The idea of a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged small car sounded too good to resist. On the first drive I loved it, and the performance was as good as my tuned 6.0-litre V8 Calais, but this is a much smaller car. It is just a fun little car to drive. It feels like a BMW should, and everything you touch feels a bit better than the cheaper cars.
Tech was reasonable for the time, but newer models improved on it greatly. There is no touchscreen, but you do have Bluetooth, USB input, optional sat-nav, front and rear park assist, electric leather seats with memory, electric mirrors, electric windows, auto wipers and auto headlight dimming. Options are in the menu to change other settings like courtesy light times when locking the car, how many times the indicator will flash with just a quick flick, and many others.
It is a small two-door coupe, so don’t expect much leg room in the back, especially if the driver or front passenger are 6ft tall. I find the leather seats to be very comfortable with adjustable lumbar support. I can get the perfect position with no issues on long journeys.
Combined highway and city driving can get under 8L/100km fuel consumption, but start having fun using that go-fast pedal and that will quickly rise. Suspension, steering and general handling are good, though being such a small car with a big engine, it can be a little twitchy when pushing it through the corners.
It does have a few issues you would not expect for the price. The first issue is the differential. It’s an open diff, so only one wheel is really driving you along. On a turbocharged six-cylinder at this price, you would think a limited-slip diff would be standard, and in my opinion it is essential to get the performance this motor can offer. This is probably only an issue when you are trying to use the performance. It wouldn’t be an issue when driving in traffic or just cruising on the highway.
There are also several plastic parts under the bonnet, including the charge pipe that carries the air from the turbo to the intake. This is well known for letting go and leaving you on the side of the road. It did this to me a two-hour tow truck drive from the nearest dealership. The car was only about three years old with under 60,000km on it at the time. Luckily, it was still under warranty, but I’m glad I had roadside assist.
The last issue I have is the DCT gearbox, though I find it strange that the DCT in the 335i doesn’t have the same problem that the 135i does. When in Sport mode or using the paddle-shifters it behaves like you would expect, no problem. When in normal mode, however, it is a different story – it can be very unpredictable in its behaviour.
So, imagine you are slowing to an intersection, see a reasonable gap in traffic, and think ‘I easily have the power to get in there. I could do that in a slow car’. So you hit the accelerator and nothing happens. I mean nothing. The car is rolling like it is in neutral or slowing like you have your foot off the go-pedal. It can take a second or two before it decides what to do and starts to go. If you aren’t ready for this, it can be dangerous.
There are a few issues that BMW can definitely improve on, and in some areas the new models have improved. Still too much plastic under the bonnet, though, where it really shouldn’t be.