2009 BMW 335i Sedan w/ M Sport Package
THE LINES OF THE E90 BMW 3-Series are familiar to everyone. It is the aspirational car for the upwardly mobile, its badge a symbol of middle-class success.
There's a good reason for the BMW's popularity that goes far beyond brand image however.
The simple truth is that the BMW 3-Series is, and has been since 1975, the definitive rising-executive’s sports saloon. And though the fifth-generation of the 3-Series may be a little fatter, bigger, and more expensive than its predecessors, it remains the benchmark for the sector.
The 335i sedan, like the 335i Touring we had on test a month or so back, carries a couple of non-traditional BMW items which move performance from brisk to shattering. These being the twin-turbos attached to that gloriously eager 3.0 litre six-cylinder engine.
BMW, it might not be widely known, has used turbo-charging technology since it first started out with the 3-Series in the early 1970s. A short while after though, it all-but abandoned the technology for its sports-oriented passenger car range, using it only for the odd diesel model or concept car.
Being the top 3-Series model (apart from the stratospheric M3), the 335i should be – you would think - the epitome of what this model can be. We tested it for a week to find out if it met our expectations.
Who can complain of style with purposeful lines like these? The 2009 BMW 335i in our care was simply gorgeous to look at.
The latest styling changes for the face-lifted models may be minor but most agree that they have improved the car’s lines and balance. With fat rubber sitting on guards-filling alloys, a deep low front spoiler and twin rear pipes, there is a nice athletic menace to the 335i.
While the furore over the Bangle-revolution at BMW peaked some time ago, there is still a little negative sentiment that occasionally gets an airing when it comes to new, flame-surfaced BMWs.
But surely few could find fault with the handsome lines of ‘our’ 335i. Of course, it didn't hurt that the test vehicle had BMW's M Sport package, devised by its famed in-house 'M Division' tuners.
The M Sport package provides the extra visual muscle to match the grunt the 335i is packing under the bonnet.
The 'M Aerodynamic Package' (basically some go-faster bits that make the car appear lower and meaner) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, M Sport suspension, an M Sport multi-function steering wheel, and classy 'M' logos on the door sills.
To any eyes, the lines of the 335i work. It looks what it is: a premium sporting saloon for the keen driver.
The interior of the 335i is accompanied with all the standard BMW fare - leather seats, polished wood accents, and a generally pleasant yet clinical atmosphere.
But while clinical, the layout is functional and appealing, and only the fussiest of drivers will have trouble getting comfortable in the 335i's sporty seats. If wood trim is a little old-fashioned for you, the M Sport package offers the option of Anthracite Silver instead.
Functionally, the centre armrest that runs up into the centre console stack is where most of the action is.
The shift lever for the six-speed auto is placed perfectly at hand there for rapid manual shifting; as are the steering wheel paddles – upshifts with the finger tips, pressing with the thumbs for downshifts.
The iDrive system’s controller is located just behind the gear lever and doesn’t get in the way when not being used. As we have noted in earlier reviews, BMW’s iDrive is now vastly improved for simple operation. Using it now, you wonder how anyone could ever have found it difficult to fathom.
The thick leather M-sport multi-function steering wheel feels solid, superbly connected to what’s happening below, and inspires confidence for rapid point-to-point driving. It’s fitted with Bluetooth, audio controls, and voice-control buttons - all intuitive and simple to use.
Our only gripe with the interior was the infuriating lack of decent-sized storage space within the cabin itself - the usually detail-obsessed engineers from Munich seem to have left the 335i oddly lacking in this department.
No complaints about the boot however which offers 450 litres of cargo space. (And, hinged ingeniously within the boot channel, it doesn’t have hinges hanging into the luggage space.)
I suppose that if we were to be especially picky, we'd ask BMW if it would have been too difficult to include some drilled metal pedals for the accelerator and brake, rather than the standard black rubber facings.
Equipment and Features
As the top spec model in the 3-Series range, the 335i comes with a long list of standard features - nothing short of what you'd expect for the over $107,000 asking price.
(To that price, add almost $5,000 for the M Sport package of the test car.)
For all that cash you get standard leather seats, xenon lights with automatic function, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, ten-speaker audio, and electric seats.
The 335i also gets the iDrive infotainment system as standard, complete with its 8.8-inch display in the centre console.
iDrive may have been slammed by auto journalists for years, but it’s latest iterations make it a joy to use. A particularly handy improvement is the addition of buttons just above the main iDrive controller to take you directly to the navigation and audio screens.
The high-resolution display shows maps in crisp detail and has the usual options for 2D and 3D, as well as night mode.
We also liked the split-screen display that allows you to have the track list for the CD player on one half of the screen and navigation on the other.
The new entertainment system comes integrated with an 80 GB hard disc drive - which incidentally allows you to store up to 8 GB of audio files from CD or USB devices.
There's also voice recognition and a TV tuner (optional), although you do have to be parked to watch your favourite shows.
Also standard is automatic climate-control air-conditioning, an on-board computer, and Bluetooth connectivity. We were not so taken with the air-conditioning which we found struggled a bit on a few un-seasonably hot Sydney days (it may have been a foible with our tester).
There are other nifty features on the 335i though like the 'welcome' lights that illuminate the door handles when you unlock the car (helping avoid any embarrassing fumbling around in the dark).
