Tech Review: 2007 BMW 335xi
By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
When the road turns white and slick, keeping a vehicle rubber-side down trumps 0-60 acceleration times and cornering characteristics. While there are plenty of all-wheel-drive (AWD) cars these days that will keep you planted to the pavement, very few do it with the performance and poise of the 2007 BMW 335xi. Whether it's the morning slog to the office or a trip to the slopes for some fresh snow, this sweet sedan is available with BMW's full tech treatment to make every trip safer and more entertaining.
The car I tested was outfitted with some of BMW's best bells and whistles and stickered at a lofty $51,675. That's enough options to add 20 percent to the $40,800 base price, so it's important to decide which of these extras are essential before signing on the dotted line.
On dry roads I found the 335xi was typical of the reputation BMW's 3-Series has gained for refined power. There always seems more than adequate acceleration under your right foot. The double-pivot front suspension, five-link rear suspension and front and rear anti-roll bars give the 335xi a perfect balance between solid sportiness on twisty back roads and velvety glide on the interstate. The car also comes standard with speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering and Xenon adaptive headlights with auto-leveling.
The standard Logic7 Surround Sound audio system is as good (if not better) than some manufacturers' premium extra-cost offerings. It comes with a basic CD/MP3 receiver and a not-so-basic 13-speaker setup that includes a pair of bass-pulsing subwoofers. There's a now de rigueur AUX-in jack on the center console.
Also standard is BMW's effortless Bluetooth technology, which other manufacturers should study as an example of how to get a hands-free phone system right. It works with a wide variety of phones and the pairing process is straightforward. It even downloads your phone book to make finding numbers and calling a snap.
Another downside is that the navigation system, as well as many of the 335xi's tech features, is tied into BMW's much maligned iDrive interface. And while iDrive has been vastly improved, the system's multilayered menus can still be cumbersome and frustrating to use.
Another big-ticket option is the $900 sports package, which throws in 8-way adjustable sports seats and 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped with run-flat performance tires. The cold weather package, at $850, nets you front seats with bun warmers and a split-folding rear seat with a ski bag, which could save money on a roof rack. Some of the other extras on our test car were an HD Radio ($500), which is worth the extra dough for early adopters, and Park Distance Control ($350), which is definitely worth it if you parallel park using the Braille method.
Winter Road Warrior
Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. His new book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publications. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.