We’ve always been fans of the BMW 3 Series: what’s not to like? Benchmark handling, performance, electronics and interior are a good starting point. So while we previously reported on the arrival of the new F30 model, and have reviewed its tuning potential in this issue, this is our first chance to take a look at our long term 335i Sport.
Naturally, we opted for the manual transmission, although the optional eight-speed automatic is astonishingly good. We expected it to be constantly hunting for the right gear but the opposite is true – it seems to sense what you want and be ready to oblige.
The transmission is just one area where the F30 range is over-reaching. It offers a slew of technology that was only recently introduced on flagship 7 Series models, and yet here it is on their sports compact.
Other highlights include lane departure, blindspot and collision/proximity warning systems. Our vehicle has all these options and more. It could be one of the most expensive 335i ever built, but we’re utilizing all this technology on a daily basis.
The blindspot warning is probably the most useful. A small triangle illuminates on the door mirror whenever a car is out of sight over your shoulder. It’s a boon on the 405 freeway, where lane changing is fraught with danger.
The most regularly used technology is the auto stop/start and Driving Dynamics Control. We thought stop/start would get old quickly, but it’s surprisingly comforting to know you’re saving gas during long red-light phases. Of course, you can switch it off, and the engine fires if battery power drops too low to run the ancillaries, but once the car is stopped in neutral, the engine dies and you’re saving fuel. Depress the clutch again and off you go.
The Driving Dynamics Control allows the driver to select either Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport or Sport+. Each setting has its own accelerator and engine response, power steering characteristics and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) thresholds. Unfortunately, we don’t have the M adaptive suspension or that could be linked in, too. However, we find ourselves selecting Eco Pro on the freeway home, with a read-out showing how much fuel was saved on the journey. The A/C also runs on an economy mode and battery charging is possible while coasting. Yet the biggest benefit is the reduced throttle response that prevents unnecessary fuel consumption through unwanted throttle movement.
On light throttle, the pedal feels stiffer, causing you to cruise rather than accelerate. It’s subtle but we’re seeing some good economy gains. Our combined total is around 26mpg, most of which is high-speed freeway use. It would undoubtedly be better if we observed the speed limit.
Get off the freeway into the canyons and Sport gives you much sharper engine response, heavier steering and a more usable package to exploit the marvelous 335i chassis, including new four-piston brakes the 3 Series has needed for a while.
We’ll continue to review our experiences with the 335i in later issues as we start to modify it. The first thing to go will be the wheels. Fitted with the stock 18x8s, we didn’t upsize to optional 19s because we knew we’d fit aftermarket rims almost immediately. In fact, we hope to begin the car’s descent into the tuning world over the next few months as we explore what’s available.