2012 BMW 335i Sedan Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2012 BMW 335i Sedan
If the 2002 made BMW's reputation as a maker of sports sedans, the 3 Series that followed it, beginning in 1975, cemented that reputation and added luxury and prestige. 2002s were mid-market cars with performance and handling emphasized, especially in tii form; especially in the US market, the 3 was positioned a bit upscale for broader appeal. To say that that strategy succeeded is serious understatement -- since the days of the 320i, the 3-Series has been the benchmark in the compact sports-luxury class.
The sixth-generation 3-Series sedan debuts for 2012. (Coupes, convertibles, and wagons are presently unchanged.) BMW knows what it has, so made sure not to change things too much.
Externally, the styling is smoother, with a front that looks influenced by the 6-Series coupes and convertibles. The wheelbase has increased by almost two inches, translating to a noticeable improvement in rear-seat accommodations. Inside, changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Models for the US market sound familiar, with a 328i and 335i. Power for the 335i is the familiar 300-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six. The 328i has the first four-cylinder engine found in an 3-Series on this side of the Atlantic in a while, but don't think it's been de-contented. The 2.0-liter unit uses similar technology to the six to make 240 horsepower, ten more than the previous naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter six. Transmissions are a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, now offered at no extra cost.
Both models are offered in standard form or with three trim packages, Sport Line, Modern Line, and Luxury Line. Sport Line also has a firmer sport suspension tuning. And of course there are plenty of standalone options to outfit a 328 or 335 to nearly every desire.
There are some interesting new technologies in the new 3-Series, aimed at reducing fuel consumption and emissions. "EfficientDynamics" is the catch-phrase. It encompasses Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start/Stop -- automatic engine stopping when the car stops for more than a brief moment with automatic restarting when the driver's foot comes off the brake pedal or when the steering wheel is moved, electric control of auxiliary equipment including power steering and the coolant pump, and more details depending on model and equipment. There are also multiple driving modes courtesy of the Driving Dynamics Control. If this sounds like a first, tentative step towards hybrids, don't be surprised!
My test car this week is more representative of the luxury side of the 3-Series than the sport. Yes, anything with the lovely twin-turbo six won't ever be called slow. But with the automatic and a surprisingly soft suspension tuning, the Modern Line-equipped 335i is closer in demeanor to the 320i that made the "Preppie Handbook" in 1980 than it is to any M car. No foul, as the more performance-oriented buyer can specify the stick and the Sport Package and get a car that is as quick and capable as most of the older M3s. Different personalities for different personalities.
Watch TACH's exclusive BMW 335i promo video
APPEARANCE: Over the years, BMW styling has often verged on baroque. And then been simplified. The newest 3 is instantly recognizable, and not all that different from its immediate predecessor, but it's leaner and cleaner in line. The face is familiar, with the wide twin-kidney grille flanked by wide headlamps that give the impression of lidded eyes. Strong character lines on the hood and shoulders imply strength (and add rigidity) without undue over-complication, and the taillights, while still L-shaped have been subtly restyled.
COMFORT: Inside as well as out, the new 3-Series is instantly recognizable but slightly different. The driver is the focus, as evidenced by the cockpit layout. The main instruments are front and center, with audio and climate controls in the center stack tilted ever so slightly toward the driver but still well within reach of the front passenger. The console has the shifter (BMW's idiosyncratic electronic device with the automatic), the latest iteration of the iDrive controller for navigation, audio, and car systems, and a small covered compartment with connections for a iPod, USB port, and a minijack plus power point. With the Modern Line package comes "Fineline Pure" textured wood trim, definitely different. Information for all systems controlled by the iDrive is viewed on a fixed screen on top of the center of the dash, with well-marked and simple analog controls for audio and climate systems also present on the center stack.
