Motoring | Test Drives

BMW's life after death with new 335i Sport

The general consensus is that BMW's M division has lost its way, but after his experience with the sporty new 335i executive family saloon, Dejan Jovanovic couldn't care less.

  • By Dejan Jovanovic, Sub Editor, wheels
  • Published: 10:11 July 19, 2012
  • Wheels

BMW 335i Sport
  • Image Credit: Dennis B. Mallari/ANM
  • "Let's start, though, with the new 3 Series range-topping model's faults... Right, now for the good bits."
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Ah, the death of BMW's M GmbH division. If it was a cat, M should definitely look twice before crossing the road. Make that three times, because this cat's getting through its nine lives faster than Mr Bigglesworth.

But whether or not I believe M has totally lost the plot is not relevant right now
(it so has). What's relevant is that with every launch of something from Munich wearing an M badge and the blue, purple and red logo (or cyan, navy, and red — how must I know, I'm a man, I don't do colours), there's a rabble of protests.

Most recently, the internet went ablaze because BMW dared to release a special M3 Lime Rock edition in the States. Lime Rock is a race track in America, but the car is as special as a standard M3 painted “Fire Orange”.

I suppose that any M3 is special, but I still can't disagree with the disgruntled hordes — an M3 named after one of North America's most storied race tracks, which offers no hard-core track-focused changes, is nothing but a marketing strap on a billboard.

And I genuinely hope we don't all get carried away with this trend, because the latest trademarking of Lime Rock means we've pretty much run out of all the good stuff: Daytona, Sebring, Laguna Seca, Nürburgring, Monza, Brooklands, Kyalami. All taken.

The 2014 Nissan Altima Barbagallo Raceway Wanneroo Special Edition, anyone? I'm not sure you'll find a billboard big enough. Anyway, where was I? Oh right, I'm in the new F30 BMW 335i, and it's so amazing, just stupendously good, and so meticulously engineered that it makes every other saloon on the planet feel mediocre.

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The bar hasn't been raised, it's been smashed over all of the 3 Series rivals' heads. How do you top this car? You can't — just take it like a man and give up. Even if M does indeed forget to look at least twice and ends up getting hit by a semi, what will we be left with?

Personally, I'm good with just the 335i. Let's start, though, with the new 3 Series range-topping model's faults... Right, now for the good bits. The car is constantly on a knife edge when driven hard, its chassis seemingly always just on the verge of letting go, but somehow unwaveringly holding on.

It's like a tight rope walker throwing a bit of drama into the show, but cockily it's completely in control. At first I was concerned that my red BMW might scatter itself all over a roundabout, but then I realised that the F30 335i's limits rewrite the family saloon rule book.

Push as hard as you like, and the chassis communicates your naughtiness through subtle nuances like the decompression of the rear suspension, which clearly allows you to feel the outer edges of tyre grip slowly and predictably letting go.

In fact, maybe the weight balance and transfer of the sportiest current 3 Series is even better than the stiffness and solidity of its chassis and body themselves, since the car is just the biggest tattletale when it comes to which corner is loaded and precisely how much.

The new 3 Series' perfect 50:50 weight distribution helps it settle in to turns quickly too, and stay that way until your right foot decides to manipulate things.

The conventional tubeless radial tyres fitted to the Sport model measure 225/40 R19, and the only thing conventional about them is that they're made of rubber, apparently, because I could've sworn they were made of TrackBite (the stuff they spray on drag strips for added grip).

They bite viciously, like the scissor-jaws of a pitbull. But even on the 19s, this BMW still manages to ride comfortably, partly thanks to the 93mm increase in length and wheelbase, as well as additional track width which helps to dissipate energy.

As for the transmission, you might think that eight forward gears are a few too many, but in Eco mode you may as well be pottering around with a CVT. The 335i ignores the top two ratios once you step on it in sport mode anyway, because eight would indeed be too many gears to flap around with the paddles behind the wheel.

But the most esteemed facets of the 335i are how much fun you can have with it, even at lower speeds, simply because of the level of involvement and cooperation you get from that chassis, and of course the fact that you always have to remember the context we're in here: this is an executive family saloon. That is all.

If you still think that M GmbH is dead, just you wait until the next M3 comes out
based on this F30. They'd better start trademarking all the available race track names out there. That thing's going to need the lot.

Specs and ratings

Model: 335i Sport

Engine: 3.0-litre six-cyl turbo

Transmission: Eight-speed auto, RWD

Max power: 306bhp @ 5,800rpm

Max torque: 400Nm @ 1,200rpm

Top speed: 250kph

0-100kph: 5.5sec

Price: Dh240,000

Plus: Phenomenally capable sporting saloon

Minus: Rivals are still cheaper

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