First Drive: BMW 335d

We have covered the BMW Advanced Diesels here at BimmerFile for about the last 10 months and now we can say we not only know the tech in and out but also have some seat time in them. Much like our drive of the X5 xDrive35d, the 335d had me walking away very impressed.

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When most people today hear diesel they think efficiency and cost savings. BMW went another route with the launch of the first 3 series diesel in the US; performance. They want to establish diesels not only as efficient misers but as cars that like to be driven, cars that fulfill the needs of those that love to drive rather than be driven. Whether they succeed or not truly depends on getting people into the cars and drive them, create a buzz as it were about these “new ” breed of diesels, these Advanced Diesels.

Without looking at the rear badge there is no indication this car has a diesel under the hood and that is how BMW chose to badge this car; no other badges or stickers proclaiming efficiency or diesel for that matter. Just a lower case “d “. The most noticeable difference when looking at the car are the wheels offered with the Sport Package (ZSP). These gorgeous 18 ” wheels are only available in the US on this car. The other difference is of course the round circular cutout for the AdBlue/Diesel Emission Fluid filler located on the driver ‘s side of the back bumper. Much like the 335i there are dual exhausts, indicating that this thing likes to go fast. You would be hard pressed to find a non-enthusiast that would be able to identify this car as a diesel. On the inside the only visible difference is in the cluster: a tachometer with fewer RPMs and a diesel gauge. The remainder of the car appears as any petrol powered 335i would, the standard equipment and options are also the same.

As many of our avid readers are aware BMW has designed this engine to be a light weight, efficient and clean diesel. This is all possible through newer technologies and breakthroughs in emissions control. BMW started with an aluminum block, sequential turbos (one small for low RPM and one large for higher RPM), piezo direct injection, advanced particle filters and of course SCR (urea injection) to accomplish the goals of performance, efficiency and meeting 50 state emissions requirements. For a more in depth break down of the engine technologies in this model please check our past coverage here.

Once you take your seat in this torque monster (268 hp, 425 ft/lbs) you notice those paddles on the wheel, yep it is a slush-box.There is no option to have a third pedal on the floor since the amount torque the engine produces would eat normal street clutches for breakfast. That is not necessarily bad news. This strong and technically updated sports auto shifts quick, real quick, with either the paddles or gear select lever. The converter remains locked and shifts happen in an eye blink. Most enthusiasts hate the sound of “automatic transmission “, so we are going to call it “sports automatic transmission ” and that truly describes it. More on the transmission later.

Firing this oil-burner up was as simple as one foot on the brake and pressing the start/stop button. I dare say it, but this could be the quietest BMW I have experienced outside of a 7 series. No vibrations, no missed starts, no noise, no cloud of smoke just a nice smooth purring engine. Once situated I turned on the heat as it was a cold day in New Jersey (and later in the day there would be ice, a lot of ice). The heat worked quickly and effortlessly as it should in a car of BMW quality.Those of you that know old school diesels know heat was an area of weakness but apparently no longer.

Off we went on our journey over the hills and through the woods; we needed some highways and twisties to see what this car could do and the recommended trip did just that. The 335d will have a best in class EPA fuel economy of 23/36 MPG making it the most fuel efficient BMW ever sold in the US as well as the highest rated EPA MPG 6 cylinder engine ever in the US. With a reported 0-60 in 6.0 seconds it is quicker to that mark than the all new Audi A4 3.2 and the MB C350. From the seat of my pants this car feels quicker than that as merging onto the highway from a rolling start it took off like a bolt of lightning, and we were up to speed in no time flat. It is quick and even more so; smooth.

When stomping on the pedal from a standstill the engine wants to break the tires loose and put on a smoke show, but DSC steps in and says: NO! Like any good nanny should. All of that torque on tap is addicting like a fine liter of German beer. You just want more, and the car has more than enough to offer throughout the rev range.

With the sports auto, shifting can be accomplished via the wheel mounted paddles, the gear selector when in “manual ” mode or let the shift algorithms do their thing in either auto or sport. I found the paddles to be fun for a bit but actually found the shift algorithms to be dead on in sport mode for my style of driving. For the most part I just left it there in sport and let the car do the work. When I wanted to play around a bit I would shift via the paddle and retake control of the gears, shifting as I pleased.

Some may feel that diesels are not fun to drive because they do not rev high and therefore are less involving. There are many that also disagree with that view. When on the track it is more beneficial to have a high revving engine but on the street as long as the gearing is right a low rev engine will do just fine and also increase your economy. This car has more than enough sportiness and power for day-to-day driving and even enough to warrant some time at the track. The fun factor is definitely a personal preference, but just because something does not rev to the sky does not mean it is a bore, this car is anything but a bore.

Passing on the highway in this car is effortless, almost as if you were being catapulted forward, it is a hard thing to express in words and most have never experienced it before. There is no build up or indication as to what is about to occur, no high revs no loud noises just a whooosh and you accomplished your take over maneuver. You are also well on your way to flight as this car gets up and goes. Keeping an eye on the speedo is a great idea since there are few things to indicate your are closing in on 100 mph, it truly is that quiet.

Where this engine truly shines is in drivability and smoothness. It is a refined piece of hardware that will impress even the harshest critic. The key is to check all your notions of diesels at the door because this is not one of them, it is something entirely different. Over our journey our average MPG hovered around 30, and the car seemed to get better the more I pushed it. Like during the drive of the X5 xDrive35d there was nothing on the rear pipes, they were clean as a whistle and proof positive that this engine runs clean. With 20% less CO2 and near zero NOx emission when compared to an equivalent gas powered motor it is obvious to see why this engine passes even the toughest emissions standards.

In the turns and in stopping you are hard pressed to feel the added weight of the engine and emissions control equipment. It is there but does not overly impact the ride or driving character of the car, it still has a balance to it though not exactly 50/50.Is it going to handle like a 328i in terms of balance? No, but BMW has no interest in building a car for the sake of building a car, that is what separates the brand from just about everyone else. This car drives like a BMW.

This drive also was a first in terms of driving the new 3 series sedan in “Life Cycle Impulse ” form or in other words, the new facelift. The changes to the front and rear look great in person. The car has an added level of sportiness to it as well as new technologies in the front and rear light clusters. The subtle interior changes are just that, subtle and nothing really to write home about aside from the availability of the new iDrive system and improved location of the driver ‘s window controls.

The one major gripe to be had with this new version of the 3er are the mirrors. They are large and awkwardly styled, not sure if the designers were going for “Dumbo ” ears but that is what they created. While that is a harsh criticism the change was more than likely due to a poor score on JD Power surveys, which really just indicates that the general public has no clue on how to properly adjust their mirrors (maybe we will explain how to do that at a later date!).

All in all BMW has created something special in the 335d, it is now up to car buyers to take it for a spin and see if it meets their requirements for a sports sedan. While it may not be for everyone, just thought of 580 miles per fill up is something to really consider, especially once all that torque has bitten you.

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  • Parker

    I have driven our demo 335d, and I was equally as impressed as you were. I think these cars will do very well. Even after driving it hard, the gas mileage was still much higher than on my 335i.

  • cenotaph

    RE: the mirrors

    I haven’t driven a car with the new mirrors, but I don’t like the ones on the E90s that I’ve driven. If I position the seat the way I like (and I’m only 5’11”, so it’s not like I’m a tree or something), it’s impossible for me to get the mirror on the drivers side properly adjusted. It just won’t go far enough to the left.

    Along with some of the other aspects of the E90, I’m more inclined to replace my E46 with another E46 if I ever have to.

  • Chaz

    I’m sure you know the heater works so well because it has a ceramic heater for those cold mornings.

    Interestingly, I get similar gas milage with my BMW. 0-60 in 6 seconds, 23/36mpg isn’t much different (I just did 500 miles on a tank getting 35mpg), and that is in a 328. I don’t doubt the 335d can do noticably better though. Obviously, the 328 doesn’t have that torque. The torque numbers and the review remind me of my old (chipped) S4 which had ~400ft-lbs of torque. Makes passing on the highway effortless, but that strikes me as too much torque for a RWD car! (especially in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear). I tend to lean more towards high reving engines, but that torque certainly is entertaining on the street!

