At Beyond The KM, we are constantly inundated with letters from readers asking about car buying advice. One such letter read:
I want a car that costs $41,575, comes from Europe, and breaks my neck as I accelerate. Which car should I buy?”
Another recent letter read:
I need to spend at least $41,575 on a German car with two doors, an engine, and those great flappy gearbox paddles! Which car do you recommend?”
If you are one of those two readers, boy have we got the car for you. Welcome the 2007 BMW 335i Coupé. Coupé means you get only 2 doors in case you are new to car buying. Don’t worry though, you do get a pretty spacious boot, and with the option to fold-down the tiny-ish back seats, you get quite a lot of room. Perfect for storing your golf clubs or perhaps 50 tennis racquets. One could surmise that people buying this car would naturally be driving off to do either of these two things.
It would be argued then that this is really a car to “go out” in and to “be seen” in, but that would be just plain wrong. Notably, 90% of the press junket discussed the “design” of the car. Indeed, it is a sure sign that the design is horrendous and BMW marketing wants us to think otherwise. Clearly, they are working overtime.
BMW hired an American, Chris Bangle, many years ago to “remake” the look of BMW. Who knows why, the old designs did just fine, but BMW management decided to change it around anyway. Sure enough, the 2002 BMW 7-series “came out” and most everyone was aghast. Most asked the unanswerable question, “why turn a great car like the old 740i into such a bulbous and bizarre monstrosity?” The design adversely affected sales, and since, the design team has been forced to be much more conservative.
The problem is, and this is the biggest problem with BMW today, they still haven’t got it right – even after 5 years. Sure the 335i has many of the hallmarks of a BMW, the kidney-shaped grill, the 4-across headlights, and the Hoffmeister kink in the C-pillar. Yet the 335i just looks too over the top. Comparing the new 335i next to the old 330i coupé leaves one to ponder, why? The new car just looks over-designed.
That said, not everyone at BMW has lost sensitivity to tradition and Teutonic thinking. While the designers should all be canned, the engineers at BMW have continuously pumped out great car after great car, and the new 3er lineup is no different.
The biggest improvement in the 2007 335 belongs to the powertrain. The new 3er engine is a weight-saving aluminum construction with a 3.0-liter displacement combine with two turbochargers. This is designed to deliver efficient boost regardless of engine speed. It works too – the 300hp engine propels you forward and on to 60 mph in an impressive 5.5 seconds (automatic transmission). Not as great as the forthcoming M3 mind you, but fast enough to put you in stiff competition with a Porsche Cayman equipped with Tiptronic.
Curiously, BMW has decided to fit F1-style paddle shifters behind the steering wheel as a $100 option with the automatic transmission. Even more curious, it is only available on the 335i not the 328i. The paddle shifters hardly matter, and do little if anything to actually improve performance. You may boastfully to mention to your golf buddies that your car has a transmission “similar to” that of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari.
Handling on the 335i Coupé has been improved as well. Truthfully, it was great in the previous 330i, but it is almost imperceptibly improved. BMW says this is a result of using “virtual pivot points” and linking the suspension to the sub-frame rather than the body. The end result of all of this work is improved ride comfort (it really is pleasant), and more precise handling (again, important only for those trying to look like Michael Schumacher with their flappy paddles).
Moving inside, the interior is pretty good. Older people with back pain may find the seats uncomfortable after extended use – such people may prefer to buy a Buick. More uncomfortable is the price tag of leathering those seats, a BMW-sized $1450 option. Most of BMW’s competitors include leather as standard, but for the thrifty, the standard leatherette seat coverings will suffice. Fortunately, the 335i features power seats as standard, so you can save a few bucks and spend it on Xenon lights, which cleverly follow the angle of the steering wheel.
What this all adds up to is yet another powerful and agile car from BMW. It handles like a BMW, it rides like a BMW, accelerates like a BMW, and looks like – well, like something I am not at liberty write within these pages.
As a final word of caution, you should drive all of the BMW 3-series competitors, including the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz CLK, and even the Porsche Cayman. You might also try the new Infiniti G37, as it should prove stiff competition in the American market where Japanese luxury cars are more commonplace. Still, if you happen to win the $41,575 lottery jackpot tomorrow, you should also count yourself lucky to end up with a BMW 335i Coupé.
BMW 335i Coupé
Final verdict: 4/5
Superb engineering, but grotesque to look at in traffic.
Photos courtesy BMW