At A Glance
Straight up performer, amazing entertainment system, canyon god
Lackluster interior, no gear indicator in D or DS mode, no oil temp gauge
Total Mileage: 8,900
Fuel Ecomnomy: 30 mpg
With most relationships, time is an important part of the courtship. Brief dealership test drives don't give you the full story. How could you possibly buy a car after a mere 20 minutes behind the wheel? But people do and sometimes wish they spent more time before signing the dotted line.
Editor Bidrawn thinks the BMW 335d is a fantastic car. In fact, he would probably make one helluva BMW salesman (he'd make a lot more money, that's for sure). So when I expressed my doubts about the BMW oil burner, he shoved the key in my hand and simply said, "See you next month." Now this is the way to "sell" a car.
My lengthy evaluation would take the BMW 335d all over Southern California, from the crowded streets of the San Fernando Valley to the wilds of the Mojave Desert. I wanted spend some quality time with the 335d, pushing buttons, twisting knobs and subjecting it to various driving scenarios. Also, because of the 335d's diesel fuel efficiency claims, I wanted to plot a 400-plus-mile road test in one day using only one tank of fuel. The route I plotted consisted of city streets, long stretches of open highway, and treacherous mountain roads.
I first stopped off to fill up the tank since the needle was on empty. I was amazed to see that the price of diesel was 50 cents cheaper than premium gas. I filled up for less than 40 dollars and was on my way. The first 200 miles were pure freeway and I spent most of the time evaluating the cabin's interior features. I found the indicator stalk sort of difficult at first; the blinkers would stay on when I wanted them off and went off when I wanted them on. Eventually, I gave up using them altogether. An hour later, I discovered the three-blink option in an iDrive sub-menu. I set the preferences to my driving style and all was good. My blinker frustration was soothed over by the sound system's kicking bass, the sweet sounds of the Sirius satellite radio and easy-to-use navigation-all controlled with a touch of a button. I also love the overall comfort and seating position, and after the long journey I didn't feel an ounce of fatigue or wear.
Unfortunately besides the awesome radio, nav, and seats, the rest of the interior was somewhat lackluster. I'd like to see a bit more in a $55,000 car. The aluminum trim's finish is not uniform, the cupholders were not very user-friendly to passenger or driver, and the overhead map lights didn't have covers over the lenses; they look like they were hijacked from a GM truck. Plus, what looks like a huge police light hangs from the rearview mirror. I looked for the button to activate it so cars would get out of my way, but to no avail.
The next part of the journey consisted of canyons to test the 335d's suspension and handling. During these twisties, two hands were required at the wheel. The paddle shifters were at the ready for either hand to switch gears with the push or pull of the paddle. Also, the voice command control feature allowed me to operate many facets of the system and relinquish my hand from the iDrive knob. When it comes to attacking mountain roads, it's hard to beat a BMW. The 3 Series in particular seems bred for this kind of activity, the perfect blend of power and control. By accident I discovered an isolated button on the corner edge of the seat that controls the lateral seat bolsters. I cocooned myself within the BMW's leather-clad seat and enjoyed even faster cornering.
At the end of the first week, I found that there's a definite learning curve that comes with driving the BMW 335d. The cabin is arranged a bit differently than in most cars. Perhaps it's because I'm so used to Audi and Volkswagen products, reaching for certain buttons had the exact opposite effect of what I was trying to accomplish.
I've come to the conclusion that BMW spends most of its development on chassis and engine dynamics whereas Audi and VW spent a great deal of their R&D time on user interface/cabin design. Personally, I don't recall driving such a dynamically proficient car in a long time. Despite being a bit short in interior styling, I'd overlook it based on its driving characteristics.
Yeah, I'd sign on for the BMW 335d.