Friday 12 August 2011

A difficult package to beat: the…2007 BMW 335D

Looks are always questionable. But to me this is a very smartly conceived shape undoubtedly worthy of the kidney shaped grille plus the BMW badge. It’s presence is clear & appreciative just like a beautifully contoured lady in a lovely fitted chiffon gown but not showing off too much skin.

BMW test drive

The in-line 6 cylinder diesel doesn’t quite have the finesse of the Merc’sV6, nor the fluid power delivery but it is more exhilarating none the less. Once the maximum torque kicks in, it becomes aggressive, exciting even. Buckets of torque energy provided by the twin turbos are transmitted to the rear wheels. The usual limited rev range in diesel engines keeps this BMW searching for gear changes as it shoots up the revs. This coupe offers an enjoyable solution to that; paddle shift gear change. Not in the commonly encountered method either; this is where it comes alive.

Most paddle shifts use the left to downshift & the right to shift up. The paddles on this have thumb motivated buttons protruding through the middle of the steering on either side. Press these to downshift. Attached to these are the paddles on either side of the back of the steering; pull back to up shift. Once you get the hang of it, shifting up or down one or two gears becomes a habit for no apparent reason! Nothing replaces the driver/car attachment like that clutch pedal & a proper gear lever. There is a missing connection between man & machine when electronics intervene just like losing one of the 5 senses. But this is the direction where gear change technology is going. In fact, some super cars only have paddles & no longer offer the manual option. So it is time to embrace the advantages.

When on the move, no human is anywhere near the super slick gear change on this car. By the time the brain begins communication with the left leg, gear change has already  been flashed up on the display in the middle of the dash binnacle! On top of that, traffic becomes a doddle & no longer a struggle; just plant the shifter in Drive & relax listening to your favourite tunes. The 3 series range all have one thing common in their DNA; sporty driving dynamics. Throughout the engines & option variations, they all have that emphasis derived from the chassis design. As far as diesel is part of the equation, the 335D Coupe is the summit.

Sitting on 19s with no M Sport, the ride is solid & firm with direct feel under the driver’s pants. An enjoyable balance which helps translate into confidence behind the steering, as if inviting to play. Steering always keeps control with fingertip precision, as though touching the road with them & not the tyres. A wonderful sense of grip is felt. Damping is so good, the body control is magnificent. Hooligan status can also be achieved, just spin up the turbos, switch off DTC, throw the car into a roundabout & twitch the steering on exit; oops sideways! Dump the torque onto the rear rubber & it’s play time, again with steering feel you can let the tail loose as it kicks from one gear to another. This translates over steer into good fun, with diesel power! There is little to wonder why the 3 series is the bench mark in its segment.

All good; no! The dash pod still has the signature of that lazy designer who left it with just two plain dials ahead. 0 for creativity there. A welcoming trend though is the centre dash tilts slightly angled facing the driver. All materials & build quality are up there with the best. This model does get the piano black finished inserts from the dash to the doors which do give an up market feel. This also extends from the centre to the rear seats making this an express carriage for four adults without compromise; two adults really do fit comfortably, unlike many other coupes. Not only that, but there’s also a real boot to accommodate. In the real world, such a practical package is difficult to beat indeed.

Maurice Gruppetta

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