Comfort from the power-adjustable front seats is as expected, top-notch. With surrounding marked function buttons, the iDrive system is now almost intuitive. The 3-Series rear seat used to be the penalty box. No more. It's much improved, at least for the outboard positions as the high central tunnel precludes any adult from the middle -- but the BMW is hardly alone there as the same can be said of most competitors. Trunk space is good, and improved a bit by the lack of a spare tire as the standard tires are runflats.
SAFETY: The new BMW 3-Series helps protect its passengers with a Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that includes Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by, and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC). That all operated through four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with antilock, Dynamic Brake Control, and Cornering Brake Control systems. And of course there are the usual airbags and safety structures.
RIDE AND HANDLING: No information on structural changes, but this is one solid car. The suspension follows BMW practice, fully-independent with double-pivot struts in front and a five-link system in the rear. The longer wheelbase and softer standard suspension tuning make it more of a luxury sedan and less of a sports sedan than earlier versions, at least in Modern or Luxury spec. The Driving Dynamics Control switch on the console does seem to firm the damping a bit in Sport.
PERFORMANCE: The engine is the 300-horsepower (at 5800 rpm) twin-cam alloy N54 inline six familiar from earlier 335i models. Two small turbos, one for each three cylinders, are used, for faster response to load demands, with further benefits coming from direct fuel injection, air-to-air intercooling, and the continuously-variable "VANOS" cam phasing on both camshafts and use of the patented "valvetronic" variable valve lift system ensure fast but civilized throttle response and clean, efficient power. With 300 lb-ft of torque developed between 1300 and 5000 rpm, there is no need to press the engine to redline for maximum acceleration. The eight-speed automatic is new, with a wide spread of gear ratios that seem meant more for fuel efficiency than maximum acceleration, understandable with worldwide efficiency and emissions regulations. Also new is the automatic stop/start feature, which may save a bit of fuel at stoplights and in traffic. It's noticeable, and a bit jerky, and can be defeated by putting the shift lever in "sport automatic" mode if a quick start is needed, as in some traffic situations. Also new are multiple driving modes of the Driving Dynamics Control system. "Comfort" is the default, with normal throttle response. Sport sharpens throttle response and defeats the auto-stop system, while Eco Pro dulls throttle response and reduces operation of air conditioning and other energy-using systems. Interestingly, despite all that my mileage for the week, at 22 mpg, was nearly identical to what I got in a previous-generation automatic 335i convertible.
CONCLUSIONS: There's a new 3-Series to keep BMW one step ahead of the competition.
2012 BMW 335i Sedan
Base Price $ 42,400 Price As Tested $ 54,070 Engine Type aluminum alloy DOHC 24-valve inline 6-cylinder with twin turbochargers, intercooling, direct fuel injection, Double-VANOS stepless cam phasing, and Valvetronic electronic valve lift control Engine Size 3.0 liters / 182 cu. in. Horsepower 300 @ 5800 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 300 @ 1300-5000 rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 110.6 in. / 182.5 in. Curb Weight 3594 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 12 Fuel Capacity 15.8 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline Tires P225/45 R18 91V Goodyear Efficient Grip runflat Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, ABS,DSC standard Suspension, front/rear independent double-pivot strut / independent 5-link Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 23 / 33 / 22 0 to 60 mph 5.4 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Imperial Blue Metallic paint $ 550 Modern Line package -- includes: sports leather steering wheel, 18" "Turbine" alloy wheels, fine-wood trim "Fineline Pure", highlight trim finishers pearl $ 1,400 Parking Package -- includes: rear-view camera, park distance control, side and top-view cameras $ 1,550 Premium Package -- includes: universal garage door opener, comfort access keyless entry, auto-dimming mirrors $ 1,900 Premium Sound Package -- includes: Harman-Kardon surround sound, satellite radio with 1-year subscription $ 950 Technology Package -- includes: navigation system, head-up display $ 2,550 Split fold-down rear seat $ 475 Heated front seats $ 500 BMW Asst w/enhanced BT and USB $ 650 BMW Apps $ 250 Destination charge $ 895