DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Give or take an option package or two, this 335i xDrive pretty much defines the average six-cylinder 3-series you're going to find on a dealer lot these days. It's a perfectly lovely premium sports sedan with a silky turbo engine, among the best steering and brakes in the class, and a leather-lined cockpit comfy for four adults. Aside from some lag between the engine/transmission when transitioning between brake and throttle, its driving manners are impeccable.
But is it still the best? The sedan to beat as an enthusiast's daily driver?
I know, wishy-washy as hell, but I'm conflicted about the F30 3-series in general, and the 335i specifically. Much of it is BMW's own fault; looks are subjective, but I don't think this generation of 3-series has the same visual assertiveness previous models had; I actually find the 4-series Gran Coupe a more attractive 3-series sedan (which is what it is). Performance-wise, as competent as the 335i is, the M235i is a more visceral machine with better looks for less money, and it doesn't give up as much interior space as you'd think (for the parents out there, note that 3-series rear seats are too narrow for boosters, forcing your kid to shove the seat base around to try to fasten the seatbelt). For fun and space, go drive an X3; if you're dismissing it because it’s a crossover, you're a fool -- it's one of the most entertaining drivers in the BMW lineup. Even among 3-series sedans, the 328i gives you so much of what's good about the 335i for thousands less, it renders the lovely six largely redundant.
See what I mean about conflicted?
I thoroughly enjoy the 335i but I don't really understand the point anymore, especially for the price. Our well-equipped (but by no means loaded) tester stickers for almost $60K. Of course, no one actually buys these things, and a quick check of the special offers at bmwusa.com shows this particular car leasing for $459/month with $4,254 due at signing. Thus your 335i actually costs $21,128 (don't forget the $350 disposition fee) as long as you don't cover more than 10,000 miles a year and/or get any dings. You just don't have a car any more after 36 months, which is fine by most lessees who are ready for a brand-new BMW at that point.
Worth it to you? You'll have one of the best sports sedans available today. But unlike years past, there are multiple alternatives, even within BMW's lineup, to give the enthusiast pause before laying down any cash.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Well, I thought I liked this car, until Andy made such a convincing case against it. Kidding. But looking at the monroney now, I could chop off a few thousand and still have a pretty boss BMW.
So ours comes out to $57K and change. Knock off the navigation, you have a phone; surround sound, you ain’t watching Blu-Rays in there; and even the M Sport package, which is basically an appearance upgrade; and you could be out of the dealership in the high $40s. Screw it, ditch the leather too, and you’ll have the best sports-luxury sedan on the planet. You can even get a manual.
Like Andy says, the way we have it optioned is probably the way most people will buy it. But, as an aspiring enthusiast, I’d take off every last nickel. The red leather, which is awesome, costs $1,450.
The 3.0-liter single turbo I6 and eight-speed automatic is the best pairing since Bonnie and Clyde. As long as the auto stop/start is turned off, it shoots off the line with that classic I6 growl. Shifts are quick, almost dual-clutch quick. For best results, put the pedal to the floor and click the paddle when the revs hit 4,000. Brakes were good with a few inches of travel and then a nice bite.
I would keep the Dynamic Handling package on this car, for $1,000. It adds the adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering that we like so much. It’s not a giant difference between sport and comfort, but it’s enough to notice, and enough to make everything feel tighter, steering included. I think the exhaust gets a bit louder too.
Handling, as you’d guess, is great for a sedan. BMWs are truly more fun to drive than most of the luxury marques out there. Everything feels buttoned up nicely and somehow there’s still a good amount of feel in the steering wheel, even though the company has gone to electric power steering assistance.
As for the exterior shape, it’s still classic BMW, with a little modern thrown in at the front and back. It’s probably not the best-looking 3 in the last few decades, but it’s not the worst, either. At any rate, that would be far down on the list of my concerns. Keep it smooth on the expressway and you’ll get 30 mpg? Sold, hopefully for less than $50K.
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