BUILT FOR THE FAST LANE
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Thu, Feb 8, 2007
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
BUILT FOR THE FAST LANE
By JOHN GRAFMAN
Barreling down the down the straight at Willow Springs Racetrack, I have just a moment to glimpse down at the speedo. The needle is sweeping quickly past 120. This is my first lap of the day in a car I have never driven before. A seasoned pro on the track I'm not. Nevertheless, I manage to spend a day on the fastest track in the west about once a year. On a sun soaked late fall day, the BMW 335 puts in an absolute rock solid performance. The behavior is confidence inspiring. Unbelievably, we get to experience a true rarity these days: A car that lives up to the marketing campaign's bravado.
As mesmerizing as the thin indicator on the speedometer is, I need to focus on how quickly the next turn is coming up. A second at the velocity I'm hurtling along at covers nearly 200 feet a second! It is virtually impossible on the track to get a bead on your own speed. At max speed, all this driver's attention is zeroed in on the moment in which brakes should be applied in order to keep all wheels on the historic track.
On a track, the sounds produced by the twin turbo six is pure rapture. A fondness for an eight is on the mind of diehards, but those that bring this in-line six into triple-digit velocity will be captivated. The tone isn't ultra bass, or a high pitch whine. This is something in between and rather enticing.
The shifting is slicker than slick with the paddle shifters. The rocker, toggle action isn't as idiot-proof as some other brands. But it's not due to how the transmission is engineered; it's due to the driver's predisposition. On most cars, the set-up is left paddle for downshifting and the right for upshifting. BMW approaches the changing of gears by tugging on the large, contoured rear paddle on either left or right side to upshift. Depressing the smaller button on either side again will downshift. It sounds simple enough, but my brain is already pre-programmed for the aforementioned version. This isn't to say BMW's solution doesn't work flawlessly, because it does. I simply find the other layout easier to become accustom to. One aspect that takes little time to adjust to is the instant shifting. Just by the good old fashion seat of the pants barometer I believe this is one of the quickest shifters I have the pleasure of using. If the normal shift points are merely very stimulating, try the sport shift pattern. The feel is sheer dominance over everything else.
It is difficult to live up to a legendary benchmark status, even if you created it . This is the dilemma BMW faces every time they introduce a new product. The 335 not just meets the legendary reputation set by BMW sport sedans, it exceeds it. The ultra in-control feeling that radiates by virtue of the stay glued-to-the-track tires and compliant suspension are ego boosters, as are the earth-stopping brakes. Even when hauling the BMW back in from what feels like the outside of the envelope, the car is always composed. And when the car remains so composed, the driver is too. Ultimately (I promised myself I wouldn't use that word in this article), the driver can push the Bavarian harder - not by just false confidence, but actually by better driving habits. The focus becomes how well one can execute a turn as opposed to can I make the turn! A few days with this car can improve the abilities of most people I know.
If anyone had any doubt about just how smooth a turbo powered car is, stand up and make yourself known. Once and for all, BMW eradicates any and all concerns as to refinement and performance of a layout in connection with the 300 horsepower six-cylinder engine. While only time will tell as to how long the little twin turbos last, if they are as well engineer for durability as they are for performance, the typical buyer doesn't need to up their towing coverage with the automobile club. On the other hand, what owner of a car like this isn't going to push the car hard and heavy at every chance possible? The manufacturer claims a tick under 5.5 for 0-60 mph with the automatic, and the manual will shave another .2 seconds off of that. Giving the pedal the boot, I say the factory might be on the conservative side in the numbers game.
As fun as the track is, it's more like fantasyland for most normal humans. The badlands of the 5, 10, 101, and 405 are where most of us waste away. Does the 335 have something to offer the commuter? Surprisingly, yes. Often, cars that kick ass on the track, can wind up kicking the driver's ass on the street. Harsh is not in the vocabulary of the BMW. The suspension with double-pivot-type front suspension and five-link rear can easily absorb shocks and bumps with grace. The sound is never a crashing of the suspension struts, but rather a refined thump or drum that feels tighter than one has the right to expect. As a matter of fact, the chassis feels so sound and tight it is hard to believe that this isn't harsh over irregular roadway - but that isn't the case.
Distinction in design creates a reason to choose a coupe over a four-door sedan. The flow of a longer door with a B-pillar that is farther to the rear looks more graceful. Adding a sportier flair is the redesigned hood and front that is more aggressive in appearance. These changes and wider tires contribute to a slightly higher drag co-efficient. An incrementally higher drag number won't make too much difference to most, however all appreciate the beautiful bodywork.
