Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Courtesy of Edmunds Inside Line

The 2007 BMW 3 Series is poised to redefine the sport sedan segment. Again.

This time the secret ingredient is horsepower. The new 335i sedan offers all the road-going poise and confident manner of the outgoing 330i, but adds a generous portion of turbocharged "How do you like me now?"

BMW's assertion of leadership comes at the right time. An ever-growing number of cars use the BMW 3 Series as a benchmark, and "sport sedan" is no longer the exclusive property of the Munich brand. So why try to describe your car's unique yet subtle synchronization of driving dynamics when it's simpler to tell people it's got serious muscle?

Hello, turbocharged engine.

Thoroughbreds, lots of them
To us, BMW-brand horses have always felt more plentiful than their numbers would suggest and the carriages they pull have been more nimble. With the 2006 325i, 215 horses felt like 250, while the 330i's 255 horsepower felt like 275. Part of the reason can be found in the smooth-running character of an inline-6 engine as well as the low-rpm torque it tends to provide.

Be that as it may, the 3.5-liter V6 engines of both the 2007 Infiniti G35 and Lexus IS 350 now make at least 300 hp and each car boasts quicker acceleration times than the 3 Series.

What's more, the gap in handling-related performance between the BMW and its rivals has shrunken. The steering response, tire grip and overall chassis feedback of the 3 Series remains magical, yet our tests of both an IS 350 and a G35 Sport show that their respective chassis engineers have come very close to decoding the BMW algorithms that deliver a supple ride without compromising at-the-limit handling.

Still smooth
Enter the 2007 BMW 335i Sedan. Until we had driven the turbocharged 2007 335i Coupe, we were a little fearful that the turbocharged boost would adversely alter the inline-6's linear power delivery that we love so dearly. But we had nothing to fear.

BMW starts with two low-inertia turbochargers and then utilizes sophisticated direct fuel injection to maximize the benefits of turbocharging while minimizing the liabilities. So this turbocharged engine doesn't feel like a turbo at all. You might even guess that this 300-hp power plant could be a 4.0-liter inline-6 or even a small-displacement V8.

Power and torque are readily available from as low as 1,500 rpm. In fact, the peak torque (300 lb-ft) of the new BMW N54 engine comes on stream at 1,400 rpm and the power delivery feels like it. For in-depth insight, see the primer about BMW's current powertrain technology from Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh.

The important stuff is this: Compared to the previous normally aspirated inline-6, the new turbocharged version produces 45 more hp and 80 lb-ft more torque, and suffers only a 1-mpg loss in the EPA's city and highway estimates.

No more excuses
The results of this new approach speak for themselves. Our dash to 60 mph with our 335i sedan with its six-speed manual transmission eclipsed not only that of a comparably equipped 2006 330i by a full second, but also snubbed those pesky V6-powered competitors from Infiniti and Lexus.

With its ability to get to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat and streak through the quarter-mile in less than 14 seconds, the new 3 Series has the talk and the walk of a benchmark among sport sedans.

No more making excuses for a smooth but comparatively underpowered engine. No need to explain why the rest of the 3 Series sedan is so much better than the competition that sheer speed almost doesn't matter. That's all changed. The 335i is now a complete sport sedan package.

If you've been bemoaning the lack of a BMW M3 sedan in BMW's current model line (the last M3 sedan was available in the E36 generation from 1997-'98), this car is as close to one as you can get. In fact, this 335i sedan beat the last 333-hp 2005 M3 Competition Package we tested in every measurable way.

It danced away from the M-spec two-door in the run to 60 mph by a half-second, stopped from 60 mph 1 foot shorter, and raced through the slalom 2 mph quicker. Since we pronounced the $55,840 M3 "The Best M3 Ever Sold in America," what does this make the $44,270 335i?

Nice package
The base price of our 2007 335i is $39,995 (a $2,100 increase over a base 330i), including destination charge.

Part of this particular 335i's performance is due to the $1,600 Sport Package. What a deal. For this modest price, you get specific suspension tuning, distinctive 18-inch wheels wrapped in high-performance, run-flat Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport seats, and a 160-mph speedometer.

Our car also had the $2,450 Premium Package, the most important parts of which are leather upholstery and BMW Assist with Bluetooth capability. Of course, the car's list of standard features is so long that you might not need much in the way of options. For example, you already get xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, memory-function seats and outside mirrors, walnut-burl interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, power moonroof and BMW's excellent Logic 7 audio system. The stand-alone options on our test car include $475 metallic paint and $350 back-up sensors.

All told, the as-tested price is $44,270, but we'd be happy with a base car plus Sport Package for $41,595.

It goes to 11
While a 45-horsepower increase might not seem like much, the new engine invigorates the whole car in a way that's fabulous. We always knew BMW would get tired of backhanded compliments regarding the 3 Series and its harmonious dynamics. Now, with a competitive powertrain, the 335i can backhand its competition.

To quote Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel, "The numbers all go to 11. Look, right across the board, 11, 11, 11 and..." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Well done, BMW.

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