2009 BMW 335i: The benchmark of compact luxury sport sedans

By Bruce Caldwell

The BMW 3-Series sedans continue to be the mechanical rabbit at the compact sports sedan racetrack. The noisy pack of Asian, European, and North American hopefuls are constantly nipping at BMW’s heels, but like the rabbit, BMW always wins. The mechanical rabbit comparison is valid, because BMW 3-Series sedans use their legendary mechanical advantage to stay ahead of the pack. The upstarts may make strong advances in styling, amenities, and new technologies, but the solid BMW mechanical advantage is tough to beat.

Walkaround: BMWs look like BMWs, that is to say they have consistent styling elements that immediately identify them as BMWs. Their styling got a little off center a few years back (especially the rear treatment on certain models), but lately radical styling cues have been toned down. Handsome is a good word to describe the 335i.

Interior: In keeping with the strong driver focus, BMWs favor driver room and comfort over that of rear seat passengers. That certainly holds true for 3-Series sedans (it’s worse for coupes and convertibles). Front seat support and comfort are excellent. The rear seat is best reserved for short adults or children. Interior storage features are on the sparse side. BMW’s odd (unique?) controls (like the turn signals) take a little getting used to, but once you understand them they’re fine. We’re not overly fond of the navigation system, but thankfully the iDrive control system is optional.

Under The Hood: It’s what’s under the hood that counts when it comes to BMW’s prowess. The 3.0-liter DOHC inline six-cylinder engine may seem old fashioned next to competitors’ V-6 and V-8 engines, but the BMW inline six is a bulletproof Swiss watch that just keeps on going and going and going . . . BMW added a 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6 to the 2009 US lineup.

It produces 265 hp and an incredible 425 lb-ft of torque. It’s supposedly good for 33 mpg on the highway. Precision engineering and a broad, powerful torque band are hallmarks of BMW six-cylinder engines. The turbocharged 3.0-liter six in the 335i sedan has a prodigious 300 lb-ft of torque to match its 300 horsepower. That stump-pulling torque is available at a mere 1,400 rpm.

You should experience BMW engines to fully appreciate them. The 335i is available with either a 6-speed manual (our favorite) or a very capable 6-speed automatic. BMW has been at the forefront of multi-gear automatics — the M3 (with its 414 hp 4.0-liter V-8) is available with a 7-speed automatic.

Behind The Wheel: The BMW 335i is a driver’s car. The superb driving experience (and probably a little status factor) is a key reason people buy BMWs. The BMW 335i had a very solid feel, but it’s nimble and an excellent handling car. BMWs are substantial, rock solid cars.

Whines: We’re still not crazy about iDrive, but we don’t loathe it as much as we did originally.

Bottom Line: The BMW 335i (as well as the other 3-Series sedans) is the benchmark of compact, luxury sport sedans — and rightfully so.