2011 BMW 335is Coupe

Matt Tierney
#BMW, #335is

Our 335is test car was a pre-production model and, although the Monroney listed cruise control and a two-way power glass moonroof and sliding interior sunshade as standard features, they were absent from our car. Presumably they will be present in any 335is coupe sold to a consumer. Our test example was alpine white over a coral red and black Dakota leather interior, a nice combination. This means red seats, red door inserts, but black dash and carpets, for practicality, and who wants red carpet anyway? Pebbly silver metal trim stretches across the width of the instrument panel and on the center console.

The BMW 3-series coupe is of course a familiar and admired object for us. What is new here is that this is the sportiest version yet of this coupe and I dare say the sportiest non-M3 BMW 3-series ever. The 335is coupe retains BMW's twin-turbo (N54-series) in-line six-cylinder engine, whereas most BMWs are switching to a single-turbo, dual-scroll six (N55-series) for emissions reasons. Here, the N54 is tuned to 320 hp and mated, in our test car, to BMW's brilliant new dual-clutch transmission. This is my second experience with this new gearbox, and it is a superb device. I also spent a weekend recently with a Z4 sDrive35is roadster, which has the same powertrain although with 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Here in the 335is coupe, the torque rating is normally 332 lb-ft, but an overboost function engaged when you select sport mode rockets that up to 370 lb-ft.

As is so often the case with high-performance cars these days, there is a learning curve with the transmission. Sure, you can simply pull back on the lever and engage Drive and never do anything else with it, but there is, of course, more to it than that. Nudge the chrome-trimmed lever to the left, and the dual-clutch goes into sport mode, indicated by an "S" in the driver display. It will continue to shift automatically but significantly more quickly and aggressively. Hit the gas pedal on an empty stretch of road, and you'll be blown away by the acceleration.

For even more control, at any time you can grab the lever and shift manually, whether you're still in Drive or already in Sport mode. You pull backward on the lever to upshift and push forward to downshift. Naturally, when you come to a stop, the gearbox automatically selects first gear.

You can also use either of the paddles flanking the steering wheel to shift. I confess that I never used them, but then again I'm seldom a fan of shift paddles in any car, and if I'm shifting manually I'd rather just use the shift lever. Perhaps this is because doing so more closely replicates the process of using your right hand to manually shift a traditional manual transmission. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, this powertrain really sings in Sport mode. The engine itself sounds fantastic, noticeably more sonorous than the newer N55 single-turbo six, and the 335is coupe's acceleration is really quite breathtaking, making you wonder, do I really need an M3? I'd say for a lot of people, you don't. This car also strikes me as a satisfying alternative to a base-model Porsche 911. Add in superb brakes, great grip, good seats, and room for an occasional third or fourth passenger, and there really is a lot to like here.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

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Why and how do you have a preproduction model? This car has been out for almost a year!

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