BMW 335i facelift (2008) review

Published:16 September 2008

BMW 335i facelift (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

If you’ve already read what we’ve written about the revised 330d, you’ll know about the changes BMW has wrought on the 3-series. It looks a bit sharper, has a bit more presence, some new tech – particularly in terms of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics - and it’s still the driver’s choice in its class. But only the 330d gets a new engine, so where does that leave the 335i?

Maybe the BMW 335i didn’t need to change that much…

Well, you’d have a point there. Few cars were as easy to drive with haste and enthusiasm as the outgoing 335i, and the revised version does nothing to alter that.
Spec iDrive and you’ll immediately spot the more intuitive controls (with internet access), and you might even clock a couple of touches of new brightwork for minor switchgear. Spec the automatic transmission and you’ll certainly spot the new steering wheel-mounted shift buttons.

And it’s a fantastic engine/transmission combination, shifting quickly enough on command - and with unerring smoothness - that it’s unlikely you’ll rue BMW’s decision to save its dual-clutch sequential manual for the coupe and convertible models. It has one fault, though. We’ll get to that later…

What about the green stuff?

Second-gen direct injection features on every petrol engine, and brake energy regeneration (a fancy name for a decoupling alternator) is standard on every Three. There’s no stop-start for six-cylinder engines, but active air intake flaps and on-demand control for the power steering and auxiliary drives keep BMW ahead of the competition in the eco stakes.

Click 'Next' below to read more about the BMW 335i

Okay, now tell me what it’s like to drive

It’s not so long ago that acceleration figures like the 335i is capable of belonged only to junior supercars like the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 328. An easy sub-6.0sec to 62mph? With 30mpg economy? In a car with comfortable room for four, that you could drive across a continent and emerge from untired? Unbelievable, yet true.

Prepare to be blown away by the 335i’s performance. Yes, the 330d beats it for peak torque by nearly 90lb ft, but the 335i spreads it further, so it’s astonishingly quick to respond at any speed, and revs with a glorious snarl as it homes in on the red line – fully 1500rpm higher than the 330d’s. This is visceral stuff, thrilling in a way that no six-cylinder competitor can get close to.

So what’s that transmission fault?

There’s nothing wrong with the shift – it’s the shift buttons that conspire to confuse. Rather than being right for up, left for down, you use finger and thumb on either side, rather as you do in the new Porsche 911 PDK. Sure, you’ll get used to it, but the sooner there’s some commonality across brands, the better – this is Betamax in a world of VHS.

And, er, does it handle?

Course it does! There’s nothing the 335i loves more than a challenging sequence of bends – and the same always goes for its driver. Turn-in is sharp, there’s no discernable roll and the 335i keeps its poise as you switch through left and right. The rear wheels always feel keen to help out the fronts, even while DSC is keeping a (loose) hold on what happens back there.

Only two (really hazy) clouds appear on the horizon, and they’re familiar ones. The steering is still too light and numb for perfection, though it’s utterly sharp. And the ride is a touch ragged over bumpy surfaces, crashing slightly over harsh imperfections. But find a corner and you’ll soon forgive it.

Click 'Next' below to read our verdict on the BMW 335i

Verdict

Steer clear of the options list and the 335i is something of a bargain. It’s practical, comfortable, effortlessly, acutely fast and endlessly entertaining. Considering the performance figures, it’s decently economical too.

Yet you couldn’t consider the 335i without at least looking at the 330d too. It doesn’t make quite such an impact from a performance point of view, though if you drove it in isolation you’d be more than satisfied. But its economy and emissions figures make much more sense. It all depends whether you’re enthusiastic enough behind the wheel for those final 1500rpm to mean more to you than 89lb ft.

Would you take a BMW 335i over a 330d? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Specs

Price when new: £33,660
On sale in the UK: September 2008
Engine: 2979cc 24v twin-turbo six cylinder, 302bhp @ 5800rpm, 295lb ft @ 1300-5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.8sec 0-62mph, 155mph (ltd), 30.7mpg, 221g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1625kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4531/1817/1421

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Photo Gallery

  • BMW 335i photo: rear three-quarters
  • BMW 335i photo: side view
  • BMW 335i photo: interior
  • BMW 335i photo: light
  • BMW 335i photo: rear view
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