Road Test: 2012 BMW 335i
The 2012 BMW 335i sport sedan holds the line against the weight gain that detracted from some of the automaker's recent vehicles. At $54,850 for the loaded car I tested, the 335i's price tag is awful hefty, though.
The 2012 3-series sedan is all new, despite styling that's evolutionary in the sense that living creatures evolve over millennia, with virtually no discernible difference from one generation to the next.
Under the skin, the differences are profound and for the good. The new car has more passenger and luggage room, a more powerful base engine and better fuel economy.
The 3-series is BMW's best-selling vehicle. It comes in a wide array of models, but only the sedan is new for 2012.
The 335i uses a turbocharged version of the 3.0-liter I-6 that produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque.
I tested a very well-equipped model. It had the manual transmission and options that included a navigation system, head-up display, Harman/Kardon sound, 19-inch alloy wheels and adaptive suspension. The 335i competes with the Acura TL SH-AWD, Audi S4, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS 350 and Mercedes-Benz C350.
The new BMW is a delight to drive. The silky six-speed manual transmission is virtually effortless. The light clutch makes it easy to work the gears enthusiastically. The suspension holds the 335i firmly planted during hard cornering and absorbs bumps well. The steering is quick and precise.
Despite being 3.7 inches longer, 0.2 inch wider, 0.4 inch taller, and having more passenger and luggage space, the new 335i weighs a few pounds less than a comparably equipped 2011 model.
The 335i rates an excellent EPA combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 23 mpg. Only the C250 Sport can match that, but that Mercedes only comes with an automatic transmission, and a 335i with BMW's 8-speed automatic trounces it by 3 mpg.
The larger interior increases head and leg room. Big map pockets offer good storage space, but the bin in the center console is small. You'll be hard put to find a good place for sunglasses, phone and music player.
A 6.5-inch color display and BMW's continually improving iDrive system make it reasonably easy to control the car's secondary systems.
The light, sleek 335i sedan's comfort, performance and fuel economy set a high standard that goes a long way toward justifying the car's high price.
Base price: $42,400
Price as tested: $54,850 (excluding destination charge)
EPA fuel economy rating: 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection DOHC variable timing 24-valve straight-six.
Power: 300 horsepower at 5,800 rpm
Wheelbase: 110.6 inches
Length: 182.5 inches
Width: 71.3 inches
Height: 56.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,571 pounds
Bottom line: Nice handling, performance and fuel economy, but brace for sticker shock.