New BMW 335i

3 Feb, 2012 11:49am Jack Rix

We get behind the wheel of the new flagship turbocharged six-cylinder 3 Series


The runaway UK success story for the BMW 3 Series shows no sign of stopping. The new model is more spacious, cleaner and quieter than its predecessor, but as the scorching 335i proves, it’s also even more thrilling to drive when you up the pace. There’s only one problem for this car – the 181bhp 320d is cheaper, more efficient and almost as talented. As a junior version of the M3, though, the 335i is sensational. Just be careful with the extensive options list: our very well equipped test car came in at a hefty £49,860 in total.
Last year, the outgoing BMW 3 Series was still the eighth-best-selling car in Britain, despite launching seven years ago – proof that the UK is crucial to this model’s success. And to mark the arrival of the new 3 on UK roads, Auto Express has been given a world-exclusive first drive of the range-topping 335i.

This car is a sign of things to come: the next M3, due in 2013, will drop its V8 for a highly tuned six-cylinder and it’s likely to be loosely based on the 3.0-litre direct-injection turbo in the 335i.

Video: Watch CarBuyer's video review of the new 3 Series

The straight-six is also fitted to the new 535i, but in the smaller 3 Series – which weighs 25kg less than its predecessor – its performance is magnified. This car does 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds.

Throttle response is instant, with no hint of turbo lag, and the engine revs freely to 7,000rpm. On part throttle there’s a subtle growl from the exhausts, but press on and there’s a thrilling mechanical crescendo as it nears the red line.

Settle to motorway cruising speeds and you’ll notice how refinement has improved. Noise from the tyres and engine is brilliantly suppressed – only wind noise from the A-pillars and wing mirrors is audible. With 400Nm of torque, this car is also happy to crawl around like a diesel in a high gear at low speeds.

Ditch the manual box in favour of the more efficient eight-speed auto (a £1,660 option) and the 335i will return 39.2mpg – that’s 6.7mpg more than the old car. The new 328i, with its 2.0-litre turbo, is 4.9mpg more economical and only six tenths slower from 0-62mph (with a time of 6.1 seconds), but it can’t match the smoothness and sound of the six-cylinder.

In auto mode, the box blurs the ratios perfectly. Use the paddles and it shifts in the blink of an eye – there’s barely any interruption to the power delivery. We think this set-up makes the case for heavier twin-clutch boxes questionable.

Show the all-new 3 Series a B-road and it’s even better balanced than before. The steering weight doesn’t varymassively as you load up the front tyres, but it’s so direct you can place the car precisely and it always feels light on its feet. The facelifted Audi A4 seems slow-witted by comparison.

Agility hasn’t come at the price of comfort, either. All models get a switch that allows you to toggle through Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, tailoring the throttle, steering and skid-control response. Our car had Adaptive M Sport suspension, too, and even on its firmest setting, this £750 option takes the edge off bumps and keeps body roll well in check.

Disqus - noscript

I mourn the passing of the NA straight six, but this proves there's still life in the idea of a 6 pot petrol yet. Amazing stuff.

BMW saloons are the business, quite simply, and this one sounds superb.

This car is god's gift to the automotive world. You see, it was made in Europe by BMW and proudly wears a halo - the famous BMW roundel. These three criteria mean that no other marque can come close. Other cars may be faster and more comfortable, with superior handling and offering better value-for-money, cheaper service and customer car. But ask yourself - were they made in Europe? Do they have a propeller badge? Are they BMW's? And so they are no more than the dross of the automobile world, over which BMW reigns unquestionably supreme.

£37-£49K seems a lot of cash, and it is. But this is the price you have to pay for what appears to be automotive perfection.

What don't you get on the basic £37,000 version I wonder. I have only ever driven a 3 series once and that was some years ago and I didn't much care for it. I find the styling looks like it has been designed in Korea. Also if they are so wonderful why do they always seem to be in the lower reaches of reliability surveys? what cost. Any way you look at it £37-49k for a 3-series BMW is alot of money. Best bet is to get a Dealer demo 6 months old and at least save around 5-8k. To keep some perspective in this made world we live in, a colleague just bought a mint face-lift A8 4,2 Tdi (aluminium construction remember) with all the toys for £19k - 30mpg.

dont like the shape of these new 3 series or any other new shape bm, and what have they done with the interior that dash is so old school, yes they make great engines and cool electrical systems on the plus side for me is some styling company will bring out something better to bolt onto it.

