BMW 3 Series Coupe 335i Review: Double team...

BMW 3 Series Coupe 335i Review: Double team...

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
10 May 2009

Technology is ever-evolving and omnipresent. Think about this: What can't most of us live without everyday? Computers allow us to surf the internet and access our all-important email. Mobile phones can put us in touch with one another in an instant; MP3 players and the ubiquitous PSP keep us occupied during our commutes. A new computer purchased today is considered outdated within a few months; obsolete within a year. And the same thing goes for mobile phones. From literal bricks, they became slimmer than candy bars. They went from uncoloured displays to coloured ones. Their keypads are also making way for touch-screens instead.

The technology in cars is also ever-advancing. Drum brakes (although still used) have been largely replaced by more powerful disc brakes. Unsynchronized transmissions are a thing of the past. Manual gearboxes have given way to automatic ones. Four and five-speed gearboxes are now outmoded - the six-speeder even looking old in contrast to the seven or eight-speed ones.

And making inroads into the world of torque converters and CVTs is BMW's DCT, or double-clutch transmission.

If there's one colour that we just love seeing a BMW Coupe in, it has to be this grey shade you see here.
The 335i's sleek lines befit its status as a coupe. Its grille and headlights give it the same face as its other 3-Series brethren. The front air dam however, is different. Look closer and you'll find that it sports a racier honeycomb mesh. The coupe's nose is also more angular compared to 335i sedan.

Trace your way around the flanks and you'll notice the curvier belt line - the windows are also lengthier and sleeker. At the rear, the tail lights are a longer, more rectangular shape, in contrast to the squarish pair found on the sedan. The coupe's rear bumper is also more softly sculpted, as compared to the angled design found on the sedan.

Our test car came equipped with no less than 18-inch light-alloys, with 225/40 front and 225/35 rear donuts.

Once inside the car, front seat passengers will find that reaching for their seatbelts can be quite a stretch. Thanks to a pair of electric "helpers" which pushes the belts towards the occupant from the B-pillars, getting belted up need not be a strenuous affair.

Being a coupe, accessing the rear requires a tiny bit of bending and squeezing. But once nestled there, rear-seat passengers will find that there's a surprising amount of room, courtesy of the car's generous 2,760mm wheelbase.

The new DCT is controlled by a very futuristic-looking lever, which wouldn't look out of place in a fighter jet. In case you're one of those people who have trouble getting up to speed with new-fangled gizmos, fret not. This "joystick" is actually pretty simple to use - pressing the release button on its side allows you to select each of the different modes, with the current mode displayed on both the lever and dashboard.

Technology buffs will appreciate the fact that the gear selector carries out the driver's shift commands electronically, rather than manually. Peeking out from behind the steering wheel is the pair of gleaming paddles which literally puts this high-tech action at the driver's fingertips.

When BMW first introduced the iDrive system, it was a leap forward in innovation for luxury cars. That leap however, came with a learning curve - and not everyone was willing to immerse themselves in this time-consuming lesson.

All this feedback definitely reached Munich, and we're happy to report that the latest generation iDrive has been simplified and has become more user-friendly. The iDrive's menu is displayed on an 8.8" screen, and while there's still a plethora of options on the main screen, the functions which are most often used now have their own dedicated buttons.

So instead of having to use the controller to scroll through it all, the driver can simply hit the button for CD, Radio, Telephone and Navigation. If you're not one of those technologically-inclined persons, there's a handy Back button in case you do get lost. That said, we definitely liked how the different menu screens faded in and out as we worked the system.

How does the double-clutch transmission work? Well, the gearbox's seven speeds are split across two transmission setups, thus necessitating the need for two clutches. One drivetrain contains the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th gears, while the other handles the 2nd, 4th and 6th gears.

So let's say you're currently in 3rd gear and accelerating. The transmission control system will then correctly identify the next gear (4th gear) which suits the car's engine and road speed. When the shift occurs, the clutch of the drivetrain in charge of the odd-numbered gears disengages while simultaneously, the clutch of the drivetrain containing the even-numbered gears is engaged.

All of this takes place in a span of milliseconds, and since there's no shift-shock to speak of, you'll barely notice the shift points. Compared to normal automatic gearboxes, the DCT is very efficient, greatly minimizing the power loss between shifts.

The DCT is paired with the award-winning, 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six engine. With 306bhp at 5,800 revs on tap, the DCT performs a seamless and efficient transfer of power with each and every shift. Let's not forget the 400Nm of torque available from 1,300 to 5,000 rpm - it can cause you to perform unintended over steer maneuvers if you're not careful!

And there's no better way to enjoy this wonderful engine and gearbox pairing than to drive the 335i in M (manual) mode. Even when the engine is revved close to its 7,000rpm redline before you tug back on the paddle to shift up, you'll barely feel anything except for the car ceaselessly surging forward. Each high-rpm shift is also accompanied by a refined bark that's oh-so-addictive...

The ride is on the firm side (courtesy of the M sports suspension) for better handling, but it's never harsh. Coupled with the inline-six's output, overtakings are accomplished with a mere twitch of the right foot - meaning this coupe can also be driven in a very laid-back manner, feeling effortless.

What we like:
pros
Lightning-quick shifts
pros
slight improvement in fuel economy
pros
addictive acceleration.
What we dislike:
cons
Small wing mirrors
cons
steering could use a bit more weight
cons
technologically advanced gearbox will probably still not sway hardcore purists.

What we've got here is a refined coupe, motivated by a potent engine that's paired to the perfect gearbox. It can serve as an exec's daily drive to the office and performs just as well as the sporty weekend ride.

If we had to nitpick, we'd say that the wing mirrors are a tad small. And we'd like the steering rack to have a bit more weight as well.

The DCT shifts quicker than you can blink, but there's still a tiny amount of lag when it downshifts. However, most drivers will be too busy enjoying themselves to even notice this.

So will this double-clutch technology spell the end for manual gearboxes? Being purists, we don't think so. What it does however, is give us another way to enjoy the drive.

Credits: Story by Jeremy R. Chua, pictures by Azfar Hashim

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