Estoril, Portugal - In the language of BMW, the new 335is coupe and cabriolet mean the return of the "s" designation, which is part of a "Life Cycle Impulse" – basically an update – for the 3 Series. Geared for performance, these two models will be sold exclusively in North America. The cabriolet will be available in April 2010, and the coupe will follow in June 2010. BMW Canada has not yet confirmed the prices of these new 3 Series variants in Canadian dollars, but we can get an idea from the prices south of the border: $50,525 for the coupe and $59,075 for the cabriolet.
In terms of style, the 335is vehicles can be distinguished by a new hood and redesigned front end featuring a lower and wider grille with two black nostrils and new headlights crowned with LEDs. The tail-lights also use LED technology, while the exhausts get a black chrome treatment and a functional diffuser has been integrated too. The interior gets the M Sport treatment with a thicker steering wheel, driver’s footrest, and light grey dials with white needles. Two transmissions are available: a six-speed manual and a seven-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission) with new steering-wheel-mounted controls. Specifically, BMW finally decided to do away with their old system which required the driver to pull on the paddles to shift up and push the same paddles to shift down. They’re now going the same route as most of the competition with the right paddle controlling upshifts and the left paddle controlling downshifts. The DCT gearbox also features "Launch Control" which optimizes accelerations from rest and makes the ensuing sprints more efficient.
320 horses and up to 370 pounds-foot of torque
These vehicles get the N54 engine, a twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder that has seen its power boosted to 320 hp and offers a maximum of 322 pounds-foot of torque, though the "Overboost" function will up the torque to 370 pounds-foot for a seven-second period. They’ve paid special attention to cooling the engine oil and coolant by adding small twin secondary radiators. You should also know that this same engine is going into the Z4, where it will produce 335 hp – the 15 extra horses are thanks to computerized calibration. In other words, the 335is gets 320 horses and not 335 because the marketing directors thought it best to respect a certain hierarchy in the company’s offering. Final note: the xDrive AWD is not available on these models.
On the Estoril circuit, the 335is proved very well balanced thanks to its nearly ideal weight distribution and sport suspension. The delivery of power and torque is particularly linear, allowing the driver to use just the right amount of gas when coming out of turns. The steering is remarkably precise and gauging the road grip is dead easy with the thicker steering wheel (I noticed that during my first laps of the circuit, as the road was slick from the previous night’s rainfall). For the initial laps, I was behind the wheel of a 335is with the manual transmission, which works like a charm. I tested the dual-clutch 335is later in the morning, when the circuit had had the chance to dry out. This confirmed that BMW’s new paddle system is much more intuitive and natural than the system the Bavarian manufacturer had been using until now.
In closing, BMW came out with these new models as a response to the demand for their performance vehicles, which is greater in North America than in Europe. And judging by the prices mentioned earlier in this article, it will also be a good opportunity for BMW to charge a little more for these high-performance models bearing the "s" designation.