The 335i has had a devoted following since the E90/92 generation. In fact, its cult status is second only to the mighty M3, and with good reason.
The car’s tuning potential is vast, allowing mod shops to create a cost-effective “junior M3”, and the 3-litre straight-6, with true twin turbos instead of today’s TwinPower Turbo, remains a brilliant engine. It was initially hooked up to a 6-speed Steptronic automatic, later superseded by a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. While DCTs have been all the rage in recent years, BMW chose a conventional 8-speed auto for its latest 335i.
Again made by ZF, the new gearbox is smaller and lighter than the previous dual-clutch system, helping the F30 model lose some weight despite its increased size and improved equipment. There is now torque converter lock-up in every gear, enhancing efficiency.
Another “efficient” weapon is Eco Pro, which retards the responses of the throttle and transmission to the point where this 306bhp 3-litre might as well be a 156bhp 1.8-litre. To be fair, though, it does sip gas like a 1.8 when driven with restraint (and with the Auto Start-Stop activated). But for a petrolhead, crawling around in a powerful 335i with barely 1500rpm on the tacho is deadly dull.
Kill the boredom by hitting the Sport switch beside the gear lever. This is the “fun button”, which can be customised – my personal preference is to firm up the “Chassis” without speeding up the “Drivetrain”.
With both elements in their sport-oriented setting, the vehicle may be too maniacal for some – the throttle pedal turns extra-sensitive, the gears stay low and the revs fly high, the dampers become stiffer and the DSC (dynamic stability control) loosens up to allow tail-happy antics. Not good for daily driving, but great for weekend blasts on deserted roads or a favourite Malaysian racetrack.
Regardless of the 335’s driving mode, it is really the engine’s punchy 400Nm that powers the fun quotient. Quick kickdowns by the autobox, or DIY downshifts using the paddles, engage the fat swathe of torque that yanks the car forward. Even more enjoyable than the 5.5sec century sprint timing is the overtaking sensation – imagine being shot out of a cannon (German, of course). On full turbo boost, the rear tyres squirm as they struggle to contain the tremendous energy propelling the saloon at a fantastic rate.
Keeping a handle on the situation is the variable-ratio Servotronic steering. In the chassis’ Sport mode (which reduces the helm’s power assistance), it really lets the driver “feel” the car as it moves proportionately to his steering (or counter-steering) input. In the chassis’ Normal mode, however, the rack’s turn rate and level of assistance seem to be slightly out of sync with each other.
The observant driver will also notice the suspension momentarily going soft to absorb sharp bumps, but the damping is otherwise appropriately tight for the sporty 335i. Its standard run-flat tyres (Goodyears as tested) are still no match for today’s premium pneumatic rubber in terms of pliancy, but the suspension engineers have done enough to make the car cruise comfortably.
Cabin “comforters” in the range-topping 3 Series include supportive front seats, rear view camera, sunroof, navigation system, head-up display and a Harman Kardon hi-fi. Interior space is good (the same goes for the 480-litre boot), the leather upholstery’s red trimming adds a racy touch, and the overall build quality is faultless.
Looks like the Three of life is standing tall and strong with the new 335i.
2012 BMW 335i 3.0 (A)
Engine 2979c, 24-valves, inline-6, turbocharged
Max power 306bhp at 5800-6000rpm
Max torque 400Nm at 1200-5000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic with manual select
0-100km/h 5.5 seconds
Top speed 250km/h (governed)
Consumption 13.9km/L (combined)
Check out the 2018 BMW 3 Series here