As BMW continues to cut the 3-series pie into thinner and thinner slices, it’s becoming difficult to discern the subtle differences among the models. This 335is slots in below the M3, and although its straight six has about 100 fewer horses than the M’s V-8, it’s more than quick enough to satisfy nearly any speed junkie. Some may argue that, at just under $52,000, the 335is is well worth the money, but to me, the extra power and M3-level hardware upgrades over the base 3-series model — the superb 328i starts at a far more attainable $37,000 — can only be appreciated on a closed course. If you don’t plan to run your 3-series on the track, the less-expensive 3s will provide just as many smiles while having a more forgiving ride with only minor concessions to handling.
All that power is fun to play with, though. In fact, a stab of the throttle in any gear results in neck-snappingly strong thrust. The twin-turbos are extremely linear, and there’s very little turbo whine to compete with the glorious racket that — even in fairly restrained driving — exits the dual exhaust pipes. It may not wear an M3 badge but it imitates, and ultimately competes with, its big brother quite convincingly.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I really like the optional ($1000) thin-spoked wheels on the 335is, as well as the cabin’s brilliant red leather upholstery and cool snakeskin-like aluminum trim. The 335is is no appearance package, though. It’s got twenty extra horsepower, seventy more pound-feet of torque, and an available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (a first for a U.S.-market 3-series). I prefer shifting gears on my own with a traditional manual, but I cannot argue that BMW’s so-called DCT is an awesome, ultraquick gearbox.
I found the steering feel to be less lively than that of an Audi S4 I drove the previous day, but that’s more to the Audi’s credit than to the BMW’s detriment. The 335is coupe has lots of room in the back seats, too: a quartet of five-foot-six people could drive a long distance with no trouble or complaints. Still, $61K (as tested) for a 3-series does give one pause.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Infiniti and Audi are breathing down BMW’s neck with their latest 3-series fighters, but while the G37 and A4 are fun, competent sport sedans, BMW still dominates the discussion when it comes to sportier variants. Audi’s S4 comes dang close to performance-commuter Nirvana, but the 335is offers a better balance between powertrain, chassis, steering, and braking. The 335is packs the same all-around proficiency that has been the M brand’s signature for decades.
The twin-turbo inline-six is responsive, the suspension is beautifully tuned, and the brakes bite nicely, but I can’t stop thinking about the transmission in our BMW 335is. BMW’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is the best execution of the technology in the industry. It pulls away from stops with torque-converter-like fluidity, rather than the soft hesitation or slight chatter found in other two-clutch transmissions. At speed it executes flawless shifts up and down all day long. In any mode, at any speed, the shifts are phenomenally quick and exceptionally smooth. I love a six-speed manual, but I think I might love this transmission more for how incredibly impressive it is. And at $450, it’s curiously cheap.
Of course, the same cannot be said for the BMW 335is as a whole. At $61,025 as tested, our coupe is uncomfortably close to the M3 in price. In fact, it’s more than an M3 coupe if you can live with a car with less equipment. I could. Because as good as this 335is is, it’s not as great as an M3.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
The 335is is downright addicting! The 320-hp, 3.0-liter, turbocharged in-line six sounds so sweet, I drove around with the windows down to hear every note. I am deeply envious of my friend who just bought a 335is — although I suspect she is now in danger of losing her license. This is one of those cars where speed comes so effortlessly, it’s common to glance at the speedometer and realize you’re vastly exceeding the limit. Part of the blame for that goes to the lightning-fast, seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission that seamlessly swaps cogs to keep the car in the sweet spot at all times. But I’m not complaining.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
I have two overwhelming impressions of the 2011 BMW 335is coupe: 1) Wow, is it ever great to drive! 2) Wow, is it ever expensive!
Other thoughts: I love our test car’s red leather seats over black carpet and a black instrument panel, with dark gray exterior paint. What a cool color combination.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
2011 BMW 335is Coupe
Base price (with destination): $51,975
Price as tested: $61,025
3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Dynamic stability control
Dynamic traction control
4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS
Tire pressure monitoring system
Xenon adaptive headlights
Heated dual power mirrors and heated windshield washer jets
8-way power adjustable front sport seats
2-way power glass moonroof
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
AM/FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system with HD radio
Auxiliary audio input
Adaptive brake lights
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation system — $2100
Convenience package — $1500
Comfort access keyless entry
Power rear sunshade
Park distance control
Coral red/black Dakota leather — $1450
19-inch alloy double-spoke wheels — $1000
BMW assist with Bluetooth — $750
Space gray metallic — $550
Heated front seats — $500
7-speed double clutch transmission — $450
iPod and USB adapter — $400
Satellite radio — $350
Key options not on vehicle:
Premium package — $2650
Active steering — $1550
Harman Kardon surround sound system — $875
Cold weather package — $750
Automatic high beams — $250
17 / 24 / 19 mpg
3.0L turbocharged I-6
Horsepower: 320 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
7-speed double-clutch automatic
Unladen weight: 3571 lb
Wheels/tires: 19-inch alloy wheels
225/35R19 front; 255/30R19 rear Bridgestone Potenza performance run-flat tires