2007 BMW 335i Coupe

Tom Salt

Sadly, for fans of choice, a 175-hp 2.5-liter variant is available only in Australia, and the 335d and 330d diesel models are conspicuous by their stateside absence. The former is a mostly aluminum effort (a BMW diesel first), twin-turbocharged to offer a bodacious 282 hp and a staggering 427 lb-ft of torque at only 1750 rpm. Zero-to-60-mph times and the top speed will match those of the 328i coupe. The other diesel is not far off the pace and offers about 36 mpg according to the European Union's testing procedures. Dr. Diesel, come in, please. Hybrids are nice, but if BMW can get these oil burners to run cleanly enough to satisfy the EPA and California's particulate Pecksniffs, there surely will be enough demand to bring them over by the boatload.

BMW's standard close-ratio six-speed manual comes with a hill-hold function--shades of Studebakers and Subarus past. BMW says that the optional six-speed manu-matic shifts as much as 50 percent faster than its predecessor, thanks to remapped control software and a new hydraulic control unit and torque converter. It changes up or down in just 100 milliseconds, whether the driver has called for a gear one or several cogs away. Paddle shifters make the business of gear swapping that much snappier.

The 335i with a manual transmission that we drove had a lighter clutch action than previous 3-series models, with take-up lower down in the pedal's stroke. The gearbox was noticeably less notchy, if still not perfection itself. While I could drive the manual model with considerably more smoothness, it still required a bit more concentration, luck, and patience than I'd like.

BMW's notorious sequential manual gearbox (SMG) is not offered, although it's not officially dead yet. BMW steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that consumers dislike SMG, but the exquisitely smooth, perfectly rapid gearchanges of Volkswagen's DSG automatic make the Bavarians' protestations even more tone-deaf. The fact is, BMW's suppliers are working on a dual-clutch transmission similar to DSG that soon will allow BMW to hop down from its SMG perch and get in step with the real world.

What a 3-series coupe must do at a minimum is handle well. Once again, BMW has targeted 50/50 weight distribution, which the company considers optimal. Like the sedan, the new coupe uses a multilink rear suspension and a strut-type front setup with more aluminum than the forward underpinnings of the last-generation 3-series. This reduction in unsprung weight, not surprisingly, allows the engineers to dial in a more finely focused balance between ride and handling. BMW's electronic active steering, which seems to divide testers, is available. Call me a simpleton. I like the 3-series both with and without it.

The large disc brakes dictate standard seventeen-inch wheels and 225/45HR-17 tires (eighteen-inchers with the sport package). We Americans are saddled with the dreaded all-season run-flat tires, which in our experience are more trouble than they're worth--the weight they add and the harsher ride they provide more than outweigh the convenience and lack of a spare.

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