2013 BMW 335i xDrive Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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I shouldn't really start a car review by commenting on paint colour, but the Estoril Blue Metallic paint on my 2013 BMW 335i xDrive M Sport pretty much sums up everything about this top-of-the-standard-lineup model: It's vibrant, attention-getting, awesome … and if it's not actually to your taste there are plenty of other options within the 3 Series stable to choose from.

BMW's latest generation 3 Series sedan (dubbed F30 within BMW circles) manages to increase the comfort factor of the previous generation car by growing a bit in size - allowing a bigger 495-litre trunk and a significantly roomier back seat - while still shedding a commendable 40 kg of curb weight compared to the previous generation car.

Motivating the slightly lighter new 3 Series is a range of engine choices including a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that develops 181 horsepower, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four that puts out 241-horsepower, and my test car's turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six, which antes up with 300-horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

Quite why the engine's 3.0-litre displacement doesn't make the 335i a "330i" is a complicated subject for the marketing wonks to explain, but what it means in terms of performance is simple: The 335i stomps it out, blasting from 0-100km/h in about 5.5 seconds and adding big increments of speed at the merest thought of throttle.

The turbocharged four in the 328i is hardly a slouch, it should be noted, and will rip to 100 km/h in just over six seconds, but the big six in the 335i offers certain other advantages, especially for long-time BMW aficionados: First is the delightful soundtrack it creates as it goes about its work, a wickedly silky growl with a sporty brap from the exhaust on each upshift, and virtually none of the direct-injection chatter you get from the four-cylinder at idle. Second, the 3.0-litre six carries with it the option of selecting a manual transmission with xDrive models (the 328i xDrive is only available with the automatic).

Available manual notwithstanding, my test car was fitted with the eight-speed sport automatic, which is a quick-shifting and smooth unit that performs perfect rev-matched downshifts, and in the 335i includes alloy paddle shifters. My one complaint here is that the paddles are steering wheel-mounted instead of column-mounted, but that seems to be the general preference these days, so it's hardly a major criticism.

Despite its abundant power, the 335i manages to be reasonably fuel efficient when driven with a modicum of restraint, partly thanks to technologies like BMW's Eco-pro mode (which optimizes throttle response, automatic transmission mapping and climate control power demands for maximum efficiency), auto start-stop technology (which shuts down the engine at traffic lights or when otherwise idling) and brake energy regeneration (a sort of super-mild hybrid technology that controls the alternator so it only generates power during deceleration). My test car showed a long-term average of 11.1 L/100 km, and in my own less-than-conservative around-town driving I was getting results in the neighbourhood of 13 L/100km. All-in-all, not too far off the city official rating of 10.8 L/100km (the official highway rating is 7.2 L/100km).

Of course if you prefer rocket-like acceleration to penny-pinching economy the 335i is happy to deliver that instead, and it'll plaster a big smile on your face as it does so - provided you avert your eyes from the fuel-economy readouts. I found the 335i would happily slurp up 16 litres of pricey premium fuel every 100 km if I left it in Sport mode and ventured onto the loud pedal with any sort of abandon (the default driving alternative is Comfort mode, which sits in between the dulled responses of Eco mode and the sharpened responses of Sport mode).

Dynamically the BMW 3 Series remains a car that other manufacturers aspire to, and the 335i xDrive is no exception. It has a beautifully balanced chassis and a nice flat cornering attitude. In a departure from the previous-generation car the steering is electrically-assisted instead of hydraulic, but the good news here is that the system is one of the best available, offering good weight, genuinely usable feedback, and precise steering control. The suspension also does its part, and in xDrive-equipped cars it works in concert with BMW's 40-60 front-rear split all-wheel drive system to provide quick reflexes and phenomenal grip, while offering a commendably compliant ride. As expected the 335i weighs about 75 kg more than the 328i I drove previously, but the average driver is unlikely to be able to notice any of the extra weight even when cornering fairly spiritedly.

Inside, the 335i is fitted out as befits the luxury sport sedan segment. The 10-way power-adjustable front sport seats are superbly comfortable and supportive, and the cabin features abundant use of soft-touch materials including on the door lowers. About the only hard plastics are found on the inner doorsills and lower portion of the centre console, and about my only complaint inside the car is the rather small size of the storage cubbies. The M Sport package includes a choice of either dark burled walnut trim or aluminum trim, which itself is available in either brushed or hexagon finish and with blue or black highlights. My test car was fitted with the hexagon-finished aluminum trim with blue highlights, which worked well with the car's black Dakota leather upholstery, keeping things bright yet businesslike.

My test car also came with a whole slew of optional safety, convenience and infotainment features including a premium package ($4,500 including rearview camera, rear park distance control, auto-dimming mirrors, navigation, Harmon/Kardon sound, and more), colour head-up display ($1,500), active cruise control ($1,000), front park distance control ($900), heated rear seats ($600), Sirius radio ($450), adaptive M suspension ($500), drivers assistance with blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning ($800), BMW Assistance with extended Bluetooth ($850), and surround view ($900). This latter feature was notable for an innovation that I'd not seen previously on any other car: a bumper-mounted "around the corner" camera that lets you see what's coming from either side of a blind corner before you get the whole nose of the car out - very handy when pulling out of tight downtown lanes or driveways where buildings block your view, or parking spots when there are large vehicles parked next to you.

As can be guessed from reviewing the above options list, if you check all the right boxes the 335i xDrive can quickly add up in price. The base car starts at $55,895 including destination charges. Adding in my test car's $2,300 M Sport package, M Sport brakes ($350), plus all of the above options and a few others besides, the as-tested price came to $72,145 with destination. It's a fairly hefty chunk of change, to be sure, but it does get you a top-of-the-line version of a class leading car, a tour-de-force sport sedan that still counts as "the one to beat" for rivals such as the Audi A4, Infiniti G, Lexus IS and the new Cadillac ATS. How's that old saying go? "If you can't beat 'em, buy one." Well, maybe that's not exactly right, but in this instance it might be close enough.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, BMW, 2013, 335i xDrive, $50,000 - $74,999, Compact,

Organizations: BMW

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