Sounds great, but it just seems to me it will be more of an embarrassment in this weather than a less powerful 3 series. You can buy an XF for this sort of money.

Seriously, a 3 liter turbo engine will average nearly 40 MPG???
I had a focus ST and couldn't get more than about 25 out of it. If this speed machine will average nearly 40 MPG then they should be able to make some very efficient cars.

apart from the questionable looks, the new bmw range out perform most mass produced motors in performance ,build quality with badge snobbery ,mercedes (i own an c 240 v6) are no where now, built in s africa fall to bits or a made of plastic,keep the made in germany stamp up front bmw, well done bmw , the diesel is fast economic for a four door mid sized car, well done bmw .

Whatever one says of price ect which is heavy, few if any companies make a better 6 cylinder engine than BMW. Whether the wonderful quiet Diesel to this turbo charged version the engines are sublime. Very few makers make a better more solid build interior and the same values go for long distance cruising. All I wish is that they would make it with a sports 4x4 model with an estate and I might even ditch the Subaru Impreza Turbo Estate. Price being equal. Lovely car BMW. Do an Impreza beating version then call me.

To Mike the Trike : You can't get an XF for the same money that will go anywhere near as fast. If you prefer an XF, buy one.
I like the exterior styling. It looks bigger than before, a plus, as it was squat looking. The dash is a little blingy - and while there's a lot more to it - it has a slightly "cheap" look. Some of the interior combos are horrendous. Probably look best in black leather. The engine, auto trans & suspension leave all others in the dark ages - well done BMW.

...but - and I'm not complaining, really - I'm starting to miss what made the first two iterations of this great car engaging. Refinement is nice, but if you want to really taste the road, it looks like we'll have to start looking at a different class of car.

Picking up where the E30 left off, we do, indeed, have some fabulous choices in the Focus class and smaller! Lively, a bit in-your-face, needing your concentration (and skill) to hustle; what fun!

Smooth and unobtrusive *automatic* 8-speeds, thoroughly manufactured (albeit good) steering, nannies every effing-where... Geezus, what do we really need to drive a damned car?!

The man's car looks like it will soon be found in another marque's showroom.

Why do I want an XF to go as fast? The 3.0 diesel is quick enough and you'll get a lot more space and its British made.

The germans must be laughing their heads of £37K for a car that's not worth 27K... Boy it's ugly too inside and out.. too much plastic in pastel shades

Saw this car at the motor show on Saturday and it is surprisingly good looking. The photos just don't show it off right. And before anyone says that of course a top of the line model is going to look better than the majority of what will actually be on the road, they had the 320d on display and that's the one I'm talking about. I didn't think much of the photos but now that I've seen it up close I'd be happy to buy one on looks alone.

I drive a 330d police car, and have done so for the past 5years. The reliability has been fantastic, the performance is superb, and even at the high speed and hard driving we deal out to it, it never fails to perform. We get around 32 mpg so one driven normally should return 35+. And just to add... It's better than the Focus ST and the R32....

Friend of mine had a 59 plate 335d. Loads of torque, plenty of power, quite refined. However, didn't offer a feel for the road like an MX-5 (not nimble), it didn't feel quick when doing fast speeds, very hard and tiring ride and terrible interior design. Also, he had it stolen after a month when a thief used a slide hammer and a key programmer. Quite a common problem it appears but allegedly been fixed since Sept 2011. Not a great value for money car, and in terms of fun, better cars out there. Neither a luxury car for comfort, nor a drivers car for fun unless you like straight line speed/torque. For comparison, the MX-5 could do 42-45 mpg on motorway (petrol) at 65mpg but hardly how you want to drive a fun car.

British made meaning build quality will be suspect.

Bought a 335i to replace my E39 535i which blew up after 143k miles owing to a worn timing chain tensioner which led to catastrophic faiure uneconomic to repair. Frankly the new car is not a patch on the old one. The runflat tyres are awful, giving a hard and noisy ride; the car is slow from a standing start and the wind noise at speed is unacceptable. It is smaller, lighter and faster therefore from 40-70, but I would trade it now for a well-kept low-mileage E39 M5.

Key specs

* Price: £37,025
* Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo
* Power/torque: 302bhp/400Nm
* Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
* 0-62/top speed: 5.5 seconds/155mph
* Economy/CO2: 39.2mpg/169g/km
* Equipment: Leather upholstery, metallic paint, air-con, parking sensors, 18-inch alloys, run-flats
* On sale: Now