2007 BMW 3-Series

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Short Take Road Test: 2009 BMW 335d

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2011.
By Erik Johnson of Car and Driver

It's no secret that we love BMWs. Indeed, browse any auto-enthusiast message board, and you'll no doubt read about the piles of fresh $100 bills that arrive in our office every month from some German dude named Bayerische M. Werke. The reality, though, is that bribes are unnecessary, especially in the case of the sensational 3-series. It's the benchmark vehicle for a benchmark company and a car we've called "terrific," "magical," "world-class," "definitive," and "a wing-footed god." (Although even we admit that that last one might be a bit much.)

Today, we add a new descriptor to our 3-series vocabulary: torquey sumbitch. For 2009, BMW has finally seen fit to offer a compression-ignition 3 in the U.S., gifting on us its twin-turbo 3.0-liter diesel engine, which pumps out a goodly sum of power (265 horsepower @ 4200 rpm) and a wicked level of twist (425 pound-feet @ 1750 rpm). Compared with a regular 335i sedan, which boasts 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, the 335d has 42 percent more torque while sacrificing just 12 percent in the power department. That, friends, is the sort of compromise we can live with.

That Old Familiar Feeling
Once you slide the gear selector into drive — the 335d is only available with a six-speed automatic — you'll see what we mean. Mashing the throttle unleashes a fusillade of torque down the driveshaft, and the nearly immediate availability of same allows the 335d to churn its way to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and cover the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds at 100 mph. We think the 335d feels even quicker. (A 335i manual sedan accomplishes the 0-to-60 and quarter-mile runs in 4.8 seconds and 13.5 seconds at 106 mph, respectively.)

The rest of the 335d experience is typical 3-series: perfect steering, sublime body control, strong braking performance (161 feet from 70 to 0 mph), and unparalleled ride quality. In fact, beyond the immense torque and abbreviated tach — redline is 5000 rpm — you'd never even know this is a diesel, especially with the windows up. Little noise clatters its way into the cabin, and our noses picked up no trace of diesel's unmistakable scent. Even with the windows down, this engine still sounds good. It has a throatier growl than BMW's gas-fired sixes and none of the click-clack harshness that characterizes most Americans' idea of a diesel soundtrack.

Fuel economy is rated at an impressive 23 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, improvements of 6 and 10 mpg over a 335i automatic sedan. Given current average national fuel prices ($2.49 per gallon for premium gasoline and $2.94 per gallon for diesel) and a 12,000-mile annual driving load, however, the fuel-cost saving of a 335d over a conventional 335i is minimal. If you were somehow able to achieve the rated highway mileage for every single mile of the 12,000, the 335d would save $169 annually, and it would take about nine-and-a-half years to recoup the extra cost of the diesel. If gasoline and diesel near parity again any time soon, however, the 335d would pay for itself more quickly.

iDrive We Can Live With
We had but a few minutes to fiddle with the new-generation iDrive system debuting in 2009 BMWs, but we quickly figured out how to change the radio, start the navigation system, and generally find what we were looking for. In other words, it's everything the old system was not: intuitive and easy to use. Those of us who have spent more time with the new setup — most notably in the 2009 7-series — have come away similarly impressed.

This Car Ain't Cheap
What we're not totally impressed with is this diesel car's price, although that's a complaint we can level at the severely, uh, premium price tags worn by the 3-series lineup as a whole. The 335d starts at $44,725, some $2500 more than an automatic-equipped 335i sedan before a $900 federal tax credit for alternative-fuel vehicles is factored in — and options can have you swooping in on $60,000 quicker than you can say, "BMW shills." Our test car, with its trio of packages — Cold Weather, Premium, and Sport — parking distance sensors, active cruise control, nav system, and iPod adapter, rang up at more than 56 grand.

Are we crazy for loving this thing? Possibly. Stacked against a conventional 335i, the 335d costs more to put in your garage, isn't as quick, and might not end up saving much money on your annual fuel bill. All things considered, we'd stick with the 335i. With only irrational things considered, though, you can't help realizing that torque is fun and so is the 335d. So do what we did: Borrow somebody else's, and have one hell of a good time.

Performance Data:

C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.7 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 14.2 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 21.8 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph: 6.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.2 sec @ 100 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 128 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 161 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.89 g

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 23/36 mpg

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BB02 - 8/1/2014 7:46:16 PM