2012 BMW 335i Luxury
2012 BMW 335i Luxury. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 BMW 328i Sport
First Drive: 2012 BMW 3 Series

Manufacturer’s web site
BMW Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2012 BMW 3 Series

The BMW 335i is the pinnacle of non-M 3 Series cars. In Canada, BMW starts the 3 line with the 320i featuring a detuned 181-hp version of the N20 turbo-four and minimal content. The next step up is the 328i, with the all-singing, all-dancing 241-hp version of the turbocharged, direct-injected, N20 four-cylinder that is making its way into most of BMW’s core products (1, 3, 5, X1, X3, etc.). The 328i is the minimum required to select one of BMW’s three appearance packages: Sport, Modern, and Luxury. Curiously, the Luxury trim is standard on the 328i, with Sport and Modern optional, while the top-spec 335i features the Sport as its standard trim. There is no charge associated with any of these appearance packages.

Here we have the $51,200 335i in Luxury trim, fitted with the 8-speed automatic transmission instead of the available 6-speed manual transmission at no extra cost. The 335i boasts BMW’s signature straight-six, which goes by the code N55. With direct injection, variable valve timing, and a single “twin-scroll” turbocharger, the 3.0L inline six produces an even 300 hp @ 5,800 rpm and 300 lb-ft of torque from 1,300 to 5,000 rpm. That’s a lot of power for this 1,630-kg sedan (3,594 lb).

2012 BMW 335i Luxury
2012 BMW 335i Luxury. Click image to enlarge

BMW knows how to build inline-sixes, and this N55 is no exception. While the auto start-stop is still detectable, it is not as obtrusive as in the two applications of the N20 turbo-four that I’ve driven to date. Only time would tell if it was mild enough to fade to the background as would a noise or smell, or if it would become a tedious nuisance if you spend significant time in stop and go traffic. And once underway, the engine whumps at low revs and thwangs as you push the rpms toward it peak output range. Glorious, powerful and enchanting. Many will buy into the 335i, not because there is anything wrong with the 328i, but just to revel in the power of this engine. That being said, I still have a soft spot for its predecessor, the twin-turbo 3.0L N54 — there was something just a little more frantic and engaging about that one, or maybe it was the fact that I drove it in combination with the six-speed stick. With the eight-speed auto as tested here, I never quite connected as much.

2012 BMW 335i Luxury
2012 BMW 335i Luxury. Click image to enlarge

However, with the wide torque band and high-range horsepower, this engine can and will do everything you ask it to, and it is only the grip of the tires and laws of the land that limit the application of this power, so if you have issues with driving impulse control, perhaps do us all a favour and stick with the 320i.
The 335i and all 3 Series sedans are exclusively rear-wheel drive for 2012, and with 225/45R18 all-season Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires, the power was enough to easily overwhelm this comfort-oriented wheel and tire package (with a measure of efficiency in mind as well, no doubt). The 335i is the only 3 Series model with which BMW offers a stock 19-inch wheel package, with staggered 19×8.0 225/40R19 in front and 19×8.5 225/35R19 (no-charge high-performance tires available) in the rear as a standalone $1500 option. However, I’m sure there are a wide variety of dealer-installed wheel options for any 3.

However, in this application, the tires are selected for a quiet and compliant ride, and did not inspire huge confidence in their handling threshold, even in warm, dry conditions. The same can be said of the transmission. After driving the 328i with a manual transmission, the calm and capable eight-speed auto invited smooth, casual driving in stark contrast to the aggressive, excitable me that the 328i manual elicited. Perhaps this, more than anything is what helped me find the irony in the standard trims of the 335i and 328i — the transmission, more than any interior or exterior trim package is what will draw out the 3’s sporty nature.

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