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2011 BMW 335i M Sport Review & Test Drive

posted by Harvey Schwartz  
Filed under Automotive, BMW, Featured, Test Drives

‘FURTHER REFINING THE ULTIMATE SMALL SEDAN’

It is always great to test drive the BMW 3 Series sedan because it is still technically at the top rung of all small luxury performance sedans, and for that reason it is also the best-selling premium vehicle in the world. For 2011 the 335i is fundamentally unchanged except for the new turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, enabling even faster throttle response and an even small emissions signature.

The new 2011 335i that I tested came equipped with the optional M Sport Package which includes front and rear parking sensor control, 18in. alloy Star-spoke wheels, aluminum trim, sport seats, sport-tuned suspension, M steering wheel, M Shifter knob, aerodynamic bodykit, and anthracite headliner.  The M Sport Package gives a more aggressive look, and adds to the  excitement and driving pleasure when you are behind the wheel.

This new inline-6 engine, dubbed N55, displaces 3.0 liters and develops 300hp at 5,800rpm, with peak torque of 300lb.ft. available all the way from 1,200-5,000rpm.  Redline is 7,000rpm.  this is the same level of performance as the 3.0 liter twin-turbo inline-6 but with the innovation of twin-scroll technology and the integration of Valvetronic Double-VANOS steplessly variable valve timing, this new engine is even more fuel efficient.  This new all-aluminum, DOHC engine is the first BMW inline-6 to combine turbocharging, High-Precision direct fuel injection and Valvetronic variable intake technology.  It features a single, mid-sized turbocharger with a ‘twin-scroll’ housing to boost performance and minimize the response lag.  Thanks to its housing design which maintains proper separation between streams of exhaust gases, the turbocharger builds up pressure much faster than previous-generation turbochargers, this eliminating even the slightest tendency for lag.

Using Valvetronic Double-VANOS steplessly variable valve timing for the first time on a turbocharged inline-6 allows the engine to ‘inhale’ air for combustion with virtually no delay and with reduced pumping losses.  As a result, the engine makes power more quickly than ever before, and this is proven by the engine’s ability to reach peak torque at 1,200rpm, 200rpm earlier than its predecessor.

Turbocharging typically includes intercooling of the engine’s induction air, that is, cooling the compressed air that emerges, very much heated up by the compression process, from the turbocharger.  Sometimes it’s done with coolant, in the case of the new N55 engine, it’s accomplished with outside air.  Intercooling is necessary to reduce the temperature of the incoming air to preclude detonation or ‘knocking’ that can reduce power or, in the extreme, damage the engine.  The N55 like all other current BMW engines, is equipped with knock control as part of the Digital Motor Electronics (DME) engine management system.  On the N55 engine, the DME is now mounted directly to the top of the engine for better packaging and weight savings.

The 335i Sedan dual exhaust system runs at both sides of the vehicle.  At low loads, a flag channels most gas through one side to reduce low-frequency exhaust ‘rumble’. The 335i sedan features an air-to-oil external oil cooler mounted in one wheel well as opposed to the previous engine’s coolant-to-oil unit. This new engine is so sweet, so precise and so high-revving.  Just a slight tap of your foot on the throttle gets the rpm needle high-up in the tachometer.  On the road the 1,200rpm peak 300lb.ft. of torque blasts the new 335i sedan out to 60mph from a standstill in just 5.4sec. and a top speed of 150mph when equipped with the M Sport Package.

Mated to this race-bred engine is a smooth shifting, fully synchronized, short throw, 6-speed manual transmission.  Shifting is almost effortless and you ease up or down the gears and quickly push the new 335i to higher speeds.  There is nothing more fun and exciting in a sport sedan than shifting the gears manually, it brings you closer to being an integral part of the Ultimate Driving Machine.  This butter-smooth shifter is what came standard in my 335i or you can opt for the available 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.

Compared to the 5-speed unit it replaces, it’s lighter, has a more effective torque converter, operates with fewer internal clutches and can reduce fuel consumption, particularly at cruising speeds.  In the 335i, and to appear in other models later, the automatic is the familiar ZF 6 HP 19, but in the TU, or Technically updated, form.