Safety, as is the case with all modern BMW's, is absolutely top notch. ANCAP awards the entire 3-Series range a 5-Star rating. There is a plethora of airbags as standard, including dual front airbags, side airbags and head-protecting side curtains.
ABS, EBD and electronic stability control are also standard.
If there's one thing about the BMW 335i that is going to impress everyone, it's not the price tag, nor the looks - it's the stonking twin-turbo 3.0 litre six-cylinder beast that resides under the bonnet.
Connected to a phenomenal six-speed automatic transmission, that straight-six engine is packing a hefty 225kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
All that torque is available from as low as 1300rpm, giving the 335i the kind of pulling power you might expect to find in a performance V8 or powerful diesel. And while the 335i's kerb weight of 1550kg doesn’t exactly make it a featherweight, the kilos disappear the moment you plant the right foot.
It has instant throttle response, phenomenal pick-up, and makes an absolutely gorgeous sound once revs start to rise.
The transmission is a clever six-speed automatic 'box with a twist. To underline the performance character of the car, BMW has included some features to provide a little more fun out on the road - such as throttle blips when downshifting and the ability to hold the car in gear when powering out of a corner.
Technologically it may not be as impressive as the latest dual-clutch gearboxes, but in practice it works so well you’d be hard-pressed to find fault with its operation.
Similarly, the suspension set-up is tuned more for sporting intents than absolute comfort. This is especially the case in our M Sport package-fitted car. The suspension package has it sitting flatter for sharper turn-in and faster cornering, and a little harder.
With rear-wheel-drive, perfect 50:50 weight distribution and sports-suspension, the 335i is clearly targeted to the spirited driver. It is quite impossible to spend time at the wheel without appreciating its superb driving dynamics.
Despite the expectations of the 335i as a baby M3, there is a little of ‘Dr Jeckle and Mr Hyde’ to its character. It can be devastatingly quick, but also demure and refined when required.
It is actually easy to live with as an everyday commuter. It’s comfortable, easily parked (with a surprisingly tight turning circle), and the adaptive shift-mapping adjusts to the driving conditions.
Getting into the car can be a little tight for taller drivers (I’m 183cm), but once settled in, you are immediately aware this is a very special car. Everything to touch feels ‘right’, the leathers are superbly matched, and all round, premium quality trim abounds with superbly executed and understated design.
And when you fire up the fire-breathing six, you cannot fail to feel a rising tinge of excitement.
The simple fact is that the 335i is an exhilarating driving experience.
The steering has that unmistakable BMW feel about it – ‘solid’ would be the right word to describe it - but very responsive and precise. Coupled with the fantastic M-Sport suspension, and the 50:50 weight distribution, the 335i is quite simply one of the best handling luxury sports saloons we've had our hands on.
Sure, some of the jarring potholes around Sydney can be a bit of a chore with the 335i’s firm-ish suspension, but all of that is forgotten as soon as you take your first corner. Then, the nose dives in, the steering tells you everything that's going on below, and the rising high-pitched bellow of the engine will make your neck-hairs rise.
In standard driving mode the 335i is plenty quick. Flick the gear lever into 'DS' sports mode however, and you’ve got a completely new car.
Not only does it transform throttle response from mild-mannered to something altogether more sinister, but the transmission holds gears out of corners (and downshifts more aggressively into them), scorching to the redline depending upon the pressure you’re exerting with the right foot.
From a standing start, you can see 100km/h in just 5.8 seconds. If you have a long enough stretch of private road, the 335i will bolt to a governed 250km/h top speed.
In fact, the BMW-quoted 5.8s time feels a little slow to us. Though we lack the sophisticated timing gear necessary, we wouldn’t be surprised if the 335i actually did it a little quicker.
Jumping on the brakes is another pleasurable experience. Pedal feel is progressive, and the stopping power below inspires confidence for swift motoring. (Not to mention BMW's well-sorted ABS system that doesn't cut in too early to spoil the driving fun.)
The Michelin runflat tyres also seem to be much better than the first generation of runflats, which could ruin the ride of a perfectly good BMW.
The latest tyres are still suited to a sporting ride but are far less unforgiving on broken surfaces than those released in 2005, when this generation of 3-Series hit the market.
We were always expecting the 335i to be a capable performer on road. It is, quite simply, a brilliant high-performance drive.
But as our earlier week in a 335i Touring revealed, it is also an adaptable and pleasantly refined commuter.
Sure, the suspension is a little firmer than most, even when kept in normal 'Drive' mode, but the premium accommodation, interior features and comfortable seating make the 335i an easily enjoyed everyday car.
You can also fit two adults in the back; even three if your passengers don't mind sharing the shoulder-room.
In all, the 2009 BMW 335i is a compelling vehicle.
A stunning engine, impressive gearbox and downright sublime handling make it one of the most capable and desirable executive sedans on the market.
The high price of entry will be a hurdle for some, but the 335i makes a strong case with its dynamic capabilities, exclusivity and long list of standard features.
- Good balance of comfort and sportiness
- Cutting edge in-car technology
- One of the best engines money can buy
- Lack of interior storage space
- Pricey compared to base model 3-series
- Can only really fit four adults comfortably