Some enthusiasts have been less enthusiastic about BMW ‘s latest offerings, stating weight and size gains as the primary complaints. These individuals argue that the loss of road feel and lack of an overall performance purpose, compared to years gone by, have played a large role in their depleted lust for the latest Roundel creations. Others note that BMWNA forces options upon them that are not wanted by the die hard, such as the sunroof which is nothingbut a helmet space robbing piece of glass and metal that also adds weight up high on the car effecting that precise corning desired. Well, those people are in for a treat in the coming months, the “Injected Sport ” (IS) versions of the Z4 and 3 Series coupe and convertible are on the way to the US.
What do I mean? It is simple, while BMW is not going decrease the size of these models or even lighten them up- they are going to give you the increased feel and performance that you want without having to break the bank as badly or make as many trips to the pump as with a full on ///M car. These “IS ” models are designed for us enthusiasts and will put a huge grin on anyone ‘s face if they drive them like they are designed for.
I have had the privilege of experiencing the Z4 sDrive35is riding shotgun during some exhilarating back road driving and have driven the 335is E92 along basically the same route. Each of these cars brings a good deal of performance to the party and a whole lot of torque on demand. (Full gallery and 335is exhaust note after the break)
Let us begin with the Z4. The “IS ” is what, in my opinion, the Z4 should have been from the start. At the same time one mustbe realistic by judging the market and thinking about the competitions offerings; Porsche makes a Boxter and Boxter S (and the amazing new Speedster version) so this not being the base model is not all that different when it is put into context. The more aggressive appearance of the aero kit from the base model is not for show (like in an M Sport), this car is no tease. It advertises exactly what it is going to deliver in the end; full blown performance. This is the Z4 ///M car that has not yet been built on the E89 chassis.
It has 369 lb-ft of torque that coupled with the quick shifting dual clutch transmission snaps your neck back and positions you deeper in the seat once the right foot rolls into the pedal. The exhaust note makes you smile as the tail kicks out during a power slide, it is effortless. The engine boost, the much improved electric steering (It is greatly improved with more resistance and feedback), the M adaptive suspension and the exhaust give you a sensory experience more like the E86 ///M coupe than a base E89 Z4 on steroids- it is visceral. In the end this was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had in a car other than my own in quite some time (granted the man behind the wheel was no slouch!).
With twisted spoke wheels, exclusive badges and aluminum mirror caps/roll bars there is no mistaking this rendition of the Z4 for its siblings, and it is made even more apparent that this is not a run of the mill Z4 when the exhaust lets out a rumble. If there is a fault with this car it is the fact the aluminum roof still is retractable, as we would loved to see a solid piece of metal there for even greater structural rigidity and a loss of a few pounds of weight.
There is just something about a 2 seat sports coupe that makes things feel so much more intimate with the road and the surroundings. Is because you are closer to the road? Is it because you are shoe horned in between an engine and the rumbling exhaust? I am not sure but it something special and the Z4sDrive35is makes it even better. It is an aggressive package with mechanicals worthy of the track.
From a practicality standpoint the Z4 is not ideal for those that have kids to move around or even volunteer to DD for friends, not to worry BMW has you covered with the 335is in both coupe and hardtop convertible forms. The 335is does not have the same horsepower as its “IS ” cousin the Z4 because of slightly less available cooling but provides the same monstrous torque figures under overboost. That full on 369 ft-lb is available in both the 7 speed DCT and 6 speed manual thanks in part to the later receiving an updated flywheel when compared with a base 335i.
The horsepower adder in the 335is is not nearly as obvious as the increased loads of torque, this car feels more like the 335d than an ///M3 in this area. The ride is much like that of a sports package equipped 3, and it should be as the setup is the same- enough give and enough push back for most people. The car I drove was equipped with the DCT.The DCT brings with it the well documented loss of driver attachment to the act of engaging the shift with the clutch depressed but the shifts are quick. The DCT also allows you to think about the next apex rather than rev matching and making sure you nail it just right, if I would choose it is still up for debate.
The 335is has many sport oriented features. Like the Z4sDrive 35is the 3er ‘s body kit incorporates improved aerodynamics for high speed driving as well as additional cooling ducts for dissipating engine heat and to make ///M3 owner ‘s jealous- brake cooling ducts that are not based solely on wheel draw. A larger capacity cooling fan and auxillary radiator help keep the added boost from getting the inline six too hot for its own good.
Aside from the added grunt and styling kit the 3er “IS ” models feature special 18 ” style 313 wheels, a riveting exhaust complete with black tips to match the twin kidneys and mirror caps. On the interior it features the M Sport kit with a few exclusive tweaks in the form ofa 335is gauge cluster and an etched emblem on the passenger side dash trim (this is not an applique so if one would want to add or remove this an entire trim piece would be needed). Some might say that all of the “IS ” badging is a bit much and really is not that discreet; I would agree but if you think about how many ///M emblems are on a M Sport equipped car that offers ZERO performance gains at least these badges have something backing them.
If these 335is models were not exclusive enough, BMWNA has made a no cost sunroof delete available for those that would like to rid the added weight of the glass and gain some helmet room (if you are considering this your CA will need to contact BMWNA directly as it is not on the option sheet). Crimson Red paint, while available on base 335i coupes, is available with the 335is but not the M Sport kit making the 335is in Crimson Red somewhat of an exclusive color since it is the only aero kit version able to get it.
BMW engineers did their due diligence for us enthusiasts with these cars by testing them extensively for track days. Our tracks in the US feature more turns and less high speed straights when compared to many in the EU so these modelswere tested in the heat of California at Buttonwillow Raceway. That ‘s right BMW made these beauties track worthy from the get-go. Even though the car receives adequate cooling for the track with the pictured fog lights, BMW has decided to forego them at the start of production on the coupe to add a sportier look and to provide even more cooling for those scorching hot days at the track (as seen at the NY Auto Show). The 335is and Z4 35is are equipped with the same brakes as regular production cars, which should be adequate for some abuse at the track but are also the one glaring weakness.
While still track worthy, the convertible will be standard with the fogs as more than likely few will be tracked as extensively as Coupes- very few HPDE schools or clubs will even allow convertibles on the track. Many a drop top fan knows that the BMWCCA is prejudice against their choice of wheels and also to those that have SAVs- wonder what the X ///M lovers think about that or maybe they just drive with NASA? I digress.
The one thing that many have wondered since the original specs of “IS ” models came to light was why is there no LSD if these cars are for enthusiasts? Without having drank the Cool Aid, I can without a doubt say that the e-Diff programming in the Dynamic Stability Control does the job just fine with a few added benefits. While it is 90-95% of a mechanical differential on the track it is cheaper (for the manufacturer and consumer), provides no day-to-day parasitic loss, no added weight, no noises (clunks/whining) all while still letting you drift and lay two equal length strips. (We will be going into further detail on this in the future) So even without a true LSD these models are for the enthusiast and BMW has truly Injected Sport (back) into the Z4 and 335 “IS ” versions.
Anyone of these offerings would make a true BMW fan happy as a step above a standard model and a step just below the more hardcore ///M offerings. These are livable as daily drivers and fully capable at the track. These are the happy medium for those that bleed Weiss mit Blau. Two big thumbs up for BMWNA making these cars for us enthusiasts in the US and for allowing me some time in them well ahead of them coming to market.