As in all other current BMW automatics, the Steptronic feature offers you a choice of Normal, Sport and Manual modes.  Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive ranges are in the right gate of the shift lever.  The Sport mode, in which shifts occur at higher engine speeds, is engaged by moving the lever leftward from D; the Manual mode is engaged when you manually choose a gear by tipping the lever or push the shift paddles located on the steering wheel spoke forward for downshifts, or rearward for upshifts.

Part and parcel of BMW’s tradition as the Ultimate Driving Machine is its sophisticated chassis technology.  All 3 Series models come with BMW’s patented double-pivot strut-type front suspension with aluminum components for reduced unsprung weight, and a rear suspension using a 5-link setup that is engineered for a unique combination of agility and reassuring stability.  The 335i M Sport-Tuned suspension tightens the setups, front and rear, for even more response to your inputs.  The 335i M Sport just glides along whether you are cruising at high speeds or when you are challenging curving roads.  The excitement builds when you enter a corner and turn the wheel.  The response is so neutral and well balanced it feels like you are driving on rails as you enter and exit the turn.  An imaginary curving wall appears on your left or right as you enter a corner at higher than posted speeds, not letting you stray from your chosen path.  Much of this control is augmented by the standard Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control systems that vary the amount of throttle and brake force to keep the wheels with the most traction glued to the road.

Further enhancing that ‘glued to the road’ and ‘riding on rails’ feeling are the magnificent Bridgestone Pontenza REO50A low profile, high-performance tires that the 335i M Sport comes equipped with.  The staggered setup includes 225/40R18in. front, and 255/35R18in. rear, tires that wrap around 18X8in. lightweight aluminum alloy, Star-spoke wheels that further reduces unsprung weight.

BMW’s steering is just as essential to the driving experience.  All 3 Series models come standard with a hydraulic power-steering system whose road feel and precision are legendary; the 335i M Sport that I tested came with the Active Steering system which varies both the steering ratio and power assist to further enhance agility, particularly at low to medium driving speeds.  Active Steering is another of those BMW innovations that truly has to be experienced to be believed.  Just a slight turn of the wheel quickly and precisely changes you direction, just like on a racecar.  The speed of the reaction to my inputs was phenomenal.

Even further enhancing the response and extreme handling capability of the new 335i is the 3-piece strut tower brace over the engine that adds rigidity to the front end.  It only brings you closer to being another integral part of the car.

Quickly slowing the 335i M Sport sedan down from speed are large, 4-wheel, power- assisted steel disc brakes.  Up front are 13.7in vented rotors clamped down on by four-piston calipers while the rear features 13.2in. vented rotors clamped down on by single-piston calipers.  Increasing your braking power is standard ABS, brake fade compensation, brake drying and dynamic brake control.  The brake pedal always felt linear as I applied the binders when I had to slow down as I drove in stop and go city traffic, or when carving up the curving mountain roads.

With all of these great dynamic driving features under the skin of the new 335i M Sport, once again the critics and pundits in America, and around the world proclaim the 335i as the best all-around driving small luxury sport sedan.  I concur with their judgments. But this is only half of the virtues that make the new 2011 BMW 335i so great to drive.

Inside and outside sees new subtle details like a wider rear track enhancing the car’s planted-on-the-road stance, and new headlights, taillights and side sills.  Even better ergonomics and esthetics lie inside.

Up front is a bolder front spoiler/bumper ensemble imparting a sportier, stronger character.  Its center air intake is larger than before, enhancing the air supply for mechanical components; upswept lines in the lower air intakes channel air to the intercooler, the bumper itself and the newly shaped headlight clusters emphasize the wide stance.  Double longitudinal hood lines, more 3-dimensional than ever, rise toward the steeply raked A-pillars and frame the hood’s power dome.  New lighting features include the layered turn-signal lenses, and on models with the Xenon Adaptive headlights, BMW’s distinctive luminous rings now serve as Daytime Running lamps.  Halogen free-form front foglamps light up the road during inclement weather.  The optional Park Distance Control now includes front and rear monitoring.

Front the side the lower character line that runs from just behind the front wheel well to just ahead of the rear wheel well, is more prominently contoured and strongly expresses the low stance.  On the Sport Package that I had a new high-gloss Shadowline (black) trim more elegantly frames the side windows.

