Has the best of the best been trumped? BMW takes pride in their slogan; the "ultimate driving machine". Unlike other automakers, the slogan actually means something.
I voted for the Audi S4 as my favourite driven car over $30,000 last year. Since BMW introduced the 335i for 2007, it has been continuously on my radar. In fact, before I’d driven the S4 with the supercharged V6, the 335i was my #1 choice for a daily driver. Naturally the thought of a rear-drive, inline-6 with two turbos and German refinement seemed unbeatable. I opted to vote for the Audi for a few reasons; the main being that the twin-turbo N54 engine in the initial 335i models was prone to turbo failures. This past week though, I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the 2013 BMW 335i xDrive, and I came away with a huge grin on my face. The one question in my mind remains though; is it S4 good?
The current 335i is powered by a twin-scroll turbocharged 3L inline-6. It puts out a smidge over 300 horsepower and torque numbers are also right around the 300 lb-ft mark. My tester had xDrive, which puts it into direct competition with the 333-horsepower Quattro-driven S4. With cars like the Cadillac ATS 3.6 being on the market now, the 2013 BMW 335i xDrive faces some tough players. All of that being said, the BMW is still the king in terms of driving dynamics. I’ve always said that unless I’m driving a huge luxury car, I prefer a manual transmission every day of the week. The day has finally come when I prefer an automatic. The new 8-speed automatic seems to predict exactly when I want to shift, and it does a wonderful job of it. In “Sport +” mode, the shifts sound incredible too, not unlike the DCT blipping of the Audi.
BMW takes pride in their slogan; the “ultimate driving machine”. Unlike other automakers, the slogan actually means something. To put it simply, the handling on the 2013 BMW 335i xDrive is phenomenal. Even though the 3-series has gained some weight over the years, the car still pulls off some brilliant dance moves. It’s capable of ridiculous amounts of grip where other cars simply cannot keep up. I may even go as far as to say that in this particular application, xDrive has trumped the capabilities of Quattro.
One of the neat features the new 3-series (chassis code F30) possesses is a simple drive select button. This button toggles between the fuel-sipping “Eco Pro” mode, a “Comfort” setting, as well as “Sport” and “Sport +” settings. Personally, I found myself leaving the car in “Eco Pro” for day-to-day driving. It gave me the satisfaction of a combined 10.8L/100km on premium fuel even after factoring in several spirited jaunts in “Sport +”. One little niggle I have is that regardless of what mode you may have been using, the 335i reverts itself into “Comfort” upon starting the car.
BMW has done a phenomenal job with the new display. At a brilliant 8.8″, the screen manages to not reflect glare. Seriously, what’s the need for a tiltable screen when you can get one that’s perfectly angled for anyone in the car to see even on the sunniest day? The ‘dreaded’ iDrive system (which I personally have never had an issue with) is vastly improved. The only thing I may be able to complain about is the position of the iDrive controller. It’s a bit further to the right than I’d like. On the S4, Audi has stuck the volume knob down there too, which I really do like.
Now onto the styling. I have yet to hear anyone referring to the new 3-series as the most beautiful one. Even still, it’s nothing short of revolutionary. Rather than polarizing, risky moves to make it stand out from the crowd, BMW has modernized and freshened up the styling so that while it won’t be mistaken for an older model, the new car is unmistakable as a 3-series. I happen to love the styling; it’s elegant and classy without being ostentatious.
My 2013 BMW 335i xDrive was also packed with essentially everything I would want, and then some. The lane departure system is a bit of a nuisance; its notification system vibrates the steering wheel. Forward collision warning, cruise control, all features I would skip on. The multimedia system is wonderful (much like Audi unfortunately, BMW uses a proprietary iPod cable), the sport seats are incredibly comfortable, and everything is relatively easy to use. BMW has really done it right.
I drove the Cadillac ATS extensively for two wonderful weeks this past winter, and I loved it. However, for me personally, this car class is extremely important. It’s the car class I would buy into when I have the need for usable rear seats. Every car in this class is small enough to zip in and out of traffic, practical enough not to rob me on fuel prices, and fun enough to put a huge smile on my face. The way I see it, the Mercedes-Benz C350 is a great car, but it just doesn’t tickle my fancy on the fun factor. The Audi S4 wins on value, sound, and price. The Cadillac ATS gets well-deserved points for being a competitive new player. What about the 335i? Though it’s a bit expensive (just under the $60,000 mark with the relevant option boxes ticked off), there really is no substitute for me. Please make mine black with the red Dakota Leather.
2013 BMW 335i xDrive Gallery