Tested: BMW 335i - The Sleeper
Author: HAILEY PHILANDER
I had no idea where I was driving. Somewhere in the Free State, I surmised. I wasn’t particularly bothered, either way.
I had passed nothing in kilometres, I could see nothing for kilometres ahead of me. Life in the fast (and only lane) was good. Except for the silly pigeon that was sunning itself on the welcomingly warm tar surface and completely oblivious to the BMW, weighing up to two tonnes, hurtling toward it.
I wanted to believe that the bird had made a quick getaway although the flurry of feathers seen in my rear view mirror (and the later extrication of a severed wing and more feathers from the grille) suggested otherwise. I wailed for the baby bird that had quite possibly lost his or her mum or dad on some unknown road, while my companion gleefully used the episode to demonstrate why humans will never be ruled by birds. But I digress.
The pulverising of the pigeon really was the first and only time I felt sad in the 335i.
Never mind that the Proudly South African sedan is built in sweet, industrial Rosslyn outside Pretoria, this is arguably the most complete model in the F30 range.
Need space? The 335i has it in abundance. The car runs on a wheelbase that is 50mm longer than the E90’s, it has an overall length extended by 93mm and the front and rear track are wider by 37mm and 47mm, respectively. The added space is definitely palpable, particularly where elbow and knee room for those on the rear bench is concerned.
Is comfort the key? Not a problem there, either. Just because this is a sportier variant in the range, with a little help from its boosted straight-six, doesn’t make the 335i uncomfortable in the least. Even at speed, the ride is comfortably firm and noise levels within the cabin of the unit tested were astonishingly low and very refined.
The 335i came fitted with BMW’s Driving Experience Control with four driving/suspension settings ranging from the super-athletic Sports Plus to super green Eco Pro. Honestly, for the regular suburban trips, the Eco Pro mode was my preferred setting. It tempers the accelerator’s response so that the 335i behaves less obnoxiously in (im)polite, suburban environments, but I had the most fun watching the fuel “saved” indicator when pottering along among the Hyundais and Toyotas.
Watch the “savings” disappear on a stretch of fun, though.
FAMILIAR ENGINE, TIGHTER BODY
Something that was easily achieved by the 335i – it does, after all, get its impetus from the celebrated TwinPower turbocharged inline six-cylinder with 225kW and 400Nm on tap. A stunning eight-speed automatic transmission is standard on the 335i, which combines for mostly effortless power delivery, no matter where on the rev counter you may be fiddling; peak torque, amusingly, kicks in from a diesel-like 1200rpm.
Of course one doesn’t shell out on a performance model such as the 335i and not expect to at least twist things out on the occasion, right? And this model is only to happy to oblige with a growl and a kick, even in the default Comfort mode. Sports or Sports Plus modes see the ride firm up noticeably, the steering tighten and more fizz generated beneath your right foot.
A great help in achieving this with all the poise that seems inherent in this model is the new 3 Series body that benefits from a number of radical changes. For one, with its use of different steel and alloy combinations, the F30’s chassis and body are 50% stiffer than the E90’s, while the wider tracks also contribute to this sportier sedan. And while its overall dimensions have also increased, it’s also comforting to know BMW’s signature 50/50 weight distribution remains in place – useful when combined with the turbocharged straight-six’s tireless work ethic.
RACY RED ACCENTS
But, hard as it may seem, the 335i is not only about the potency of its engine, it also happens to be the perfect canvas on which to show off BMW’s new look for its bread-and-butter range, inspired as it has been by the bigger 7, 6 and 5 Series. I admit the styling took some time to settle on my sensitive constitution; I found the biggest visual change – the headlights – to be striking but slightly jarring on the first few glances while the L-shaped design of the rear light clusters was, for me, at first a bit too similar to that of the 5 Series.
Given the 335i’s cachet, it was perhaps also fitting that the test car was finished in the Sport Line specification trim that added the requisite racy red accents – think crimson-tipped fascia, red stitching for the door, seat and steering wheel trim and red-rimmed instrument dials matching the red of the key fob.
Despite the promise of the red accents on the 335i finished in the Sport Line, it’s no secret why the 320i and new 328i are the stand-out (sales) performers in the new range. Those with rands to spare (335i prices start at R543 000), a family to cart about and the occasional need for decent speed could do a lot worse than a 335i.