2011 BMW 335is
2011 BMW 335is. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2011 BMW 3 Series

There’s a road close to my house that runs under a train track, with a cement wall close on one side. Driving it means taking the long way home, but that’s a small price for getting a good listen to a car with a nice exhaust note: lower windows, flatten throttle; repeat as necessary. I saw a lot of this road after I brought the 2011 BMW 335is home with me.

The 335is is a new addition to the 3 Series line this year. The ‘s’ designation, available on the coupe and convertible, points to a number of extras – mostly functional – including a unique exhaust system that BMW says was designed to enhance its 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine’s rumble. And rumble it does, as well as snarl, growl and even pop-pop-pop when the car is coasting. It’s a tasty sound that keeps you on the lookout for open stretches of road, not just for the soundtrack, but for excuses to use the extra 20 horsepower and 32 lb-ft of torque this car gets, compared to the 300 of each found in the standard 335i. The 335is is also the only non-M 3 Series to get the option of BMW’s new seven-speed Double Clutch Transmission (DCT).

2011 BMW 335is
2011 BMW 335is
2011 BMW 335is. Click image to enlarge

On top of the stronger motor and freer-flowing exhaust, there’s also a larger radiator and more powerful cooling fan to pull air through it. If the lack of fog lights on this car upsets you, rest assured that deletion was made in the interest of creating the largest possible airflow openings in the front fascia. The engine mounts are stiffer, too, to help the motor stay put in hard charging. An overboost feature allows the engine to generate up to 370 lb-ft of torque for short periods at full throttle. This turbocharged engine typically displays a hint of turbo lag at low revs, but the programming that goes into setting loose this engine’s extra power appears to have eliminated it.

M Sport aero upgrades, high-gloss exterior trim and sharp-looking grey 18-inch wheels complete the look. And what a look it is: body tight to the ground, wheels filling the fenders and big brake rotors filling the wheels. As if the 3 Series Coupe wasn’t already enough of a hottie.

The 335is feels a little quicker than the 335i, but it’s the torque boost that’s really noticeable in off-the-line acceleration. BMW says the 335is will move from zero to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds with the DCT, while the best the 335i will do is 5.6 seconds with the six-speed manual.

The seven-speed DCT is a nice piece of mechanics. Like VW/Audi’s DSG/S-tronic, Mitsubishi’s TC-SST and Porsche’s PDK, BMW’s latest gearbox (it’s actually built by Getrag) uses two clutches in order to engage two gears at once and allow very quick, very smooth shifts from one to the other. It’s good that gear changes happen without drama, because there’s a lot of shifting to be done with seven ratios to get through.

2011 BMW 335is
2011 BMW 335is. Click image to enlarge

Left to its own devices, the DCT is programmed for economy, shifting early and often to get into top gear as soon as possible. A sport button just aft of the shifter sharpens throttle response and tells the transmission to hold each gear a little longer and makes shifts a little quicker at the expense of some smoothness. Moving the shifter to the left, into the manual gate, keeps the transmission in automatic mode but delays upshifts, and increases responsiveness even more. At this point, a push or pull of the shift lever or the shift paddles behind the wheel calls up manual mode, handing complete control over to the driver.

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