Look, I’ve got nothing against investment bankers, hairdressing salon owners, stockbrokers and self-employed PR types. Lovely people, I’m sure.
This feature was originally published in MOTOR’s December 2006 issue
For a while there in the 1990s, though, they were all shopping for cars at one place; BMW. And they were buying one car, the 3-series coupe. First released in 1992 in E36 guise, the most recent E46 sold strongly for more than six years. In its 330Ci, 3.0-litre six form, it was a pretty handy device, too.
BMW, though, has gone back to the future with the all-new, rather spunky E92 coupe, opting for forced induction to give its flagship 335i the punch of a V8. It’s a trick it hasn’t tried since the early 1970s, when the 2002 became the first production car to use an exhaust gas-driven turbine set-up on a petrol motor.
Long citing lag and poor fuel economy as the chief reasons to avoid forced induction, the siren song of weight reduction and more power from less cubes has lured the Bavarians into applying some pretty smart tricks to overcome these inherent problems.
The all-alloy 2979cc six-potter’s biggest party trick is its High Precision Injection set-up. Fuel is sprayed directly on top of the pistons, not only meting out fuel much more precisely, but also helping to cool the combustion chamber. This in turn allows engineers to run a higher compression ratio (which enables fuel to burn more efficiently) than they otherwise could.
The pair of tiny turbos sit low in the engine and are fed exhaust gases via two manifolds. Capable of delivering boost at engine speeds as low as 1300rpm, it’s a shining example that bigger isn’t always better.
Numbers? How’s 225kW at 5800rpm and 400Nm from 1300rpm grab ya? From tickover to time to shift, the six is ever eager to deliver, via a finely modulated fly-by-wire throttle map that suits the car’s character perfectly.
BMW claims a 5.5-second sprint to the 100km/h mark, and there’s no doubt it’ll go pretty bloody close. The silky six provides a killer punch in a package that weighs 70kg less than a bent eight mill.
If you don’t go for a manual box, the new six-speed auto isn’t a bad compromise. Far more refined and user-friendly than the truly confounding auto in the 130i we recently tested, the push-pull gearshift paddles (an inexplicable $200 option on top of the $2600 ask for the box itself) will be very familiar to anyone who rides a modern mountain bike. Given that both paddles perform exactly the same function, maybe you can give the other one back to the dealer for a $100 credit…
The cabin is still very much 3-series, and the elctric seatbelt handover device is such a neat Jetsons touch, it’s hard not to smile as it silently and politely taps you on the shoulder.
Lower in line, sleeker in style and visually much more together and integrated than the occasionally boxy sedan, the 335i has the brains and the talents to back up its moviestar good looks. Answering the throttle with vim and vinegar, the twin huffer motor feels anything but.
It even sounds rortier and more up for it than the M3 straight six, with a baritone bark overlaying the typical thrashy screech of the finest crop of straight sixes of this generation. With power delivered with the linearity of a plumb line and torque up for grabs anywhere you want it, it’s got the bite of an eight with the frugality of a four.
Getting the power down on dimpled blacktop isn’t comfortable at times, the third-generation Pirelli runflat tyres dulling the tarmac’s messages through the thick-rimmed wheel. Sections of stuttered road confounds the rear end, the axles stuttering and hunting for traction as the tyres refuse to deform to absorb even the smallest ridges and humps.
Having said that, the ride feel of runflats is improving, but the heavy sidewalls mean that they still aren’t the ideal performance tyre for a car with such a sporting intent to it.
Sharp-edge hits are heard through the cabin rather than felt, with the all-steel chassis and tuned dampers working together very well to produce a cruiser that, despite being 15mm lower than the sedan, provides a sharp yet supple ride.
At $111,100 in auto guise, cheap it ain’t. Chump change for an city stockbroker, though.
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2006 BMW 335i Coupe
Engine: 2979cc straight six, twin turbochargers
Power: 225kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1300-5000rpm
Weight: 1540kg (auto)
Price: $111,100 (auto)