At the rear and restating BMW’s traditional L-form are the taillight clusters with their two main segments for the taillights and turn signals composed of LED rows for an even higher-tech look than before.  The trunk lid is newly shaped with a lip at the rear to increase downforce, and the 0.6in. wider track does its part to strengthen an already road-gripping stance.  Down below are two polished stainless steel exhaust tips nicely spread apart at each end.

Open the front doors and check out the sporty, comfortable and luxurious interior.  A giant slab of real aluminum is laid onto the dashboard from end to end and on the door trim.  Newly refined materials, surfaces and colors add appeal; certain functional elements including the optional iDrive controller, dual climate and audio controls offer refined appearance and tactile qualities.  The aluminum bezel instrument cluster is easy to see and understand.  All switches, dials and levers are within easy reach.  The stick shifter is perfectly located for easy and precise usage.  The beefy M Sport leather-wrapped/tilt/telescoping steering wheel feels great in your hand and features buttons for the audio system, Drive Information System and Bluetooth hands-free communications.

The M Sport package leather-trimmed bucket seats are very comfortable and feature fully-adjustable bottom and seatback.  Also include is power lumbar support control and power side-bolster control to firmly keep you in place when the spirit moves you to increase the level of the 335i’s driving dynamics on the open road, and when slicing and dicing along steep curving roads.

The doorsill trims with their distinctive BMW M script are new.  The somewhat smaller iDrive controller has a fine galvanic surface, and is newly surrounded by the direct-select keys that enhance iDrive’s user-friendliness.  There’s a larger storage tray in the center console including the auxiliary audio input and providing an appropriate place to lay an audio source.  Door panel design has been refine too; on the driver’s door the power-window and mirror controls have been moved 2cm rearward for an easier, more natural reach.

Standard equipment not mentioned above includes keyless entry, start/stop ignition button; two-person memory for seats and outside mirrors, air-vents behind the center console, pull-down rear armrest with pop-out dual cupholders, power moonroof, heated dual power mirrors, door storage slots up front, and heated windshield washer jets for the rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers, cruise-control, self-dimming rearview mirror,

AM-FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system with HD radio, auxiliary audio input for portable music players, adaptive brake lights, dual map lamps, grab handles above each door, an aluminum clad footrest, and thick floor mats front and rear.

Options in my 335i M Sport not mentioned above include Xenon Adaptive Headlights with dynamic auto-leveling and Corona headlight rings, heated front seats, iPod and USB adapter, Navigation system, Satellite radio with 1-year subscription, universal garage door opener, digital compass mirror and Titanium Silver Metallic paint.

Standard safety features include 3-point safety belts for all five seating positions with load limiters/pretensioners up front, front and rear head protection system, driver’s and front passenger airbags, seat-mounted front side-impact airbags, steel beams in each door, front and rear crumple zones.

The base price for the new 2011 BMW 335i is $40,600.00 and my loaded M Sport model was stickered at $52,275.00 including destination.

Just one test drive at your local BMW dealer will convince you that the new 335i luxury sport sedan is still at the ‘top rung’ of small sport luxury sedans.

COPYRIGHT:2010:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: Base 335i Sedan $41,100 As-Tested 335i M Sport Sedan $52,275
Type: Compact Sedan
Where Built: Germany
EPA Class: Compact Cars

Dimensions

Exterior
Length: 178.2 in.
Width: 71.5 in.
Height: 55.9 in.
Wheel Base: 108.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3593 lbs.
Gross Weight: 4652 lbs.

Interior
Front Head Room: 38.5 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 55.4 in.
Rear Head Room: 37.5 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 55.1 in.
Front Leg Room: 41.5 in.
Rear Leg Room: 34.6 in.
Luggage Capacity: 12 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 12 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5

Performance Data

Number of Cylinders: 6
Engine Size: 3 liters
Engine Type: Inline 6
Horsepower: 300 hp
Max Horsepower: 5800 rpm
Torque: 300 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 1200 rpm
Drive Type: RWD
Turning Circle: 36.1 ft.
0-60mph: 5.4 seconds

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 16.1 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Manual: 19 mpg / 28 mpg / 22 mpg
Range in Miles:
Manual: 305.9 mi. / 450.8 mi. / 354.2 mi.

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