In short, it looks good, and--as we found out in the Comfort section--it comes with a lot of nice-to-have cabin gadgets. But the 2007 BMW 335i's real raison d'être is its driving experience, and gripping its thick, three-spoke leather-bound steering wheel confirms your suspicions that you could have been a racing driver had you been given the breaks.
Eyebrows were undoubtedly raised across the auto world when BMW announced that its new coupe would be the first piece of Bavarian Motor Work in a generation to incorporate a turbocharger. Concerns about turbo lag and poor fuel economy have meant that forced induction is a rare commodity outside of diesel cars nowadays. But the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder 335i is designed to minimize the two classic pitfalls in two ways. To counter turbo lag, the use of twin turbos with low pressure thresholds in combination with the 335i's wide torque bands (peak torque of 3000 pounds per foot is available from 1,400 to 5,000rpm) means that the car does not rely heavily on turbo boost to attain top-end performance. Secondly, the incorporation of direct high-pressure fuel injection using recently developed piezo injectors gives the 335i an increased 2to 3 percent fuel savings and 20 percent fewer emissions. BMW's double VANOS variable valve timing system also comes standard on the 335i, further enhancing performance and reducing emissions.
If this all sounds good on paper, it sounds even better when installed behind the wheel. We took our manual 335i tester on a spirited spin up the coast of Northern California, and we have to admit to being suitably impressed. Our manual tester was equipped with the optional Sports package (18-inch alloy wheels, run-flat tires, power lumbar support, and an increased limited top speed of 155mph); and speed-sensitive power steering to give us all the performance available. Excepting one occasion on which we pushed the car past its 7,000rpm redline (whoops), the 335i handed everything we threw at it and every bend that we threw it into.
The 335i's wide torque bands meant that it delivered admirable pick-up in almost any gear, although howling all the way through second was by far our favorite maneuver. We had read all BMW's marketing guff about the absence of turbo lag and set out with a critical eye to disprove it. However, the marketeers seem to have been telling the truth: aside from the odd sporadic twitch when pushing the gears into high revs, which could have been the variable valve timing kicking in, we have to report that turbo performance in the 335i is , if not seamless, then very smooth indeed.
One point of mild criticism we do have is the tendency of the manual shifter to resist engagement on occasion--particularly when changing into our favored second gear. We found repeatedly that we had to row the shifter back and forth to get it through the gate, to the detriment of our driving flow.
BMW has tweaked the design of the 335i to ensure an exact 50:50 front/ rear weight distribution, even putting the battery in the trunk--check. Tracking into the bends was flawless, and with sport-tuned aluminum front double pivot- and five-link rear suspension as standard, the 355i's handling was so precise that we felt like taking the traction control off just to see if we could make the car misbehave. Had we done so, we could have still relied on the 335i's all-round ventilated disc brakes with brake fade compensation to ensure snappy, linear deceleration.
The EPA has yet to rate the 335i for fuel economy: in our exuberant 200-mile drive, we clocked an average of just less than 20mpg, which was surprisingly high.
We always put safety last in our reviews, but it was firmly at the front of our minds when larruping the 335i through the winding mountain roads of Marin County. Most of the systems working to keep drivers of the 335i on the road are hidden to those in the cabin: dynamic stability control, electronic brake proportioning, ABS, dynamic brake control, dynamic traction control, and hill- descent control are all standard.
Other standard safety gear on the 335i includes adaptive Xenon headlights (which swivel according to the car's steering angle), cornering lights (an angled beam at each front corner to help visibility in large steering angles), and adaptive brake lights, which increase in brightness based on the intensity of the brake force applied.
Optional active safety features on the 335i are active (or adaptive) cruise control and park-distance control, both of which come as a la carte options. BMW Assist, which provides roadside assistance and other customer-service and in-car telematics, is also available as a stand-alone option.
Passive safety comprises front seat-belt tensioners and force limiters, front- and rear-seat side-impact head-protection systems, and BMW's advanced crash safety management that deploys safety systems when needed.
Front passengers get dual-threshold front-impact airbags and seat-mounted side-impact airbags. The 335i has yet to be rated by the NHTSA for impact and rollover safety.
It comes with BMW's 4 years/50,000 miles warranty and a 12-year/unlimited-mile limited rust protection.