Road test

Getting to the actual driving portion, the Bilstein PSS10 coilovers on the 335i were new to us. We'd replaced our H&R coilovers after thousands of happy miles in order to test an alternative. Our car was also used for a Bilstein ad, which may appear one day...

While the Billies offer great body control, I was concerned to find the car hit the bumpstops under full compression on the uneven, high-speed roads. This never happened with the H&Rs but turned out to be operator error. After installation, somebody had set the adjustable dampers to their softest setting - conventionally, we start on medium and adjust from there.

While offering good comfort, they couldn't cope with the extreme bumps so we had to adjust them to resolve the issue. However, they offered better ride control than the D3 coilovers on the ATS.

Set-up for the racetrack, the Cadillac was simply too stiff for these roads and the ride was nervous, occasionally losing traction over the bigger bumps where the BMW's more compliant ride kept the tires in contact with the road.

As for the engines, neither had an advantage on the track but the canyons were a different story. The greater mid-range torque from the 335i came into its own, making it easier to drive and faster point-to-point. It was also blessed with a manual six-speed, which allowed us to either hold a gear, short-shift, or use aggressive engine braking to tackle the roads. Combined with its induction whistle and barking Borla exhaust, the BMW was built for these roads and excelled.

The ATS 3.6L is only available with a six-speed auto and this wasn't its forte. The D3 Street Tune ECU software doesn't add power but drastically alters the shift map on the transmission, allowing quicker changes and more revs to be held. As a result, the shifts were pretty aggressive, occasionally causing the rear wheels to briefly lose traction.

Undoubtedly the software was an improvement over the stock auto, but the transmission wasn't living up to the ability of the ATS. Its engine and chassis deserved better, with the auto forcing you to be aggressive with the throttle and paddle shifters to get out of tight corners. It simply wasn't as fluid as the BMW, but once you adapted to it, the car was still rewarding to drive.

Hard acceleration out of slow corners could be a pain as there was a delay between the pedal movement and forward motion, then the trans might downshift for you, causing further delay and a lunge of acceleration. You could drive around it in the canyons but this shifting in Sport mode was far too aggressive for regular street use and needed to be de-activated.

The D3 axle-back exhaust was rather too loud and droned slightly. However, we can't judge it harshly because it was a development piece that will be honed before production, so it remained out of our overall assessment

Fortunately, both cars had very capable brakes, able to repeatedly go deep into corners. The Cadillac's multi-piston set-up was equal of the uprated BMW M Performance discs and calipers we'd fitted, with no flaws in either car.

Both cars also appeared to have similar high levels of grip despite different tire makes - in hindsight, we should have put them on the same rubber to remove any differences from the equation.

Again, both cars were well matched in all our tests and closer than we might have expected. Given its stuffy image from a few years ago, we were impressed by the Cadillac, which put up a courageous fight. And yet we all agreed, it couldn't match the finesse of the 335i, hampered by its auto transmission and harsher ride. It was best when pushed hard but couldn't compete with the versatile BMW.

The 335i Sport was the superior canyon carver thanks to a beautifully balanced packaged with more mid-range torque and better handling. In short, it was smooth and effortless. It also made better use of its modifications, was the better driver's car, had more power and torque.

Inevitably, it's the one we'd prefer to take home, but the Cadillac ATS 3.6L was a close second and not the short straw when it was time to decide what car to drive home.

Vehicle BMW 335i Sport Cadillac ATS 3.6L
Power 286hp 260hp
Torque 302 lb-ft 277 lb-ft
0-60mph 5.1sec 5.2sec
Quarter-mile 13.8sec @ 101.8mph 13.8sec @ 101.9mph
60-0mph 111ft 112ft
Lateral g 0.73g 0.75g
Weight 3522 lb 3535 lb

Modifications BMW 335i Sport Price Cadillac ATS 3.6L Price
Suspension Bilstein PSS10 $2462 D3/JRI Racing coilovers $3495
Brakes BMW M Performance $2540 stock
Wheels 20" HRE C100 $POA 18" TSW Interlagos $POA
Tires Nitto Invo $POA Toyo T1S $POA
Exhaust Borla S-Type cat-back $1227 D3 axle-back $995
ECU software BMW M Performance Power Kit $1100 D3 Street tune $495
Cosmetic BMW M Performance grilles, carbon mirrors $143, $715 D3 roof spoiler, trunk spoiler $329, $329

2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6L Premium Collection

Engine 3.6-liter V6 24v direct injection with D3 Street Tune software

Drivetrain six-speed automatic with D3 Street Tune software

Brakes stock four-piston calipers, 15" rotors f, single-piston, 14.8" r

Suspension D3/JRI racing coilovers

Wheels & Tires 18x8" f, 18x9.5" r TSW Interlagos wheels, 225/35 R18 f, 265/30 R18 r Toyo T1S tires

Exterior D3 roof and trunk spoilers

Interior stock

Contact d3cadillac.com, toyotires.com

2012 BMW 335i Sport

Engine 3.0L six-cylinder DOHC 24v direct injection, turbocharged with BMW M Performance software and air box, Borla S-Type cat-back exhaust

Drivetrain six-speed manual transmission

Suspension Bilstein PSS10 coilovers

Brakes BMW M Performance four-piston calipers, 370mm dimpled rotors f, single-piston, 345mm r

Wheels & Tires 20x9" ET36 f, 20x10.5" ET54 r HRE C100 wheels; 245/30 R20 f, 295/25 R20 r Nitto Invo tires

Exterior BMW M Performance black kidney grilles and carbon fiber mirror shells

Contact bmwmperformance.com, bilsteinus.com, hrewheels.com, nittotire.com

Next Month We'll look at the installation of our Bilstein coilovers and Borla exhaust plus the final dyno test on our Project BMW 335i

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