Yes this isn’t our first experience behind the wheel of the 335is. However it is our most thorough to date. Look for a full review soon. And photos? BMW asked us to not take any photos of the car driven since it was pre-production and wasn’t correct in final specification.
Here’s a thought; the 335is is more of a replacement for et E46 M3 than the current M3. It’s got similar power (320 hp) with decidedly more torque (332 ft-lbs) for performance that is equal if not better than the previous M3. It’s powered by a six cylinder powerplant like the M3 (albeit turbocharged) and weighs about the same (i.e. about 200 lb. less than the current M3).
We got a chance to spend an afternoon with the 335is recently and walked away thoroughly impressed. While we plan on having a much more thorough test later in the year, we can conclude a few things right away. For starters, this thing sounds nasty. When I first cranked the cold engine I literally had to ask a BMW representative if that was the final exhaust note. I simply couldn’t believe BMW could and would be that aggressive. But they are and it is.
Then there’s the sound it makes under power. Simply put this is the best sounding non-M car I can ever remember from BMW. I’d even rank it a notch above the Z4 35is in tone and volume. But what really made the hair on my neck stand up was the pops on overrun as you lifted off the throttle. For the first time ever I feel like I hear the true character of the N54 without the shackles of mass market. If BMW didn’t have to worry about sales, you get the feeling that every car with this engine would sound like this. It’s made for the enthusiast and it sounds nothing short of perfect.
With sport button engaged I set out to explore the hills around BMW’s home office in Woodcliff New Jersey. The 335is tested had the base 18″ “is” wheels but little else in the way of options. In fact the only options of note were the exceptional DCT transmission and latest generation iDrive. The raw quality of the engine note was surprisingly well mated with the DCT. Rev matching resulted in glorious engine notes and the seamless performance felt inline with what you’d expect from the sound. It all adds up to what could perhaps be one of BMW’s best performance sedans without the M badge.
Inside there’s an uncomfortable amount of special badging. However, if you look back at some previous low volume BMW models, it’s not entirely without precedent. Do we like it? No. Could we live with it knowing how the great the car is as a whole? Absolutely.
It’s a great car that rather surprisingly holds its own against not only competing products but the mighty M3. We’ll leave the pricing debate for our full review later this year. But we’ll leave you with this. The 335is is priced well equipped for less than the E46 M3 was just a few years ago. Yet it’s arguably faster, more comfortable, loaded with modern technology and much easier to live with. After driving it I have to admit it’s a proposition that would be hard to ignore.