So that in mind, if I had to choose a sedan, and one that wasn’t wholly unbaby friendly, it’d probably start my search with BMW’s 3 series. And after driving the 335i with Xdrive I can honestly attest to the car’s wonderfully well appointed split personality.
Although all wheel drive isn’t a daily necessity for me – I live in Southern California – it’s most certainly an option that is worth considering, especially if you plan to travel to a nearby ski resort, such as Big Bear. It’s also a feature that won’t hurt if you catch yourself cornering on a slippery road, or trudging up a hill that is laden in mud.
Powering my 335i with Xdrive was a twin turbo V6 that had been modded thanks to a $1200 option called M Performance Power Kit. This boosted horsepower and torque to 320hp and 320lb-ft respectively. That’s 20 more horsepower than the standard version of the car. Audibly its engine isn’t as titillating as the roar from the RS5, but that’s hardly a car of a comparable class. Nevertheless, its tone is lust worthy and one that is best conveyed when the engine is wound up over 3k RPMs, or better yet to almost 6k RPMs, when the 335i is producing its max power and torque.
Now, the BMW 3-series sedan is anything but an outlier here in Los Angeles. In fact, it’s hard not to sneeze and find yourself wiping your snot off the windshield of a 3-series sedan.
That said, my 335i was anything but average. The front bumper sat lower and wider than the standard version, giving the otherwise tame looking car a distinct and more aggressive stance. The same can be said for the rear bumper and side skirts, though to a lesser extreme. But it’s not easy to detect these differences at a glance. Making matters more confusing, it’s also difficult to tell the difference between the 2012 and 2013 version of the 3-series sedan – the latter most notably enjoys headlights that kiss the BMW’s kidney grill and has been adorned with a slightly more edgy hood.
BWM’s Driving Dynamics control, which allows you to select a different ride type, continues to appeal to my senses. So much so, that any car that doesn’t offer the ability to instantly influence throttle response or stiffen up the dampers almost seems to be remiss. This is all user selectable using a small rocker switch that sits left of the car’s iDrive system. And as I’ve said in previous BMW reviews, the iDrive sustains as a best in class infotainment system that is easy to use and visually appealing to the eye.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the interior of this 335. Which despite it’s rather steep price tag of $61,000, seems to have only received a stock finish. This includes plastic pieces that have been painted with silver paint that I would generally be associated with model airplanes. I much, much prefer the black wood inlays, which are not only higher end looking, but nicer to the touch. Fortunately, this is an issue that can be easily remedied, albeit for added cash.
Driving the 335i with Xdrive feels no different than that of a rear wheeled drive car. Granted it was difficult if not near impossible to “get sideways” thanks to the all wheel drive system, the Xdrive is most certainly rear wheel bias despite its ability to send power to all four wheels if necessary.
Steering is a much lamented point these days, as most manufacturers have moved to the electronic type. It’s not completely muted in this 3-series sedan, but like the rest of the car it gets much better as the car is driven harder and faster, and is steps above what BMW’s electronic steering was 3 or 4 years ago.
After numerous cars with an auto start/stop function, I’m still struggling to find comfort with the system and more often than not I find myself turning it off in city driving despite the positive fuel implications. Slamming on the brake pedal, or forcefully pressing it to the floor restarts the car in a what seems like just under a second’s time. It’s an almost imperceivable amount of time, that is until you notice that the steering is stuck in place until re-ignition.
For the most part I can’t find anything overwhelmingly negative to say about the 335i with Xdrive. But perhaps there in lies the issue. I’m not swayed one way or the other. At a glance it’s difficult to see that this is a $60k+ car. Arguably that’s what makes it so great; it’s a sleeper. You can load kids in the back, toss skis into its rear, traverse the mountains and still drag it out to a track and presumably achieve a respectable lap time. And when you’re done you just drive it home. Comfortably and without compromise.