    Nice review. 🙂 Its going to be time for a test drive soon. I just hope the gas prices align better to make alternatives such as this more desirable.

  • SoCalRick

    Michael, Nice write-up. I was anxiously waiting for your 335d test drive write-up to come out over the Christmas holidays, and I was disappointed when the foul weather in your area intervened and caused a delay. The 335d that I drove didn’t have the sport package, and I did wonder what differences the addition of the sport package might add (e.g. would it better handle the extra weight during manuevering than the non-sport package?). BTW, the wheels that come with the sport package are SWEET! Definitely some of the best wheels available on any model right now.

  • Jonathan

    We’ve had 535d’s and 335d’s for over 2 years here in the UK. I work for a BMW dealer as a technician, and i would definately choose any diesel over its petrol equivalent. A 120d is so much more fun than a 120i. Petrol is dead, long live the diesel!

  • SoCalRick- I would imagine the sport suspension did help with the absorption of weight BUT I was also told that the spring rates and suspension were adjusted for this car, as was the DSC system.

    The weight is there, not saying it is not but the car still has nice balance, part of the reason the emissions stuff is in the rear is to keep that balance.

    I hope people get to experience these cars, they are something special.

  • lava

    are those contours at the center of the hood unique to the d? I can’t say I noticed those on the 3 series before.

  • Parker

    Lava, The lines in the hood are exclusive to the LCI E90. They are on all of the 2009 sedans.

  • Patrick

    I was the first to drive a low optioned 335d at my dealer. The torque experience is as advertised. The weight vs my 328i is also quite noticeable and so I agree with the comment about it not having the balance of the lighter car. But overall, the car is very impressive. Here’s why this won’t work for BMW: the car will be 50k with a few options. It will not be an economically rationale decision to buy this car. Not enough greenies who care about the 20% CO2 reduction (and note that is vis-a-vis the 335i; the 335d does no better than the 328i on CO2) will/can buy the thing and the performance freaks amongst us will buy a 335i/M3. BMW should have brought the 330d or 325d so that the economics work. Shame really. I might still look for a used one in a year or two.

  • Asteroid

    Unfortunately, it looks like BMWNA is not motivated to move them as evidenced by the crappy residuals and standard lease rates for the 335d. Compared to the E90 335i, the 335d has a 4 to 5% lower residual. My quick calculation indicates a higher lease payment of $157 for a 24-mo lease (+$138 for 36-mo) just due to the lower residual and higher money factor. Add to that the higher cap cost for the 335d, and no BMWCCA rebate, just about the only incentive remaining is the “green” appeal that it may have for some (OK you get the IRS tax credit) for ~$200 more every month.

  • rlb

    Thanks for the review. I have a 335d on order that goes into production next week. Trading in my 06 330i e90. Never driven a diesel so I might be crazy for ordering one, but I ordered my first BMW without ever having driven the brand and that worked out OK!

  • CycloneRcr

    The new larger mirrors are due to the new EU regulation requiring a larger mirror area. It has nothing to do with JD Power surveys or any other survey =) Just look at any newly developed european car, they all have larger mirrors. New C-Class or coming S-Class facelift are the examples coming into my mind.

  • Drill

    I recently got to test drive the 335d Sports Wagon and must say that, if offered in US Spec, I’d be hard pressed to turn it down (assuming no 335i wagon). The torque alone was addicting. I too had one of those moments where, while pointing out to the Frau how quiet it was, I glanced down to see 160kph on the speedo! While I agree that the new shape mirrors are a bit odd, I did think that they granted better side/rear visibility.

  • Unfortunately, it looks like BMWNA is not motivated to move them as evidenced by the crappy residuals and there are so many models in BMW and they are planning for reducing emissions.

  • You really really need the sports package with this car if not it’ll just fly off the road because of the ridiculous torque.

    Even the 320d 2009 model is a fantastic drive and plenty of power for even the most demanding drivers.