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Car reviews - BMW - 3 Series - 335i Touring

Our Opinion

We like
Performance, optional M Sport bodykit, auto transmission in Sport mode, stability control behaviour, handling, brakes
Room for improvement
Expensive, iDrive still infuriates, steering wheel, paddle shifts, harsh ride, steering

22 Jan 2008

WAGONS are not meant to be sporty or sexy, but slip a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine into a BMW 3 Series Touring and slap on an M Sport bodykit and driving a wagon takes on a whole new meaning.

With awesome performance, sharp dynamics and a style that is more racing than pacing, you certainly don’t feel like you are driving a type of vehicle generally associated with mums and kids.

Like the Audi RS4 Avant, this is one serious wagon. It hunkers down in the turns, has a wonderful growl under acceleration and is capable of accelerating to 100km/h in less than six seconds – in a wagon with an automatic transmission, no less.

And an excellent auto it obviously is, at least when put into Sport mode, which provides snappy changes that are so intuitive there is no need to bother with the steering wheel paddle shifts (unless you have delusions of being an F1 racer).

Besides, we found the paddle arrangement hard to get used to because the paddles are located on top of the steering wheel spokes and you push them forward for downchanges and pull them back for upshifts. No doubt you would get used to this after a while, but leaving it in auto seems to be a better option (advice that applies to all sequential manual/autos).

The media launch drive program took in some wonderful country and mountain roads for which the Sport mode is ideal, but experience tells us that it could be a problem around town with staying in too low a gear. That means having to use the Normal shift mode, which we found to be a little unresponsive.

Aiding the driving experience was the behaviour of the electronic stability control system, which we found to be very subtle with its level of intrusion and therefore allowed for spirited driving.

You might expect that 225kW and 400Nm driving through the rear wheels would be a real handful with the electronic stability control system turned off, but that was not the case. There was so much grip available and it was so progressive when it did start to break away, at least in the dry, that it is hard to imagine the 335i Touring biting you. But, as with the paddle shifts, there is little loss of driving enjoyment by employing the computers.

It was not all good news on the drive program, though, especially with that M Sport kit (which adds $4500 and, in addition to the bodykit, brings 17-inch light alloy wheels, sports seats and suspension, an M steering wheel and various trim changes).

You pay the price for those big wheels and the sports suspension in the ride, which felt rather harsh over the few bumps we found on the largely smooth test route. And – not unusual for a wagon, which have to be designed with carrying loads in mind – we found the rear end to be a little bouncey, and frankly we thought that perhaps the M folk have gone just a little too far with the thickness of the steering wheel.

In fact, we didn’t much like the steering at all, finding it quite heavy at parking speeds and yet at cruising speeds it felt overly light, vague and even a little squirmy over undulations.

Overall, the $108,600-plus 335i Touring is a remarkable driving experience because, regardless of anything else, there is that wonderful engine sitting in front of you, just waiting for a prod of the throttle to effortlessly hurtle you up the road accompanied by that magnificent growl. That’s what this car is all about.

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