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2009 BMW 335d Review

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2009 BMW 335d

2009 BMW 335d

I forget the name of the movie. It's one of those classic `30s B-movie horror films, starring Bela Lugosi as an evil Transylvanian count, preying on unfortunate travelers looking for lodging on a dark and stormy night. The memorable line from the movie is "Tooooooorrrture, I looooooove tooooooorrrrture!" Hold the "o" long, and roll those "rrrrrr"s with your best bad movie transylvanian accent.

In regard to this week's test car, I'd like to paraphrase that. Torque, I love torque. Now say it like Bela: toooooooorrrque, I looooooove tooooooorrrque!

Because we're talking about the BMW 335d, with 425 lb-ft of torque. That's more than the 295 lb-ft of the M3's 4.0-liter, 414-horsepower V8. And very nearly the 450 of the 750i's 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8. In the 335d, it's from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel.

And that 335d is not only capable of going from 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds, it's also quite capable of returning nearly 40 mpg on the highway -- at real highway speeds, not a simulated 55 mph -- as I discovered during my week with it. Between those extremes, it has the handling, ride, and joyful driving experience that give BMW's 3-Series its well-deserved reputation.

And yes, diesel sports sedan is no oxymoron. Want performance and great fuel economy? And low emissions? Go clean diesel.

My first experience with BMW's lovely 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel was in the newest version of the X5 sport-activity vehicle. There, it provided energetic acceleration and commendable fuel economy. It's even better in the 1400-lb lighter 335d sedan.

The keys to taming Dr. Diesel's compression-ignition engine are, unsurprisingly, similar to what has been done to make the spark-ignition engine run cleaner and more efficiently in the past 40 years. On the intake side, precise fuel metering is possible because of an ultra high-pressure (26,000 psi!) common-rail electronic, not mechanical, direct-injection system with piezo-electric injectors. Aftertreatment is by an oxidation catalyst placed close to the engine, with a particulate filter to remove soot, and an SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) catalyst with urea injection in the form of a liquid called "AdBlue". While AdBlue is a consumable, in normal operation its tank should be refilled at regular scheduled service times. Finally, diesel fuel itself has been changed, with ultra-low sulfur fuel being the equivalent of unleaded gasoline, and required for operation of the aftertreatment systems. Result? In the 335d, a 50-state legal fuel-sipping torque monster.

BMW's newest, and cleanest, diesel is the star, but performance is balanced, and there are important updates to all of the 3-Series sedans, coupes, and wagons for 2009. The 3-Series is the acclaimed benchmark in the compact sports-luxury sedan class, and the target for all competitors. Unfortunately for them, it's a moving target. Besides the new diesel, the 3-Series gets the usual mid-product cycle changes this year, including exterior freshening and interior enhancements, including a much-improved iDrive electronics control system and hard disc storage of navigation data and music.

My introduction to the 335d was at a journalists' track event. The track in question has a steep hill, and of all the cars I drove, including some with very high horsepower, the 335d had the best drive up that hill. No surprise, given that 425 lb-ft. More recently, I spent a week at home with the car. It has all of the goodness of any 3-Series sedan plus mileage that can make a few midsize hybrids jealous. Without trying for maximum economy, I got 37 to 39 plus on the highway, 20 to 25 around town, and 26 in spirited backroad driving. With no loss of driving enjoyment.

APPEARANCE: While the 3-Series shape is unchanged, detail changes add a sportier character to all models. The front fascia features a larger intake below the twin-kidney grille, and sculpted accent lines. The hood's "power bulge" is more defined, and the headlights, while still traditionally round and under lidded plastic fairings, have been revised. At the sides, more-pronounced sills visually lower the car. LED taillights and a redesigned trunk lid are featured at the rear. The 335d is distinguishable only by its badging.

