Oh, the torment. The frustration. The sheer agony… of waiting for the next-generation BMW M3. With the much-loved E46-generation M3 being a thing of the past, and the E90-based model still many months away, just what is a BMW M-car fan boy to do? Well, BMW may unwittingly be offering an M3 alternative in its own, current line-up, and as you’ll see shortly, it is a very tempting one… It’s called the BMW 335i Coupe and it is rather brilliant.
Subtle looks for BMW 335i CoupeThroughout its history, the 3 Series coupe has never been a flamboyantly styled machine. This new-generation model continues in much the same fashion, being very clearly derived from the 3 Series. But here’s a surprise… According to BMW not a single body panel is shared with the four-door sedan. So, let your gaze slide beyond the recognisable kidney grille and headlamps, and there is actually quite a lot that’s different to take in, especially towards the rear. The roofline is more sweeping and the rear end is longer, endowing the BMW 335i Coupe with an elegance it didn’t previously possess. The rear lights are also particularly attractive, and the two big-bore exhaust pipes signify the presence of some serious power. Overall, we’d say the 335i looks squatter and more muscular than before, especially when riding on striking 17-inch wheels (or bigger). But aggressive or hardcore? No, not quite.
Similarly, the interior gives very few clues of just how special this car actually is. Yes, it is all very neat and tidy, and there’s a lovely thick-rimmed steering wheel but in terms of design and trim, you could just as well have been in the sedan. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, because the BMW 335i Coupe boasts a truly superb driving position, which is of course a prerequisite for any car with sporting intentions. With the side-hugging driver’s seat lowered as far down as it can go, the gearlever falls perfectly to hand and one feels immediately ready for action.
But it’s not all about the driver. The cabin is spacious and would score full marks for practicality if only the front seats weren’t so cumbersome to move forward to allow passengers to get into the rear. Even the boot is of a decent size (430 L). As the flagship of the current 3 Series coupe line-up, the 335i is loaded with features, including climate control, auto lights, xenon headlamps, radio/CD player, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control (with a braking function), leather upholstery and 6 airbags. You pay extra for park assist.
Sizzler of an engineIf you’re one of those traditionalists who believe an M3 should always have six-cylinder power, then the rumoured V8 in the next-generation M3 will of course be upsetting. If that’s the case the BMW 335i Coupe starts to look even more attractive, because under that long bonnet is a twin-turbocharged derivative of the cracker of a 3,0-litre straight-six utilised to such great effect in the 330i. Each of the turbos feeds three cylinders, but they’re quite small, and their primary purpose is to boost in-gear acceleration. And no, the presence of turbochargers (and direct injection) has not robbed this charismatic engine of its trademark sound.
Delivering 225 kW and a stonking 400 Nm of torque from a low 1 300 rpm, the 335i feels lively from the moment you release pressure on the clutch. The engine is mated with a six-speed manual transmission that’s every bit as refined as the engine. Even so, full-bore starts are quite tricky, because if the traction control is deactivated you may end up with a lot of wheelspin. On the other hand, with the electronic nanny on duty, the car may bog down slightly. Get it right, however, and you’ll scorch past the 100 km/h market in 5,5 seconds – pretty much a match then, for the previous-generation M3! Frankly speaking, the acceleration time comes as something of a surprise, because the way in which it is achieved is so smooth and refined that it doesn’t “feel” so fast. This must rate as one of the best powerplants on the planet at the moment, not least because of the linearity of the power delivery.
Flawless chassisSeeing as the basis for the BMW 335i Coupe is the best-handling executive sedan in the world, the 335i was never going to be a dynamic disappointment. Even so, we can’t help but sing its praises. The BMW 335i coupe is 25 % stiffer than the sedan and boasts near perfect weight distribution of 51/49 front to rear. In addition to what is clearly a very accurately set up chassis, there are also anti-drive/roll assistance at both ends and an electronic stability control system (ESP) with dynamic traction control (DTC) and cornering brake control (CBC). Keep the electronic systems activated and you’d have to do something very stupid to get the 335i unstuck, but at the same time it also doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Switch the systems off, however, and the 335i can be transformed into a sideways hooligan machine at will.
In terms of dynamics, the BMW 335i Coupe is very close to perfect. The steering is, as on all 3 Series models, a mite heavy at low speed, but displays such precision and beautiful weighting elsewhere that it more than makes up for a bit of muscle work in the car park. And while the ride is quite firm around town, it never jars, and is stunningly supple at higher velocities.
BMW 335i Coupe - VerdictThis year, the BMW 335i Coupe rates as one of the most impressive new cars to come our way. It just about matches the outgoing M3 for performance and poise, but adds huge dollops of elegance, comfort and everyday usability to the recipe. If the next-generation M3 is better than this, then we’re really in for something special. But those who can’t wait are unlikely to be disappointed by this stunning machine.
- Superb performance
- Excellent handling
- Engine sound
- Build quality
- Access to rear seats
Engine: 3,0-litre, six-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 225 kW @ 5 800 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm @ 1 300 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Wheels: 17-inch alloy
Top speed: 250 km/h
0-100 km/h: 5,5 seconds
Fuel economy: 9,5 litres/100 km
- Mercedes-Benz CLK500 Elegance 7G-tronic: A fair bit more expensive, but ultimately not with too much reason. The V8 engine delivers similar power figures but the BMW 335i Coupe is the faster car. Crucially, the CLK also lags the BMW in the dynamics stakes.
- Nissan 350Z Coupe: If you’re looking for a coupe that offers a fair degree of practicality, then the 350Z doesn’t quite fit the bill. However, if driving thrills are the overriding consideration, then the hardcore Nissan rates highly. Good value.
- Peugeot 407 3,0 V6 Coupe: Don’t laugh… the big Peugeot coupe is more convincing than you may think, offering silky smooth performance and great comfort levels at a reasonable price. But the resale will be atrocious and dynamically it is left bobbing in the BMW’s wake.