solution, sufficient for most drivers to make it through a complete 15,000-mile oil-change interval. Refilling the AdBlue tank is included in BMW’s four-year/50,000-mile free scheduled maintenance plan. To appease the EPA, the 335d’s computers will allow the car to be started only ten times with an empty urea tank-but BMW says that the system starts giving impossible-to-ignore warnings 1500 miles before it runs dry.

The 335d will cost about $1500 more than the 335i’s already premium sticker price, but it will be eligible for a $900 federal tax credit. Still, we wonder why BMW didn’t choose instead to import its 2.0-liter, twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel from the European-market 123d. A 3-series with that engine, which produces just over 200 hp, likely would have cost less than the 335i and returned even more impressive fuel economy numbers. Then again, despite its tire-smoking performance, the 335d is miserly enough to be the most frugal BMW sold here in fifty years. And you’ve never heard us complain about having too much power.

  • The Specs
  • 335i automatic
  • 335d
  • On sale
  • Now
  • Now
  • Price
  • $42,250
  • $43,750 (est.)
  • drive
  • Rear-wheel
  • Rear-wheel
  • Engine
  • 3.0L I-6
  • 3.0L diesel I-6
  • Turbochargers
  • 2, twin
  • 2, asymmetrical
  • fuel delivery
  • Direct, piezo injectors
  • Direct, piezo injectors
  • Fuel
  • Premium unleaded
  • Low-sulphur diesel
  • Transmission
  • 6-speed automatic
  • 6-speed automatic
  • Horsepower
  • 300 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • 265 hp @ 4220 rpm
  • Torque
  • 300 lb-ft @
  • 425 lb-ft @
  •  
  • 1400-5000 rpm
  • 1750-2250 rpm
  • Weight*
  • 3605 lb
  • 3825 lb
  • 0-60 mph*
  • 5.6 sec
  • 6.0 sec
  • Top speed*
  • 130/150 mph (base/sport)
  • 130/150 mph (base/sport)
  • EPA Fuel economy
  • 17/26 mpg
  • 23/36 mpg
  • *per manufacturer
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Buying Guide
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EPA MPG:

18 City / 28 Hwy

Horse Power:

230 @ 6500

Torque:

200 @ 2750