2007 BMW 335i Coupe

2007 BMW 335i Coupe 2007 BMW 335i Coupe
Short Take Road Test

In April 2005, we greeted BMW's '06 3-series sedan with heartfelt hosannas. Ordinarily, that's the sort of response automakers covet, but in this case our enthusiasm was tempered with a subcurrent of relief. Like many, we were happy to see that BMW's latest 3-series had avoided the, uh, adventurous styling departures that had afflicted other recent Bimmers. Thus our cover blurb fell into the realm of a left-handed compliment: "BMW 3-series spared! Redesign shows mercy on everybody's favorite car."

Some 18 months later here's the redesigned 3-series coupe, and we're tempted to reprise the mantra. But let's be more positive. Like the sedan, the '07 coupe represents an evolutionary design and engineering update on an attractive and competent predecessor. It also represents an evolutionary step away from the sedan in terms of shared components and sheetmetal. The 108.7-inch wheelbase is the same, but at 180.3 inches, the coupe is more than two inches longer. It's also almost two inches lower and, surprisingly, 1.3 inches narrower.

Beyond its longer, lower profile, the coupe is distinguished by a "powerdome" hood, a deeper front air dam, illuminated surrounds for the standard xenon adaptive headlights, and horizontal LED taillights. Although the body isn't quite as wide as the sedan's, track dimensions are nearly identical, so the coupe requires more pronounced fender flares to cover the rubber. Maintaining the classic proportions that have distinguished 3-series coupes since 1991, it all adds up to a look that's simultaneously sophisticated and aggressive. Not to mention drop-dead gorgeous.

As you'd expect, there's mechanical distinction to go with the sexy sheetmetal. The most obvious is a new engine, but that distinction won't last long. The twin-turbo 3.0-liter six will distinguish the 335i exclusively during its September showroom debut, but BMW plans to make the force-fed engine available in the 3-series sedan shortly thereafter.

There will be three U.S. editions of the coupe — the 328i (from $35,995), with its naturally aspirated 3.0-liter straight-six (230 horsepower, 200 pound-feet of torque); the all-wheel-drive (a first for a BMW coupe) 328xi, from $37,795; and the turbocharged 335i (300 horsepower, 300 pound-feet of torque), from $41,295. All have the same five-link rear suspension as the sedan, all come with 225/45-17 run-flat tires standard, and all but the xi include sport-suspension tuning that's far easier to live with than the unforgiving spring and damper settings of an M3. All trim levels offer an 18-inch wheel option, along with performance tires. Aside from the turbo engine's much bigger punch — an aside not to be taken lightly — the biggest dynamic distinction between the 328i and 335i is in braking, thanks to the 335's heftier rotors.

We had a chance to put a 335i through its paces in an all-too-brief tour of the Austrian Tirol near Innsbruck and emerged with three major impressions. First, the new six-speed Steptronic automatic is well matched to the turbo engine's almost bottomless torque, and its paddle shifters allow manual operation when the pilot feels playful. We still prefer the involvement of the standard ZF six-speed manual, but as automatics go, the Steptronic goes better than most and is eminently preferable to BMW's balky sequential manual gearbox.

Two: The 335's sport-suspension package provides an outstanding compromise between creamy ride and athletic response.

Three: The Alpine heights magnified the benefits of boost, but we're certain this new engine will win friends at any altitude. BMW forecasts 0-to-60-mph times of 5.3 seconds for the 335i. Judging by our Tirol touring, we thought this was conservative, a premonition that was vindicated when a 335i showed up at Hogback HQ as this issue was going to bed — just time enough for some formal test data: 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.6 at 105 mph. Those results are almost excactly the same as the numbers posted by the last M3 we tested [C/D, May 2003]. Wow. 'Nuff said.