- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

Driving the 2007 BMW 335i coupe is something like shooting a finely crafted firearm. When you squeeze the trigger, the response is immediate, violent and accurate.

The ammunition is the twin-turbo six-cylinder engine that drives the rear wheels. It delivers 300 horsepower and massive torque, which seems more like ballistic science than automotive engineering.

Unlike the boost on most turbos, the power arrives right now. Using two small turbochargers instead of one bigger one, the BMW engineers have managed to curb any hint of dreaded turbo lag. Other manufacturers have done well in minimizing the lag, but the 335i may be the only one to eliminate it.

A turbocharger uses exhaust gases to force increased volumes of air and fuel into an engine’s cylinders to produce more torque, or low-rpm twisting power. In this application, each turbo gets its gases from three of the cylinders. Together, the two force-feed the engine to produce 300 foot-pounds of torque from 1,400 to 5,000 rpm.

BMW claims that this is the first in-line six-cylinder engine to use twin turbos, with precision fuel injection and variable-valve timing. It is more powerful than the previous-generation M3, which is the highest-performance 3-Series, and has 45 more horsepower than its immediate predecessor. The zero-to-60 acceleration time is about five seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph.

While not new to BMW, turbocharging has been a rarity at the Bavarian manufacturer. It has been used by the company only twice before: on the 2002 Turbo back in the early 1970s and on the 745i sedan, introduced in 1981.

The 2007 3-Series coupe bears little resemblance to its four-door sibling. It is longer, lower and narrower, with a long hood, which gives it an aerodynamic profile. Front and rear overhangs are short, and prominent fender bulges contribute to the aggressive look. BMW keeps the weight down by using lightweight plastic front fenders.

There are three new coupe models: the turbo 335i, the 328i and the 328xi. The last has all-wheel drive. Both of the 328s are powered by a normally aspirated in-line six-cylinder engine that delivers 230 horsepower from 3 liters of displacement.

The 328i has a sticker price of $35,995 and the 328xi starts $37,795. Both have long lists of options.

Die-hard enthusiasts, however, are not likely to be satisfied with anything but the tested turbo 335i, which has a base price of $41,295.

The test car, with optional packages that included leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, a garage-door opener and run-flat tires on 18-inch alloy wheels, had a bottom-line price of $45,990.

The price included $495 for metallic paint. Of the 10 colors available, only black, white and red come with no extra charge.

It is possible to jack the price even higher. If you were to check all the boxes on the options list, including such items as the adaptive cruise control, active steering and the six-speed automatic transmission, the suggested price would come to nearly $55,000.

Standard equipment includes stability control, antilock brakes with fade compensation, side air bags, run-flat tires, tire-pressure monitor, xenon headlights, cornering lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic dual-zone climate control, walnut wood interior trim, an AM/FM/CD audio system and a tilt-and-telescope leather-covered steering wheel with cell phone and audio controls.

Although you can order the 335i with BMW’s six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, which can be shifted manually, the standard six-speed manual gearbox is more in character with the athletic nature of this coupe.

The shift linkage, though not slick, has a positive feel, and the clutch action is light. Big disc brakes haul the 335i down from high speeds with no fuss and a solid brake pedal feel.

As with most BMWs, the handling has a point-and-shoot quality. The suspension system is tightly snubbed, and the low-profile performance tires are chosen for optimum handling, so the 335i simply squats down and follows the cornering nuances fed in by the driver.

The tires use run-flat technology, which eliminates the spare wheel and contributes to a trunk with reasonable cargo space. However, the tires have stiff sidewalls that keep the ride from being anywhere near cushy, although it is supple enough to soak up most road imperfections.

Inside, the coupe is cozy. You have to duck some to fold into the driver’s seat, but there’s ample room once you’re seated. The standard seats are firm but comfortable, with good lateral support. Sport seats with adjustable side bolsters are optional. Instruments, which now include an oil temperature gauge, are easy to read and controls are close at hand.

The back seat, as might be expected in a subcompact coupe, is tight, with limited head room, and it takes some physical dexterity to get back there. There’s no pretense of five-passenger accommodations; there are only two seats in back. At least the engineers have put the switch for sliding the front seats forward at the top of the seatback. If you need more cargo space than the 11 cubic feet in the trunk, the rear seatback folds down.



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