REVIEW DATE: 19 Jan 2010
Do modern sports coupes come any more accomplished than BMW's 335d? Andy Enright checks the specs.
Car enthusiasts the world over do it. They take a great engine and imagine plumbing it into a smaller car. Most of the time it never gets beyond idle musing. The car enthusiasts that work for BMW go several stages further. They make the fantasy a reality and then have the good grace to sell it to the likes of us; people whose practical skills don't go far beyond changing an air filter. BMW's 335d coupe is a perfect case in point.
The engine you've probably seen before in BMW's 5 Series and X5 4x4. Although the badge suggests that this is a three and a half litre unit, it in fact displaces just 2993cc but leans on a pair of turbochargers to help plump the power up to a level you'd expect from the bigger unit. It does in fact generate a hefty 286bhp, the same power output as the 3.0-litre engine that once powered the M3.
Unlike the petrol 335i, this model features two turbochargers of significantly different size. The smaller of the two blowers doesn't take a lot of energy to spool up and comes on stream from idle through to 1,500rpm, whereupon the engine's exhaust gases can overcome the inertia of the bigger of the two units. From around 1,000rpm, these two units operate together but from 2,500rpm up to the 5,000rpm redline, the big turbo is operating on its own.
Peak power arrives at 4,400rpm where this engine is making that crushing 286bhp. Even more impressive is the 580Nm torque figure - exactly the same as a Porsche 996 Turbo. If you're really into your engines, you might well have twigged that this powerplant is cranking out a specific output of 90bhp per litre - again more than any other diesel. If you're not technically minded, let's just say that this is a very advanced piece of plumbing.
"If I had to choose one car to teleport back twenty years to demonstrate how far cars have progressed, I think I'd pick this 335d Coupe"
So muscular is the 335d that BMW's standard manual gearbox would be turned to swarf by its torque. Instead, this car is fitted with a slick six-speed ZF automatic gearbox. What is particularly impressive about the 335d is the way BMW have overcome the downsides of driving a turbodiesel car. The rather unsatisfying 'bog and surge' power delivery of many turbodiesels has been completely nullified by the clever sequencing of the turbochargers, ensuring a clean, even spread of power from idle right up to redline. An electronically-limited top speed of 155mph is as quick as you'll probably ever need and makes the powerful petrol-engined 3-Series models seem strangely superfluous.
You don't buy a car like this on the strength of fuel economy but the 335d nevertheless returns predictably excellent figures that are better than ever since the introduction of BMW's EfficentDynamics technology. A combined showing of 42.8mpg will make planting the throttle a refreshingly guilt-free experience. Likewise, if you're a company car buyer who has some rather serious clout, the 174g/km carbon dioxide emissions figure is a bit of icing on the cake.
This is a genuinely astonishing vehicle. It's virtually as quick to 60mph as a Nissan 370Z coupe (6.1 seconds) but is more economical than a 1.6-litre Ford Mondeo and features as much boot space as a Lexus GS. All of this would make the 335d worth buying alone even if the car was an average handler but it's a BMW and you know what you're going to be getting.
One look at the aluminium suspension parts and the direct rack and pinion steering shows that BMW are serious about upholding their reputation for producing the Ultimate Driving Machine. Our advice would be to avoid the temptation of the optional Active Steering. While it makes the car a good deal sharper around town, it robs the helm of feel just where you need it most - right at the limits of adhesion.
Then there's the styling. Contemporary BMW design has been a strangely hit and miss affair but the bullseye has been firmly hit in this instance. Taut, sleek, muscular and boasting not a single shared body panel with the 3 Series saloon, the latest Coupe will earn whole legions of buyers before they ever clap eyes on one in the metal. The silhouette is low and elongated, giving it an elegance that's singularly lacking in the buttoned-down saloon.
BMW has taken steps to differentiate the latest coupe further from the saloon and Tourer estate. Most noticeable is the single air-intake sliced in below the front bumper with matt aluminium fins mounted within it. Its effect is to visually lower and widen the car for a more planted and sporty stance. It appears to work. Other features include the revised headlights with LED corona rings and red LED rear lights.
The detailing on this car is worth mentioning. The slick way the robotised arm hands you your seat belt when you drop into the driver's seat, the ease of access to the rear thanks to a front seat that's almost a work of art, the split/fold rear seat and the beautifully-trimmed centre console that extends to the rear cabin are all examples of where your pounds have been spent. If the Coupe is still a little too restrictive for your needs then there are Saloon and Touring models available that also feature this powerplant. Coupe customers get the choice of SE or M Sport trim levels and all the latest cars feature leather trim.
Asking whether this is the most complete sports coupe available seems almost fatuous. Of course it is. Nothing even comes close. In terms of ability, it's peerless. Perhaps all it lacks is a little in the way of attitude.
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