BMW 335d SE Coupe

BMW's 335d's more than a match for its petrol-powered equivalent and faster and more economical

  • Well equipped, good mannered and excellent performance
  • Intrusive tranmission tunnel, plain console

Despite being propelled by the most powerful diesel engine BMW has ever sold in the UK, there is very little visual indication of the performance on offer from the potent 335d. We’re using a 325i petrol for our pictures because we couldn’t get the 335d Coupé and CLK320 CDI together at the same time – but, apart from the badge and positioning of the exhaust pipes, the bodywork is identical.

Now in its third generation, the 3-Series Coupé’s shape is as understated as ever. The sleek profile and smooth lines are unmistakably BMW, and it looks more modern than the classically proportioned CLK.

Shorter than its rival, the BMW has a stubby tail, yet its 430-litre boot impresses, not least because there is a deep underfloor storage compartment (where you’d normally see a spare wheel) and some useful cubbies. With a marginally longer wheelbase than the Mercedes, rear space is a strong point, too: we measured 60mm more legroom, as well as superior elbow space.

The large transmission tunnel housing the air vents is a bit intrusive. Overall, though, it’s the more comfortable car here for rear passengers, even if the back windows don’t open as they do in the CLK. The driving environment, however, is everything you’d expect from a BMW. True it’s similar to the saloon’s cabin, but why change a winning formula?

The simple layout and attention to detail are fantastic, while the controls feel more driver-oriented than those of the CLK. The sporty three-spoke steering wheel is great to hold and the interior has an air of sophisticated quality about it.

That noted, the centre console arrangement is rather plain, and the one-touch indicators can be frustrating. But the main talking point is the fantastic engine. BMW’s engineers have taken the range-topping diesel from the 535d and tuned it to extract more power and torque. Yet the first thing you notice is the noise – or rather, the lack of it. At start-up, refinement is outstanding.

With 580Nm of torque (70Nm more than the Mercedes) on offer from only 1,750rpm, the 3-Series has amazing straight-line pace. In our acceleration tests, it sprinted from 0-60mph in only 5.7 seconds – more than a second quicker than the CLK. And it covered 30-70mph in 4.9 seconds, proving its all-round acceleration ability.

The twin-turbo unit has a small rotor that spins up quickly at low engine speeds to minimise lag, while the larger turbo comes into play higher up. The result is instant response that doesn’t tail off towards the red line, while the superb Steptronic six-speed auto box provides slick and decisive shifts. The engine is docile and immaculately well mannered around town and has no vices to speak of. It is matched by equally superb handling, too, feeling nimble compared with the CLK, and enjoying more feedback through the steering.

Due to the well balanced chassis and excellent body control, there’s strong traction through corners and the BMW is better than its rival here at dealing with rapid changes of direction. The suspension set-up is superior, too – it is a little firmer than the CLK’s, but deals with rough surfaces and potholes well, despite the run-flat tyres.

The good news continues with the price, as the 335d is nearly £1,200 cheaper than the CLK. It is better equipped, too, with standard metallic paint and xenon headlights. These would add £1,195 to the Merc’s cost.

Details

Price: £35,870Model tested: BMW 335d SE CoupeChart position: 1WHY: Launched last summer, the BMW’s sleek styling has won it fans. But can the flagship diesel variant live up to expectations?

Economy

A crucial factor in this test, and it’s the BMW which proved the more frugal of the two cars. It returned 32.2mpg over our route, but steady motorway cruising saw this exceed 35mpg.

Residuals

A BMW Coupé is guaranteed to provide strong residuals. With a retained value of 55.2 per cent, it is worth £19,800 after three years; the four-door equivalent holds 51.1 per cent.

Servicing

BMW offers the Service Inclusive scheme on the 3-Series Coupé. An initial outlay of £695 gets you five years or 60,000 miles of maintenance, which can be transferred.

Tax

Due to its extra power, the BMW’s 3.0-litre engine emits 5g/km more CO2 than the CLK. It emerges as the more expensive company car option, and higher-band owners will pay £4,304 a year.

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