Is this the perfect car? Indeed, this drives like a dream. However, it leaves a small margin for improvement, namely iDrive. Yikes, this is one pain in the butt system. In an office, or on the designer's computer, this might look like the perfect solution. iDrive promises greater features and less clutter in the cabin. It does deliver on its promise. While driving, however, it's very hard to accomplish a task on the iDrive screen when a few seconds means covering a distance the length of a football field. Not only is it difficult, it raises the question of safety. While messing with the unit, my peripheral vision tells me I'm drifting into a vacant lane. Looking up after fiddling with the audio system controls, I find myself unintentionally in the carpool lane, oops!
On that note, the audio is really vibrant and is as loud as the car is fast. The bass booms a bit too much and could be just a hair less punchy, but it is far better than many others in delivering mega jet levels of earsplitting music clearly. On the subject of loud, the HVAC system has a tendency to be a bit vocal, in contrast to how quiet the car is otherwise. Cup holders? Forget about it. I think this is some sort of European thing. The placement of the center holder is too far rearward to use properly and then it renders the armrest useless. Argh! The holders that pop from a slot in the dash are perhaps fine for a car that doesn't corner with such gusto, but they fail to build my confidence that the coffee won't fly everywhere including on many electronic components on the dash and the center console. This just seems like a recipe for disaster.
All right, I can look past the flaws, as the interior is beyond reproach in terms of design and beauty. The sculpted forms are flowing and integrated nicely. The seats are super sweet, especially with the adjustable side bolsters - keeping the body locked in snug. Even little details like the passenger side grab handle on the door is like art. The twisting form is commented upon by all as a blend of both function and style. The wood trim finish on the center console is less than perfect, exhibiting some irregularities on the surface - but it might be just this particular vehicle.
In the coupe, the seatbelts are presented to the front occupants via a power assist on the B-pillars that for all the world reminds me of the protruding jaws of the creatures in the Alien sci-fi pictures. The seats fold forward to allow easy access to the rear by pulling up on a lever on the top shoulder of the seats. Mercedes uses this same lever, and most people can't find it. It seems even simple and elegant solutions can't alter the public's reflex action hunting for a seat bottom release for the seats. Oh well, what can you do? Once in the rear, there is decent roominess for this class of car. The center portion isn't available to a third person with a console of sorts built in. It really isn't as useful as one likes having to give up the additional room - if not for a third person, as least to provide added room. Touches like the limited seating further differentiate the coupe from the sedan
While the cabin is fitted with the finest materials, less attention is given to the aft storage. The sparse finish is notably shy of the Lexus IS. Of course, if you have to suffer in one area, I think we can all agree that it be in the trunk.
Day-after-day, the BMW 335 proves itself as class leader. What the car can't outperform in the numbers department it can slaughter in overall satisfaction. I had my time on the track and the street, and it wasn't enough. I want more. I suppose in building a car as dominating as this, keeping the car out of triple digit territory on the public roads will be the real challenge facing the drivers of the 335.
Find out more at www.bmwusa.com
An amazing drive that raises the bar up a notch or two for sport sedans, but a less complicated version for purists would hit the nail on the head.
Price: Base $40,600, as tested $49,195
Engine type: Twin Turbo 3-litre Inline 6, DOHC, 4 valves/cylinder, Aluminum block with cast iron cylinder liners, Fuel injection, double VANOS variable valve timing
EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 20/29
Horsepower: 300 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 300 lb.-ft @ 1,400 - 5,000 rpm
Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive
Transmission type: ZF 6 HP 19 TU 6-speed automatic with "Steptronic" sequential shifting feature with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters
Suspension: Front: Struts, double-pivot lower arms, coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, tubular anti-roll bar, aluminum lower arms, steering knuckles & subframe; sport suspension calibration
Rear: 5-link system, coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, tubular anti-roll bar
Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 18 x 8.0 , 225/40/18 W-speed rated Rear: 18 x 8.5, 255/35/18 W-speed rated
Brakes: Front: Vented discs, vacuum assist, 13.7 x 1.18 diameter, aluminum calipers Rear: Vented discs, vacuum assist, 13.2 x 0.87 diameter, iron calipers
Dynamic Stability Control, including electronic brake proportioning, antilockbraking (ABS), cornering/braking stability enhancement, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Fade Compensation, Brake Standby, Brake Drying & start off assistant, dynamic traction control
Overall length: 180.6"Overall width: 70.2"Overall height: 54.1"Curb weight (lbs.): 3,571
Top Speed, mph: 150 (electronically limited)
0-60 mph: 5.5