Into the crankandpiston bear trap recently wandered the new BMW 335i, and very quickly we realized there was only one thing we could do: salivate over the striking red finish for a few minutes before taking a half-day at the office and putting some serious mileage on the clock.
Make no mistake, given the formidable reputation the 3 Series has garnered during its near 40-year life cycle (the BMW PR boys and girls were quick to mention that the model is the internationally bestselling premium vehicle), BMW can scarcely afford any issues with their new sixth generation model.
Such an occasion therefore warranted a deserving location, and so – with resident crankandpiston photographer Moe on-board – I ventured into downtown Dubai for a scout. And a hoon.
Aesthetically at least, the Beemer is off to a good start. A sleeker, more angled bonnet – plus re-designed front air intakes, an ‘air cushion’ built into the front bumper to improve air flow over the front wheels, and elongated front headlights – give the new sixth generation model a more aggressive look than its predecessor. You’d perhaps stop short of calling the new look ‘pretty’, nor is the new façade ‘muscular’ with the bonnet grooves a little too subtle for that. But the 335i is certainly a handsome piece of kit. There’s a similar story at the back too, where a minimalist approach to taillight and bumper design are unlikely to get the blood pumping. Saying that, the 19” Star spoke alloys really make up for that.
Step inside and it’s business as usual. Take a second to smile at the matching red stitching on the steering wheel and upholstery before enjoying the high quality sweeping dash and black leather seats. Belt up and you’ll find an uncluttered centre console and a cocooned driving position offering copious amounts of head and legroom, front and back. My rankle concerning both buttons and i-drive controls remains, and so cleverly concealed were some of the controls that using them at all proved a challenge (“how the hell do I put the electric sun blind down?” was repeated a few times before I eventually found the correct switch). So far though, the Beemer’s taken some solid brownie points here.
As we head out of Dubai towards the outskirts of town, Moe points determinedly at the entrance to a building site he’s had his eye on for a while now (don’t worry, we got permission first). This does temporarily bring our thrash about town to an end, but even the introductory spin has given me some good notes.
With a 3.0l six-cylinder engine bolted down under the bonnet and 306hp to play with, ‘oomph’ and ‘grunt’ spring quickly to my mind. My neck may not snap back as the right foot goes down, but you will feel yourself being slowly pushed back into your seat. And this might elicit a giggle or two. Throttle response – even in Comfort mode – is good, the turbocharged powerplant chucking out a ball of power as you hit 3/4000 revs in the lower gears. Drop down into second and keep the revs low, and you may find power delivery to be slightly more lethargic as the turbo lag kicks in. But slip the eight-speed automatic gearbox to manual, and power delivery through the fast-acting paddle shift gears will remain linear all the way through the box.
One element that remains steadfast is the steering, which is both weighty and pointed in equal measure. Consequently this provides a solid connection to the front tyres and the positioning there of, though not so much that steering the 335i becomes hardwork. It’s a similar story with the brakes, where plenty of feel through the pedal makes dropping the anchor very manageable.
For our drive around the building site for ‘the ideal shot’ I’ve selected Comfort mode again. I can feel the change in driving modes tangibly through the wheel as suspension settings and engine mapping readjust themselves. So far Sport + has proven its worth and put a smile on both Moe’s face and mine, though that’s not to say it’s 10/10 for the new 3 Series.
Let’s not forget that the rear-wheel drive 335i – despite it’s sporting connotations – is first and foremost a family saloon, practicality and comfort thus taking their place alongside performance. The front wheels, for example, when pushed too energetically will start to wash as the weight of the front end, hitherto unnoticeable, starts kicking in. Push on and the rears will try to kick out too. These are quickly wrestled under control again by the traction control, but the resultant loss of momentum can offset a lot of the car’s dynamism.
And this doesn’t come as a surprise. Driving the 335i is not akin to throwing its M3 flame-spitting brethren around the asphalt. There’s dynamism and power, but there’s civility too. Take the sound of the exhaust valves on the overrun, for example, and the soft ‘pfft’ as the gears slot home: both suggest performance – and even loutishness – but are just quiet enough to stop you getting carried away.