Let’s just presume for the sake of argument that you just landed that big hedge fund deal that nets you a tidy fifty-grand bonus. Or perhaps the lottery folks just called with some good news. Or the Publisher’s Clearinghouse guy is at the door with those goofy balloons. And with your newfound and ostentatious filthy lucre in hand, you decide to find the best car available for fifty-five large. We aren’t talking about a truck, a cushy sedan or anything else but the hands-down, cards on the table, fun, fast, high-quality league leader. Well, I’d like to make the case for the BMW 335i.
I know, how predictable. But there is a reason every automaker from Cadillac to Lexus lays claim to some sort of sporty coupe or sedan that they insist is a real BMW-killer. It is simply because this is the best in its category. Not just at the head of the pack, or competitive, but just the best. There are cars that will hit 60 miles per hour as quickly, or pull lateral g’s with it, or offer as many options and luxury touches. But there is nothing on the planet that offers all that combined with the quality, aplomb and bank-vault solidity of the products of the Bavarian Motor Works.
But let me start with looks, and that is where BMW has finally won me over. I never liked Bimmers much because they looked stodgy. I knew they were fast, well-built and handled like Earl Campbell dodging linebackers. But they were boring, upright and way too conservative. If looking for a sports sedan, I’d live with the quirks of a Jaguar just to get the sexy shape and British Gentleman’s Club interior. The latest 3-Series though, is svelt, swoopy and curvaceous. The twin-kidney grill is squashed and widened. There are no quirks in the bodylines, no gimmicks. It is just a smooth flow rearward and no silly bustle on the back as has afflicted anything designer Chris Bangle got his hands on in the last few years.
Inside, real leather and wood adorn the dash and seats, but our test car was equipped with the indecipherable BMW I-Drive control system. If you’ve never tried to figure out the single control wheel while just wanting to go from AM to FM, while dodging an 18-wheeler, you don’t know excitement. Believe me though, the car is exciting enough. Our tester had a simple, elegant stereo system with 13 speakers. The dash is made for driving and looks like the cockpit of an F-16. The seats are firm and everything is slapped together with the kind of care you wish everyone showed, including the Japanese.
Except this thing. The cover on the ash tray swings up, but the one over the cupholders has to be pried off and then what do you do with it? Like me, you toss it in the door pocket to rattle around. Very un-German and frankly cheap.
Lift the hood adorned with the logo of the spinning propeller, and you see the reason for all the great press this car has gotten. The 3.0-liter inline six, which puts out 240-horsepower in the 328i coupe, has had a pair of turbo-chargers bolted to it and that adds another 60 ponies. In a car that weighs about as much as a Malibu or Fusion, that means 60 miles per hour from a standing start comes up in 5.4 seconds, which is an eyelash slower than the much gaudier and louder BMW M3. Top speed is 144 miles per hour, which is about 44 miles per hour faster than most of us would feel comfortable travelling in any other sedan. But a Bimmer makes it seem doable for all us armchair Andrettis out here.
By the way, it now has the engine stop/start feature which turns off the motor at a red light, and it restarts the minute you touch the gas or the clutch.
If you look up the word balance, you will find a picture of the BMW 335i and it is the best descriptive for the latest product of the Munich automaker. Base price for this little bolide is just over $42,000, and our test car came to just under $55K. That includes the premium package with the luxury crapola you expect, the sport package with the essential stuff you want and a couple of items like heated seats. That amount of scratch will buy you a whole list of machinery from Lexus, Cadillac, Jaguar, Audi and more. I love all those cars. But I’d buy this one. It’s as simple as that.