First Look: 2007 BMW 335i Coupe
Good Looks and Turbocharged Brawn
The much anticipated BMW 3 Series coupe joins its sedan sibling for 2007 bringing with it a new host of engines, coupe-specific styling and a new standard of performance never before seen in a non-M-spec 3 Series sedan or coupe. The coupe is better looking and more elegant than its sedan brethren, especially from the rear, having been spared the heavy handed Chris Bangle influence whose recent designs such as the 7 Series and Z4 have been, to say the least, controversial. The 2007 coupe, which can be had as a 335i, 328i, or 328xi AWD model, is the least polarizing design to come out of Munich in the last several years and is arguably the best looking cars in the current BMW lineup. The coupe is instantly recognizable as a 3 Series yet has its own distinctive character as the coupe doesn’t share any sheet metal, head or tail lights with the sedan. Inside the cabin, things are much more familiar as the interior dash layout is the same as in the sedan. There are some interesting differences inside however. Front passengers will no longer have to worry about tearing their rotator cuffs when reaching back for the B-pillar mounted seatbelts as the coupe has motorized arms that “deliver” the seatbelts within easy reach. In back, seating arrangements are also different from the sedan. The coupe seats only four passengers and so rear occupant are treated to their own personal space provided by a center console that replaces the typical middle seat providing additional rear storage compartments and air vents.
Besides the exterior and interior nuances, the highlight of the 3 Series coupe is the return of the turbocharger to BMW’s powertrain line. Twin turbochargers can be found on the top of the line 335i model’s 3.0 liter direct injected inline-six engine to help it develop an even 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft torque. This stout turbocharged motor hits the hallowed 100 horsepower per liter of displacement mark few production cars ever come close to. Known as the N54 among BMW officials and BMW gearheads, the 335i’s engine uses two small, fast-spooling turbochargers to minimize turbo lag. Each turbo feeds compressed air to three cylinders each; the front turbo is dedicated to cylinders 1-3 and the rear turbo sends the pressurized air to cylinders 4-6.
Performance from the 335i should prove to be brisk, more accurately, seat compressing. With a conservative BMW claimed 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds when mated to a manual trannsmission (don’t be surprised to see the 335i hit 60 mph in the 4.9-5.1 second range), the range topping 335i coupe should easily keep up with its Japanese sport sedan rivals: the 2007 Infiniti G35 sedan and Lexus IS350. Both the Infiniti and Lexus come with polished, naturally aspirated 3.5 liter V6 engines each rated at 306hp. The Bimmer’s turbo motor may be short a few horsepower, but it beats both V6’s in the torque department handily. Rumor has it that the 335i’s twin turbo engine’s 300hp rating is on the fairly conservative side of things. Some early production 335i’s have already been run on dynos and are estimated to produce horsepower closer to 350hp from the crank. Doubtless, this motor should really put the performance heat back on BMW’s main rivals.
The base 328i coupe has a naturally aspirated 3.0 liter inline-6 good for 230hp, 15hp more than the 2006 sedan’s 215hp. Although, not nearly as powerful as the 335i, this engine should still provide sprightly acceleration and the legendary smoothness we come to expect of BMW’s inline-6.
The 335i coupe comes with a standard ZF 6-speed manual transmission for drivers who want the purest connection to this performance machine (the 328i comes with a Getrag unit). BMW’s excellent 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is also available as an option. The 335i’s “slushbox” is no slouch. Opting for the automatic adds only two tenths of a second to the 0-60 time at 5.5 seconds. The coupe’s automatic transmission, which is similar to that in the 330 sedan, benefits from more effective vibration damping, up to 40% quicker shifting response (response to accelerator pedal input), up to 50% quicker shifts (due to a new hydraulic shifting system and updated electronic software) and finer adaptation to driving style and conditions. The automatic unit can be shifted manually as on the sedan via the shift knob, however, the 335i coupe can also be had with steering wheel mounted shift paddles (not available on the 328i) when the Sport Package is checked off on the options list.
Despite all the performance the 335i delivers, gas mileage is astonishingly miserly. The 335i’s EPA estimated MPG is 19/28 when paired with the manual tranny and 20/29 with the automatic. Yes, the automatic gets better gas mileage than the manual. That’s not a typo.
Of course the BMW isn’t just about good looks and brawn. You can’t claim to be a BMW unless you can carve up the canyons as well. The excellent chassis introduced in the new 3 Series sedan is transplanted into the 2007 coupe with stiffness increased by 25%. BMW employs aluminum double pivot lower arms that work along with the coil spring/strut combination up front along with a five-link suspension in the rear. This sophisticated suspension setup should provide the coupe with a taut yet compliant ride along with confidence inspiring handling so that time spent in the coupe won’t just be about doing smoky Bavarian burnouts but tackling the twisties as well
The 335i clamps down on large 13.7 inch discs up front and 13.2 inch rotors in the rear to bring this turbocharged beast to a stop. Providing the friction on the tarmac are standard 17 inch tires. Upgrade to the more exciting Sport Package and you’re rewarded with more aggressive 18 inch W-rated rubber.
All the BMW techno gadgets we have come to appreciate and despise are available on the coupe, many standard, some optional. The whole slew of BMW “stability-enhancement” acronyms (DTC, DSC, DBC, etc…) come standard and keep drivers safe and planted to the road when one gets a bit overzealous on the roads. Thankfully, these safety nannies can be turned off if one desires to dabble in some questionable driving behavior – can you say “power slide?” Other features such as Active Steering, Active Cruise Control, Park Distance Control, and iDrive (part of the navigation system) are stand alone options that can be chosen at one’s discretion.
The BMW 335i coupe will definitely hold its own against its fierce competition and may very well be the benchmark for current and upcoming luxury sport coupes. With its burly turbocharged powerplant, solid chassis, refreshingly appealing styling, and luxury appointments and features, the 335i coupe will definitely be on the top of driving enthusiasts’ wish lists everywhere. However, with an MSRP starting at $41,295, the 335i may end up being just that for many drivers out there, just a wish. You could opt for the 328i coupe, which has a “friendlier” starting price of $35,995. But then, why not wait for the stunning 2008 Infiniti G35 Coupe which should be priced similarly to the 328i and come with performance similar to the 335i? Oh the choices. Yet, one could also argue, why not save your money, get rid of your cable TV, sell your plasma screen, eat rice and beans for a year and fork out the cash for the 335i and know that you’re getting the twin turbo motor and near-M3 performance for thousands less. Rice and beans never sounded so good.