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

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Review and photos by James Bergeron

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2011 BMW 335is

Estoril Portugal – Once a destination on the Formula 1 tour (from 1984 to 1996), the historic Estoril racetrack was our testing grounds for BMW’s newest “s” model, a designation first used in the late 1970s. The Autodromo do Estoril is a 4.18-km course located just nine kilometres from the city of Estoril, on Portugal’s west coast.

BMW is marking the return of the “s” badge with the new-for-2011 BMW 335is model. The “s” nomenclature was first seen in North America on the original BMW 3 series, from 1977-1983. In 1980, the BMW 320is included the most desirable equipment in the lineup, including Recaro sport seats, sport steering wheel, halogen high-beams, sunroof, dual colour-keyed side mirrors, anti-sway bars, exterior aerodynamic enhancements and cross-spoke light-alloy wheels. Later in the 1980s, the BMW 3 series and 5 series were each available as “s” models, including the BMW 325es, 325is and 535is, and “s” models continued to be offered in the 1990s.

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

Sticking with a proven formula, the 2011 BMW 335is follows the “s” lineage by offering stunning looks, more power and a raft of functional performance-inspired equipment tailored to suit the enthusiast, including enhanced aerodynamics, sport suspension, on-board computer (OBC) and check control, sport leather seats, among other features.

Based on the newly-enhanced BMW 3 Series Coupe and Convertible, the new BMW 335is features the award-winning, twin-turbocharged BMW inline six-cylinder engine, specially tuned and equipped to produce 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque from its 3.0 litres of displacement.

Unchanged are the 3 series’ attributes of a rear-wheel drive platform with near-perfect 50-50 weight distribution, superb handling and the precise steering response one expects from this car.

While the rest of the 3 series for 2011 moves to the new N55 engine – a 3.0-litre engine with a single twin-scroll design turbocharger – the 335is keeps the twin-turbocharged N54 power plant adding not just more power but more cooling to ensure the engine is capable of handling the extra boost in power on the track.

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

The 335is has many unique features, starting with the great base platform of the 335i coupe with the sport package and then improves on it significantly. Starting with the chassis, BMW has stiffened the engine mounting system to ensure less noise and vibration, as well as taming the extra power under the hood.

The convertible model is equipped with standard fog lights while the coupe has replaced the fog lights with additional air ducts for more performance. Wheels include a five-spoke wheel painted ferric grey in 18-inch with an optional 19-inch wheel available.

The body is slightly different as well: from the front the most notable difference is the high gloss black wing mirrors which add to the imposing character of the vehicle. The side mouldings have a slightly different shape than the standard 335i’s and the rear is differentiated by a body-coloured rear diffuser that helps improve aerodynamics. There is also the special “is” badging.

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

Changes are also numerous and notable on the inside of the vehicle: as you enter, you will first notice the sculpted steel pedals and M sport steering wheel. BMW’s M short shifter operates the six-speed manual transmission, while the seven-speed DCT twin-clutch transmission offers the standard gear selector on the console as well as left and right (down and up) paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

The instrument cluster is sportier on the 335is as well with white needles and 335is badges in the tachometer. The 335is badging continues on the trim on the inside of the vehicle kick plates. The interior is completed with anthracite headliner and standard sport seats.

Because our test vehicles were pre-production models and not plated, we were unable to drive them on city streets. Full driving impressions are best left for a later test drive, but my 12 laps behind the wheel at the Estoril race track certainly left an impression.

The first was the sound the new exhaust system produces when you start the vehicle: you feel compelled to rev the engine a few extra times to listen to the sublime sound.

The driving position and chassis feel are incredible, and the six-speed manual transmission and pedal positioning allows perfect heel-and-toe downshifts. Throttle response is extremely quick and the lack of turbo lag means full torque from 1,200 r.p.m. and onwards. Despite being slightly less engaging, the seven speed DCT transmission is equally fun and exciting on the track, and it was evident the DCT-equipped car was easier to drive faster around the track than the manual version. There is no doubt the 335is performs on the track and many enthusiasts will be pleased by the power boost over the regular 335i from the factory.

The 335is will be available in six colours: white, black metallic, titanium silver, space grey, Le Mans blue and crimson red; no pricing has been released yet but I expect it will start somewhere around $60,000.

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