*A lot has been made recently of the European diesel-car surge coming to the United States-at least, we've done our best to make a lot of it. Turn to page 72 for a complete roster of diesel-powered European cars you can expect to see making the voyage from across the sea.
BMW's 335d is somewhat remarkable in that lineup, in that you could actually classify it as a true sport sedan rather than an economy car, SUV or crossover something-or-other.
The 3 Series platform has received a cosmetic makeover for model year 2009. Drivetrain mechanicals for the 335i and 328i remain unchanged, but the design itself has been enhanced with a new front end, including new headlights with daytime-running haloes and new longitudinal creases on the hood. The car's profile has also been altered with new rocker panels and re-shaped side mirrors. At the rear, track has been increased by half an inch, the bumper re-formed, and the taillights re-designed on 3 Series sedan and wagon models.
Inside, subtle updates to materials and textures have been enacted, power window controls for the driver have been subjected to "enhanced placement," and storage space is expanded. Like the new 7 Series, the 3 also receives an updated iDrive control cluster, with quick-select buttons and a high-definition 8.8-inch display.
The truly groundbreaking 3 Series offering, at least on this side of the Atlantic, is the 335d, powered by BMW's twin-turbocharged, inline-six diesel engine. Widely successful elsewhere in the world, it's now offered for the first time in all 50 American states. The engine features all the requisite goodness you might expect from a BMW straight six-lightweight aluminum construction, high-pressure direct fuel injection-and, unique to this diesel version, a sequential turbo system that employs a smaller compressor for off-the-line response and a larger one for sustained performance at higher speeds.
The biggest difference compared to a gas-burner is in the powerband. The 335d produces peak power of 265 hp at a fairly low 4200 rpm. More importantly, it achieves thundering peak torque, 425 lb-ft, at just 1750 rpm. Equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission-your only option for now-the 335d will run to 60 mph in a claimed 6.0 seconds.
Because the power and torque peaks have been shifted so far down in the rpm range, driving this car is a lot different that driving something like a 335i. It's much more about getting your rocks off in the first half of the tachometer rather than winding it up to the redline. But on stretches of Austrian autobahn, the car was as silent and responsive as any gasoline engine you might have experienced in a 3 Series.
In town, the transmission likes to shift earlier than you might expect in order to efficiently use that mountain of torque. But in most stoplight-to-stoplight situations, you'll beat the 335i every time. My only complaint is that the tranny seems a little lazy engaging gears, especially launching from a standstill. It's possible to shift yourself using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, which also makes gear selection much more crisp. This application could be where a twin-clutch, automated manual would really shine, but for now we'll have to wait. Try and content yourself with 425 lb-ft of torque and claimed efficiency figures of 23 mpg around town and 33 mph on the highway (EPA estimates not available at press time). Initial test drives make us believe those efficiency figures remain a bit conservative. With careful throttle management we feel they could climb even higher.
We're in the process of locking in a 335d long-term tester. Stick around for further reviews.