COMFORT: The biggest change inside the 2009 3-Series is to the optional iDrive controller. Now in its fourth generation, the originally-cryptic little knob has sprouted well-marked "direct selection" buttons around its base that allow toggling between navigation, audio, and information systems quickly and easily. A split-screen display adds further convenience. Still, even though the 3-Series can be had with all of the modern electronic conveniences, they do not overpower the car's function as a car. This is good, from a performance-driving viewpoint. And for that, firmly comfortable seats (here leather-covered and power-adjustable), a manually-adjustable tilt-and-telescope multifunction steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, and very good visibility make the 3-Series the perfect office for fast, safe driving. Further conveniences in my test car included heating of the steering wheel and front seats and a 60/40 folding rear seat as part of the Cold Weather Package, the navigation system and iDrive controller, Sirius satellite radio, and an iPod/USB adapter in the front console box. Cupholders are an afterthought -- Germans don't drink and drive. This is a car, not a cafe... The rear seat holds two people comfortably, as is typical of most small or even mid-sized sedans, and the trunk is more than adequate.

SAFETY: BMW 3-Series cars are built with a strong, rigid unibody structure designed for passenger protection and controlled deformation in the unfortunate event of a crash. Dual-stage front, seat-mounted front side, and full-length head curtain air bags are standard in all sedans and wagons. Active front head restraints are new this year, standard equipment for protection in rear-end collisions. First-rate handling response and acceleration, and four-wheel vented antilock disc brakes and a full suite of electronic safety aids including Dynamic Stability Control, Brake Fade Compensation, Start-Off Assistant, Brake Drying, Brake Standby, and Dynamic Traction Control systems are standard in the 335d, as are bright Xenon headlamps.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Even with the standard calibration of its fully-independent double-pivot strut front, multilink rear suspension, the 335d is oriented toward covering distance quickly, efficiently, and safely. It's firm, but not unduly so, and quite comfortable. If the steering effort seems higher than in some front-wheel drive cars, it's appropriate to the 3's performance and handling characteristics and abilities. BMW figured out how to make a sports sedan with the debut of the 1600-2 in 1966, refined that with the 2002 of 1968, added a dollop of luxury with the first 3-Series in the mid-1970s, and has refined the formula ever since. And it's always been a step ahead of the competition.

PERFORMANCE: With a modern diesel like that in the 335d, performance is not sacrificed to economy, or low emissions. Torque is the twisting force that moves the wheels, and the 425 lb-ft produced by the 335d's 3.0-liter engine between 1750 and 2250 rpm is stronger than that of many a much-larger V8. Above those engine speeds horsepower takes over, and with 265 maximum at 4200 rpm there is no deficiency. The inline six is unusual for a diesel in that its block and head are made of lightweight aluminum alloy instead of the more common (for diesels) cast iron. Dual overhead camshafts operate four valves per cylinder, and twin sequential turbochargers, a smaller one optimized for low-rpm operation and a larger one that takes over at higher revs, further help the 3.0-liter engine provide smooth, clean, quiet power. The six-speed automatic transmission is a good match for the engine's output. While it can be manually shifted, there is no real need, even in performance driving, as with the amount of torque involved shifting is not going to need to happen often. "D" works just fine in everyday use, with "S" sport mode, which holds lower gears longer for more acceleration if less fuel economy, is perfect for more enthusiastic driving. And with 26mpg over my favorite local back road in S, I won't complain. On the track, S was fine, with no ill-behaved shifting. Out in the real world, if you need to pass slower traffic or merge into fast highway traffic from a short onramp, no worries. Just an immense push and you're there.

CONCLUSIONS: The BMW 335d has a fine combination of high performance and high mileage.

2009 BMW 335d

Base Price			$ 43,900
Price As Tested			$ 52,820
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve aluminum
				 alloy turbodiesel with common-rail
				 direct fuel injection
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower			265 @ 4200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			425 @ 1750 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		108.7 in. / 178.8 in.
Curb Weight			3825 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.4
Fuel Capacity			16.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement		ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel
Tires				P225/45R17 91H Bridgestone Turanza EL42
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double-pivot /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		23 / 36 / 30
0 to 60 mph				6.0  sec

Cold Weather Package - includes: 
  heated steering wheel and front seats, fold-down rear seat, 
  retractable headlight washers					$ 1,150
Premium Package - includes:
  universal garage door opener, digital compass mirror,
  auto-dimming mirrors, lumbar support, BMW Assist		$ 2,650
Comfort Access System						$   500
Park Distance Control						$   700
iPod and USB adapter						$   400
Navigation System						$ 2,100
Satellite radio with 1-year subscription			$   595
Destination charge						$   825