When tough decisions need to be made it so often seems like the automotive world just isn’t a fair place. You can fit performance tyres to your car but they’ll wear out quicker. You can buy a Mazda MX-5 but your mates will call you names. And you can have scorching performance but you’ll pay for it with poor fuel economy. But this final statement is steadily being proven wrong by frugal yet powerful diesel vehicles and leading the charge is the BMW 335d.
The 335d has established itself as the star performer in the face lifted 3-series range. It’s rolling evidence that BMW’s EfficentDynamics philosophy of power, fuel economy and low emissions is far more than mere marketing hype. It comes with an inbuilt ability to sway the opinion of even the staunchest petrol purist. This unique gift starts with the straight six-cylinder diesel lump wedged under the bonnet.
Despite the ‘335’ badging motivation comes from a 3.0 litre engine that breathes deeply through a twin turbocharger set up. Power output is 210kW but the 520Nm of torque is the magic number. This figure easily trumps the torque of performance V8s and even BMWs own halo model M3. Peak torque is accessible from just 1750rpm and comes on with a surging acceleration that pushes the 335d from standing to 100kph in a mere 6 seconds. The engine is highly flexible and can deliver its power in either a relaxed fashion or with total urgency. The accessible mid-range poke allows for effortless passing on the open road and low-rpm cruising around town.
What’s the fuel cost for such performance? Just 7.1l per 100km combined and even with vigorous driving economy will only worsen slightly. It’s an impressive figure considering the motor’s generous 3-litre displacement and the vehicle’s burly 1665kg weight. All up, the 335d’s diesel motor is a gem and delivers so much grunt for so little diesel and all with an endearingly throaty exhaust note.
Shifting all the torque to the rear-wheels is BMW’s 6-speed automatic transmission, which is about as good as you can get from a traditional auto and harnesses the power well. It has an available sports mode that is intuitive in holding lower gears and allows the 335d explosive punch out of corners. If manual changes are your thing there are shifting paddles mounted on the steering wheel or a sequential floor shifter. The engine’s predictable, linear acceleration makes the manual shift options an easy and entertaining choice.
In terms of handling the 3-Series chassis and suspension compliment the powerful engine well. A perfect 50:50 weight distribution helps keep the 335d flat and sure-footed during cornering. Wide low-profile run flat tyres sit on each corner and guarantee ample levels of grip but do ride quite hard. The suspension is set with sporting intent rather than comfort, this can mean intensely uneven roads are quite jarring in the cabin. The suspension is uncompromisingly firm which makes for high handling limits but may not suit those seeking a part-time luxury cruiser. However, when the 335d hits the open road and with some space to get the turbos spooling up any ideas of a soft-riding cruiser will be rapidly forgotten.
Steering is exceptionally precise with a solid responsive feel and most importantly it is communicative. Overall, the BMW 335d offers truly rewarding driving dynamics that will stimulate the senses.
Visually the 2009 facelift has revised styling most noticeably up front with a new grille, headlights and bonnet providing a more purposeful face. Taillights and sill panels have also received treatment but it does remain an aesthetically understated vehicle. Our test car was fitted with the optional M-Sport package that injects more visual muscle to hint at what lays under the bonnet. The 335i’s clean no nonsense lines are attractive to most but will really appeal to those who feel no need to signal their go-fast intent.
The 335d cabin is highly functional and appealing with soft leather seats, dark plastics and silver metal trim. It’s pleasantly basic with minimal, intelligently positioned switchgear. BMW has continued with its once-criticised iDrive unit but serious work has been put into it and the results are impressive. Everything from radio settings to sat nav can be controlled through the large control dial, it’s a system that’s easy to learn and intuitive. The large display screen is crisp and can split in two so you can keep an eye on your navigation while performing other operations.
General interior fit and finish is excellent with all touch surfaces feeling just right. Small storage options are limited in the cabin but this minor issue doesn’t extend to the boot, which has a very useful 450-litre capacity. The front leather seats are cosseting and offer a variety of electronic adjustment, combined with a reach and rake shifting steering wheel getting set up is easy for any body type. Entry and exit of the vehicle isn’t so simple with the seats located fairly low within the cabin, older drivers or those with mobility issues may be deterred. Although the 3-Series dimensions have grown over the years it remains a small sedan and rear seat space is restricted. With the correct adjustment three adults can squeeze into the back without issue, but if you’re planning on carrying adult rear occupants regularly it may pay to look toward the larger 5-Series.
Safety credentials are top notch with six-airbags standing guard and electronic systems working under the surface: ABS brakes, stability and traction control, cornering brake control, electronic differential lock, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake detection.
The 335d shows all the 3-Series virtues that have made the model such a success over the years. It has the dynamic ability, the robust build quality and the elegant styling. But what makes it really stand out is the hi-tech diesel-sipping power plant under the bonnet. The motor is complimented well by all other aspects of the car but the effortless power it provides and the fuel economy it can achieve put it at the pinnacle of production diesel engineering. If your want a car that’s a dedicated performance sedan but you also want something with genuine green credentials then BMW has made this once distant desire finally possible. If you also have the coin to afford it, then the BMW 335d isn’t one of life’s tough decisions at all.
What we like:
- Exceptional diesel engine
- Dynamic handling
- Build quality
What we don’t like:
- Rear seat space
- Occasionally harsh ride
- Diesel performance is expensive
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
BMW 335d (2009) – Specifications
Capacity in ccm 2,993
Stroke/bore in mm 90.0/84.0
Max. output in kW (PS) at 1/min 210 (286)/4,400
Max. torque in Nm at 1/min 580/1,750-2,250
Power-to-weight ratio (EU) in kg/bhp 5.8
Weight in kg
Unladen weight EU 1,655
Maximum permissible weight 2,100
Permitted load 520
Permitted axle load front/rear 1,015/1,120
Drag (cw) 0.30
Top speed (km/h) 250
Acceleration 0 – 100 km/h (in s) 6.0
Acceleration 0 – 1,000 m (in s) 25.2
Acceleration 80 – 120 km/h in 4th/5th gear (in s) -/-
Urban (l/100 km) 9.7
Extra-urban (l/100 km) 5.6
Composite (l/100 km) 7.1
CO2 emissions (g/km) 189
Tank capacity in I (approx.) 61