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.