If there’s one stereotype of an automotive journalist I don’t mind living up to, it’s the unadulterated love for BMW’s 3-series. Although my last experience with the car (a 328i sedan with summer tires) was marred by several inches of snow, my weekend spent with this 335i coupe was nothing short of perfection.
Although we thought this turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 was a bit too powerful in our Four Seasons 135i, it’s arguably a bit too much motor even for the heavier 3-series. Once you’ve coaxed the engine past its initial turbo lag, you’re presented with a fat 300-lb-ft of torque. The I-6 loves to rev up to its redline, all the while feeling smooth and amazingly refined. The same can be said for the six-speed manual gearbox – the shifter is buttery smooth, and clutch action nicely weighted, erring if at all on the side of firmness.
The 335i continues to shine – as 3-series cars always have – once you’ve thrown it toward an apex. Our test car handled tight corners with aplomb, all the while feeling remarkably balanced and tossable. This isn’t quite a track-tuned wundercar, mind you – the suspension is able to traverse a great deal of Michigan’s marred roads without bruising any internal organs.
As much as I admire the 335i’s mechanicals, I’m just as much a fan of the interior. I do miss the driver-oriented cockpits of the early ’90s, but the controls are still cleanly arranged and easy to reach. Bluetooth, iPod, and Sirius satellite radio menus are easy to learn, despite being relegated to a narrow two-line display on the dashboard. I was shocked that the $2000 premium package didn’t include heated functions (they’re an extra $300), but seeing as the hides used on the cushions and door panels are just as sumptuous as those in our Four Seasons 750Li, I can justify the expense.
The uninitiated will look at the $50,000 price tag this 335i wears, scoff, and walk towards an Infiniti G37. They’re missing out – that price tag is well worth it for what may be the greatest midsize coupe on the market.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
It’s hard to believe it’s already been three years since we first drove the turbocharged BMW 3-Series coupe, and nearly that long since it went on sale here. It’s just as sweet and as satisfying to drive now as it was then, and the proliferation of the 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six throughout BMW’s lineup has been a welcome thing.
At least two years before the 335i debuted, Automobile Magazine was the first publication to reveal BMW’s shocking plans to bring back a turbocharged engine. As BMW enthusiasts will recall, these plans were met with trepidation in some quarters, but as soon as you’ve driven the 335i, or any other BMW powered by this engine, you realize that no one need have worried. The twin-turbo six just pours on seamlessly strong power across its rev range.
As much as I like the 3-series coupe, I’d prefer the versatility of the sedan or Sport Wagon. Unfortunately, the Sport Wagon is not available with the twin-turbo six. Here’s my ideal 3-series, a model that does not exist: 335xi Sport Wagon (twin-turbo six, all-wheel drive).
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
The BMW 335i is one of the most well rounded cars out there. The engine and gearbox are sublime, inviting you to constantly toy with the clutch, shifter and gas pedal. A rigid chassis and the responsive suspension are equally capable of aggressively tackling corners or damping broken pavement at high speeds. Additionally, the interior is comfortable, easy to live with, and finished with simple luxury.
One of the greatest things about the 3-series is its accessibility. Offered as a coupe, wagon, sedan or convertible, you can buy the body style that fits your need and still be assured that you’re going to get some of the best chassis dynamics and sweetest powertrains on the market. The price of entry at $40,000 is reasonable, and for those who find it out of reach, there are plenty of low-mileage used options in the $25,000 range.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
The 3-series is an amazing car. It’s the ultimate in driving dynamics, luxurious–and still hated by a lot of people. The only real problem with the 3-series is so many people who buy the cars don’t really know how to drive. Everyone knows the joke about porcupines and BMWs, but the stereotype is true enough to keep at least a few enthusiasts out of the car. My friend Aaron races sprint cars and daily drives a Mazda Miata but instantly made fun of me for driving a 3-series for the weekend. For him, no matter how well the car drives, the 3-series’ image is permanently stained by the hipsters who buy the car as a status symbol and care more about the Bluetooth and iPod connections than rev-matched downshifts. It’s a pity these people don’t enjoy driving. If they did, there would certainly be enough demand to bring Joe DeMatio’s dream 335xi Sport Wagon to market. There would even be demand for that car with a six-speed manual!
If I were buying this car, I’d pass on all the options other than the iPod adapter and the satellite radio. I’d also want a sedan or wagon wrapper around my 335i mechanical bits to maximize the versatility of the package. The coupe worked surprisingly well with an adult in the back seat, but ingress and egress obviously suffer in all coupes. Ditching the sport package would certainly improve the ride of this 3-series around Michigan–the ultra-stiff runflat tires don’t absorb bumps like traditional tires and the springs are a little too firm for these roads.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
It’s been a couple years since I first drove a BMW 335i coupe, and it just doesn’t get old. This is a car that makes you feel like a better driver than you really are. The turbocharged I-6 delivers power smoothly throughout the rev range, the steering is spot-on, the brakes are responsive, and the clutch and gear shifter are calibrated such that you never seem to miss a shift point. It’s just a shame that the roads in southeast Michigan don’t really give a driver and chance to experience how good the 335i is. I drove one a couple years ago on a run from Alabama to Michigan–much of it on twisty two-lanes–and it would be hard to find a car that could equal the 335i in those conditions.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
This coupe is clearly designed for folks with bigger frames, as I need to scoot all the way up, and once I have, am brushing against the windshield. Aside from that, the 335i is, predictably, beyond reproach. As others have noted, the transmission is perfect, with a nicely weighted, if slightly heavy clutch. And that engine. Oh that engine. It’s as smooth and powerful as I remember it being in the 135i, the only wonderful difference being that you can hear a bit more blow off between fast shifts in the 3-series. Of course, the 1-series gets you this engine for about the same price as a 328i coupe. Purists will tell you there’s more to a BMW than power, and that’s likely true, but whenever I get into a car with this 300-hp screamer I’m reduced to a giggling teenager. I’d make sure to get it with my BMW if at all possible – even if it meant settling for a “lowly” 1-series.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2009 BMW 335i Coupe
Base price (with destination): $43,025
Price as tested: $50,270
Montego blue metallic $550
Premium package $2,650
-universal garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors, lumbar support, BMW assist.
Sport package $1,550
-sport seats, shadowline trim
19″ wheels with performance tires $1,000
Heated front seats $500
IPod and USB adapter $400
Satellite radio $595
17 / 26 / 20 mpg
Size: 3.0L DOHC Turbocharged Inline-6
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm
Weight: 3350 lb
19 x 8.0 in-front, 19 x 9.0 in-rear alloy wheels
225/35R19 front, 255/30R19 rear performance tires