Turbocharging has arrived
in the halls of BMW. We’ve already driven the new MINI Cooper S, which features
that brand’s first turbo engine. And now, the 3-Series coupe adds yet more
luster to the company’s growing pressurized lineup with the suave new 335i, as
handsome and capable as any two-door ever built in
The 335i is, until the next M3 arrives, the swiftest 3-Series coupe you can have. Though coupe-convertible and M versions are yet to arrive, it strikes us as the most visually potent coupe the company offers short of the South Carolina-made Z4, too.
And it owes much of its charm to turbocharging. It’s a great thrill to see the 335i break traction from the rear and disappear in a howl of high-spinning turbo whine. But it’s a far bigger thrill to have its six-speed manual in hand, 300 horsepower at foot, laying down an impossibly American patch of rubber without an ounce of Teutonic stuffiness to be found.
Power, and lots of it
Before you get to the choicest 3-Series coupe, two other versions will tempt you on the order sheet. A base $35,995 328i replaces the previous 325i and sports a 230-hp six-cylinder. That same engine will also be applied to the $37,795 328xi, a two-door outfitted with all-wheel drive. The same engine also slots into the sedan early next year.
Tied to a snicky, light six-speed manual, the turbo six is a rippling reminder that BMW builds some of the most sensory-pleasing engines available. Goose the gas and new nerve endings you never noted will make themselves known. Zero to 60 mph rushes by in 5.3 brief seconds. Top speed’s limited to 130 mph, but with an optional Sport package, they’ll let you have another 25 mph.
Inside, there’s more conventional 3-Series hardware, including a big dash bump-up that holds an optional navigation system. In the wrong trim colors — stark BMW black, for example — the cabin can be dark and foreboding. But lighter “Dakota” leather upholstery livens it up to Lexus brightness. And the seats themselves are beyond reproach, with firm bolsters.
In terms of safety gear, six airbags are standard on all 335is, as are stability and traction control, which can be switched off for track use or for more spirited driving without the invisible nanny patrol.
Spinning and whining, but in a good way, the 335i’s turbos spooled up our afternoon as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and hit Lucas Valley Road in search of good corners and raw cow’s milk cheese. Our coupe, outfitted with the 300-hp six and six-speed manual, cranked out perfect portions of power with smooth, progressive boost. BMW splits the turbochargers’ pressure, each manning three cylinders so that engine response is decidedly un-turbo-like.
Even from a country noted for its infatuation with precision, the 335i’s responses are striking. Steering is magnificent: clean, with ideal weight and feedback. The brakes are sure and strong, and chirping tires in deep bends pair beautifully with the six’s siren song. Ride quality and comfort is taut and near-perfect, even on fat, optional, 18-inch wheels.
You can fret over the pricetag but not over the goods delivered. Driving pleasure abounds here. The 335i is a joy to pilot and, thank the design gods, it’s even more beautiful to behold.
Base price: $41,295 (328i Coupe, $35,995; 328xi Coupe, $37,795)
3.0-liter in-line six, 300 hp/300 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 180.3 x 70.2 x 54.2 in
Wheelbase: 108.7 in
Curb weight: 3571-3582 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 19/28 mpg (manual); 20/29 mpg (automatic)
Safety equipment: Anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; front, side and curtain airbags
features: Climate control;
power windows, locks, and mirrors; 17-inch wheels with run-flat tires;
tilt/telescoping steering wheel with fingertip audio & phone controls;
eight-way power front seats; power moonroof
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles