The BMW 3-series' outstanding performance and handling complete a consummate all-rounder
First DriveNew plug-in hybrid 3-series is claimed to return up to 131mpg with CO2 emissions of 50g/km
First DrivePractical 3-series estate loses some of the saloon’s edge, but engine and transmission impress with controlled pace and economy
What is it?
We've heaped praise on the new-generation BMW 320d, and said good things about the 328i despite its lack of two cylinders compared with past wearers of that badge. Now it's the turn of the only new 3-series, so far, to have a petrol-fuelled straight six under the bonnet.
What’s it like?
You feel like you've returned home as soon as you press the start button. Here is a well-specced 3-series which makes the sound you expect: a smooth, creamy hum with a crisp edge when roused a bit. This engine is well known from other BMWs, a 3.0-litre unit whose twin-scroll turbocharger helps it to 302bhp and 295lb ft of torque, matched here to an eight-speed automatic transmission which accounted for £1660 of the already Luxury-spec test car's £12,835 option tally (which also included a stupendous stereo system).
The pace is predictably rapid, with 62mph claimed to arrive 5.5sec after blast-off despite the Efficient Dynamics-enhanced CO2 score of 169g/km. The economy this promises doesn't quite materialise in practice, but the trip-computer average of 30.5mpg over a week's motorway-biased driving is acceptable given the performance on offer. That's after making very little use of the Eco Pro mode, which flattens the performance to the point where you might just as well have bought a 320d.
The auto 'box shifts imperceptibly smoothly once on the move but its step-off can be very abrupt, especially when the driving dynamics control is set to Sport. Manual shifts are similarly silken, as well as instant, but it's easy to lose count of all those gears unless you pay attention to the display.
Should I buy one?
So, does the extra engine weight up front spoil the impeccable dynamics so far relished in the new 3-series? The steering is perhaps a shade less delicate and its artificial weighting now more obvious, but the balance remains delightfully throttle-sensitive and the 335i feels as you'd think a modern BMW should. There's a lot of road noise to go with the suspension's well-damped firmness, but when you consider that BMW has had the good sense to retain a manual handbrake in this latest 3-series range, you can forgive that transgression.
BMW 335i Luxury
Price: £38,685 with auto; Top speed: 155mph; 0-62mph: 5.5sec; Economy: 39.2mpg (combined); CO2: 169g/km; Kerb weight: 1520kg; Engine type, cc: 6 cyls, 2979cc, 24V, turbocharged; Power: 302bhp at 5800-6000rpm; Torque: 295lb ft at 1200-5000rpm; Gearbox: 8-spd automatic