When the 2007 BMW 335i coupe arrives in showrooms on September 1, it will be the first gasoline-powered Bimmer in a generation to incorporate a turbocharger. With a sleek, newly designed body, the 300-horsepower 335i is the most powerful non-M3-series BMW coupe ever, and is also the most high-tech. Driving the sport-tuned 335i is a pleasure: bucket loads of torque in each gear are made usable by precise steering and magnetic handling. Our tester was equipped with the optional Sport package, which gave us sport seats with power-adjustable backrest width, 18-inch alloy wheels with W-rated run-flat tires, and an increased limited top speed of 155mph. Also available is the Cold Weather package, which adds a headlight cleaning system, heated front seats with expanded heating area, and a ski bag. (We venture to suggest, however, that those wishing to muck around in the new 3-series coupe in the snow wait for the launch of the all-wheel-drive new 328xi later this year.)
In the cabin, the 335i delivers all of BMW's latest optional tech systems: Bluetooth hands-free calling, GPS navigation via the second-generation iDrive interface, and adaptive cruise control are all offered as stand-alone options. A surround-sound Logic7 audio system with the ability to play advanced digital audio formats (MP3, WMA) comes standard, as does a generic auxiliary input jack for those wishing to stream their iPod libraries through the car's 13 speakers. Other standard tech includes adaptive headlights, adaptive brake lights, and a unique seatbelt presenter, which (in theory) saves you the trouble of stretching. Those looking to buy the 2007 335i coupe will have to stretch to $41,295 for the basic model, and a bit further according to their a la carte option preferences.
The cockpit of the 2007 BMW 335i is a snug fit. Headroom is adequate for those taller than 6 feet, but NBA stars will have to open the sunroof to drive it. Leatherette sport seats grip the driver's and passenger's hindquarters in a way that suggests the car's designers anticipate plenty of lateral acceleration. And while coupe rear seats are often only for insurance-reduction purposes, those in the 335i are surprisingly usable for shorter grown-ups. A central rear dividing console means that the 335i is only a two-plus-two, but the fact that it is a two-plus-anything is commendable. Leather seats--including a superluxurious Dakota leather package--are optional and available in a choice of three colors.
Dark burl walnut wood trim for the dash, door panels, and front and rear central consoles comes standard on the 335i, with the option of light poplar wood or brushed aluminum at no extra cost. A thin strip of wood (or aluminum) traverses the entire width of the dash, giving the cabin a wide perspective.
One of the most unique interior tech features of the 335i is its automatic seat-belt presenter--a mechanical arm that deploys to serve up the seat belt to driver and front passenger each time they enter the car. After offering the belt for about 10 seconds, the arm retracts, irrespective of whether the belt has been taken or not. We found the autopresenter a novelty, then a pain, then a useful feature: it takes some time to quell the reflex urge to reach around and grab the belt manually--a course of action that is sure to result in the belt becoming detached from the arm, and so completely out of reach. With some practice at --ahem--restraining ourselves and waiting for the autopresentation, we found the device useful as well as deliciously kitsch.
The 335i's head unit comprises a wedge-shaped panel into which is set the HVAC controls, buttons for the optional heated seats and park-distance control, and the standard single-disc CD player, which plays MP3 and WMA CDs while providing full ID3-tag information on the dot-matrix LCD display for both. We found the audio system intuitive for navigating homemade CDs: using the head unit's hard buttons, we were able to make folder and track selections, although the two-line display limited the number of tracks shown at any one time.
All 2007 BMW coupes come with a central console-mounted generic auxiliary input jack as standard, and plugging in our iPod Nano enabled us to stream songs through the BMW's audio system, although without the option to control anything other than volume via the head unit. Those looking for a more advanced iPod integration can purchase a BMW interface for iPod as a dealer installed option, which devolves total control of the iPod to the stereo buttons while displaying track and artist information and simultaneously charging the player.
The 335i comes with BMW's 13-speaker Logic7 audio system with Sirius satellite prewiring; sound quality is excellent, as one would expect with the arrangement of so many speakers in such a small space.
For models with iDrive, a pod on top of the dash houses the multipurpose LCD screen, with the distinctive dial set into the sloping central console in a similar fashion to that of the 2006 BMW M6. Navigation is the same system that we reviewed in the 2006 BMW M5 and BMW M6.
iDrive is not needed for Bluetooth hands-free phone integration, which is integrated into the BMW Assist or can be added as an a la carte option or as part of the Premium option package. Pairing a phone with the OEM hands-free rig in a car usually involves a variety of menus on the LCD screen. But since our 335i didn't have one, it was done via the much more limited alphanumeric display of the audio system. Surprisingly, it seemed easier and more intuitive. The text prompts were clearly described, in spite of the limited screen real estate, and the process worked exactly as they inferred it would. We paired our Treo 650 successfully on the first try without cracking a page of the owner's manual.
Once paired, hands-free audio performance was about what we've come to expect considering a moving car is one of the worst places to attempt a speakerphone conversation unless that car is a Bentley idling at the curb with all its windows up. That said, the BMW system was on a par with others.
Where the system did excel in use was its adoption of one of the more advanced Bluetooth profiles, which allowed portions of our Treo 650's call favorites and history to be copied into the car's memory. That meant calling one of our speed-dial numbers or returning a missed call did not require ever touching the phone; those selections are echoed on the car's display for easy execution.