Here's something new: For once North America will be getting a special performance edition of a popular European model that the Europeans won't receive (at least for now). This performance edition shall be known as the 335is and it comes courtesy of our friends at BMW North America.
The is ("i" for injection, as in fuel, and "s" for sport, as in fun) follows a tradition of s-badged sport-enhanced models, including the 320is, 325es, 325is, 535is, and most recently, the X5 4.6is and 4.8is.
This 335is features a massaged version of the N54 turbocharged inline six and an array of M Sport accoutrements to put it on a tier above the current 335i.
In spite of the recent revelation of BMW's next-generation turbo six (the single-turbo N55), the 335is will employ the more familiar N54 twin-turbo. Precision fuel injection, Double-VANOS stepless valve timing, and an advanced Digital Motor Electronics (DME) control system collaborate to push peak power from 300 to 320 hp, and torque from 300 to 330 lb-ft. There's also an overboost function that briefly kicks the peak torque to a massive 370 lb-ft under hard acceleration in "certain circumstances." (We love those kinds of circumstances.)
Other engine upgrades are placed to compensate for the increased performance, like an additional radiator behind the left side bumper intake, an oil cooler behind the other intake, and stiffer engine mounts.
The 335is comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission, or, for the first time on a non-M car, the seven-speed DCT automated manual (which includes a launch control function) as an option.
While all 3 Series coupes and convertibles have received a midlife facelift for the coming model year-including massaged body panels and front and rear light clusters-M Sport styling cues vistually set the 335is apart from its more pedestrian siblings, including a front fascia and side skirts designed to move more air to critical locations, a rear fascia with diffuser, standard Shadowline window trim, gloss-black side mirrors, 335is badges on the front quarters, and standard 18-inch wheels (19s are optional). On the inside, the M Sport upgrades include the steering wheel, sport seats, an anthracite-colored headliner, stainless steel pedals, 335is branding on the dashboard and tachometer, and M-branded sill plates, dead pedal, and gearshift knob.
Built specifically for the club-racer enthusiast who isn't afraid to take his street car to the track, this should be regarded as the most dynamically capable 3 Series this side of an M3. You might even call it an M3 Lite. Putting the 5 Series around the bends at the Estoril circuit was fun; throwing this 3 Series around them was a total blast. Steering precision and road-holding abilities are what you'd expect from the already-sporty 335i; the is packages makes it that much sharper. And the torque delivery, at least on a wet track, could be described as superfluous-you know, if such a concept exists in the car-guy mind. Don't read that as a complaint. On the smooth, rain-slick tarmac at Estoril, the DTC light in the instrument cluster might have been on a strobe. Pure entertainment for sure.
The 335is will be offered in coupe and convertible form. The former will start at $50,525 including destination. The folding hard top version will set you back $59,075.
2011 BMW 335is
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
3.0-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged
Six-speed manual; optional seven-speed DCT automated manual
Peak Power: 320 hp @ 5900 rpm
Peak Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.0 sec. (DCT)
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)