Thursday, June 20, 2013

Car review: BMW 335i Sport Line (2013 / F30)

Technical Data

Model (Model Year / Code): BMW 335i xDrive Sport Line (2013 / F30)
Engine: N55B30 / 2979 cm³ / R6 / TwinPower-Turbo / petrol
Transmission: 8-speed Sport automatic transmission "Steptronic"
Paintwork + Interior + interior trim + wheels: Alpine white + Anthracite / Grey Track cloth upholstery + Brushed aluminium trim + 17-inch alloy wheels Star-spoke style 394

€48.640,00 BMW 335i xDrive F30

€0,00 Alpine white
€0,00 Wing mirror caps Alpine white
€0,00 17-inch light alloy wheels Star-spoke style 394 (winter tyres)
€0,00 Anthracite / Grey Track cloth upholstery
€0,00 Brushed Aluminium Trim
€0,00 High-gloss Black interior trim finisher

€1.900,00 Sport Line:

€0,00 17-inch light alloy wheels Star-spoke style 394 (winter tyres)

€190,00 Brushed Aluminium Trim
€0,00 Anthracite / Grey Track cloth upholstery
€0,00 Sport steering wheel
€0,00 Sport seats

€1.090,00 Comfort package
  • Automatic Air Conditioning
  • Extended storage
  • Extended Interior Light Package
  • Head restraints, rear and folding
€600,00 Driving Comfort package
  • Enhanced Bluetooth functionality with USB audio interface
  • Cruise control with brake function
  • Armrest, front with sliding adjustment
€1,790,00 Visibility package
  • Xenon headlights
  • Rain sensor with automatic headlight activation
  • Rear-view mirror, auto dimming
  • Headlights wash
  • Adaptive Headlights
  • High-beam Assistant
€340,00 Sunblind - rear windscreen, electric
€480,00 Alarm system
€570,00 Comfort Access
€1.100,00 Electric Glass Sunroof

€-,-- Floor mats, velour
€30,00 Smokers package
€390,00 Exterior trim, High-glos Shadowline
€240,00 Headlining, Anthracite
€1.290,00 Electric Front Seats + Driver Memory
€400,00 Split-folding rear seats
€370,00 Seat heating, front
€-,-- Multi-function controls for steering wheel

€2.390,00 Navigation-system Professional
€0,00 BMW Assist
€0,00 BMW Online
€0,00 Internet
€-,-- (standard) Voice Control
€980,00 Head-up Display
€1.200,00 Loudspeaker system - Harman / Kardon surround sound
€250,00 Apps
€-,-- Black panel display, full
€320,00 Speed limit display

€410,00 Exterior mirrors - folding, auto dimming

€790,00 Park Distance Control (PDC), front and rear
€-,-- Foglights, front
€560,00 Lange change warning system
€350,00 Dynamic Safety (Active Protection)
€40,00 Passenger airbag deactivation, front
€200,00 Variable sport steering

Total price in Germany: €67.540,-*

*Prices are the German prices in Februari 2013

Performance: 306hp (225kW) / 400nm
0 to 100km/h: 5,0sec
Top speed: 250km/h (155mp/h) - limited
Fuel consumption in liter / 100km (U.S. miles per gallon): 11,2 liter / 100 kilometer (21 mpg / US) (click the link for the fuel consumption test)
Price (Germany): €67.540,00

In 2012 BMW introduced the sixth generation of the BMW 3-series, internally designated as the F30, as the succesor to the 3-series E90. The F30 is produced at BMW-plants in Munich, Regensburg, Tiexi (Shenyang / China) and Rosslyn (South Africa). Its official introduction was in Munich on the 14th of October 2011, and the first F30s have been delivered on the 11th of February 2012.

An estate version, the 3-series Touring F31, has been introduced in May 2012. Deliveries of the Touring have been commenced since August 2012. A change from the previous system is that the coupe and convertible will not be in the 3-series range anymore, but will be placed in the 4-series range, available this year. 

This specific car is a BMW 335i xDrive Sport Line. It features BMWs N55 turbocharged direct injection DOHC piston engine, that has been in production since 2009 and was already used in the 335i E90. A major change from its N54 predecessor is that it only features a single twin scroll turbocharger, instead of  parallel twin-turbochargers. BMW calls this the TwinPower-Turbo engine, in which the turbocharger both serves the lower and higher rev ranges.

1. Exterior

After the radical design line of the Bangle-years, BMW has returned to a more conservative design with the introduction of the 7-series F01 in 2008, which also extends to the design of the new 3-series. Apart from the usual design features that can be found on all models, like the double kidneys and Hofmeisterknick, BMW has also tried to give its cars a more harmonized look. Where during the Bangle years each series had its unique and clearly distinguishable design, the current styling makes them sometimes hard to distinguish from one model range to another. 

Although the 3-series F30 is clearly a BMW, its appearance is not overly exciting. It is slightly less curvy then the predecessor and has some sharp edges around the front lights, which now run all the way to the kidneys. Just as with the 1-series, BMW has introduced "Lines". These so-called "Lines" turn the car into a chameleon, depeding on which line you choose (Sport-, Modern- or Luxury Line), it comes with special details that enhance the looks of the car. For example, Modern- and Luxury line offer chrome accents in the kidneys, exhaust pipes and front bumper, while the Sport Line comes with black kidneys, exhaust pipes and shadow line window trim. Another new feature are the window caps which are available in different colors.

There is a drawback to the new "Line" policy. As every Line comes with certain alloy wheels and other specific design features, it restricts the choices the customer can make. For example, it is not possible to combine the shadow line accenting with the Luxury Line package. Also there is only a small selection of alloy wheels available for each line. Still these minor restrictions can be overcome, in the interior the choices for upholstery and interior trim are much more curtailed.

2. Engine, transmission and handling

In the 335i, BMW employs the N55 engine that has been introduced in the 535i Gran Turismo in 2009, which was the first TwinPower Turbo engine that BMW used. In the previous x35i engine BMW used two turbochargers, but these have been replaced by a single twin scroll turbocharger. Displacement of the engine is 2979cm³ which results in 306hp, 400Nm and a (limited) top speed of 250km/h (155mp/h). 

Due to the twin scroll turbocharger, the engine has plenty of power available all the time. Most fun is accelerating in the 335i, combined with a rollercoaster like feeling of moving forward, the engine sound is a superb background sound which makes music in the car redundant*. However, in winter or rainy conditions it is hard to transfer the power from the car to the road. xDrive is BMWs 4-wheel drive system and that resolves the issue of transferring the power to the road, as it is quicker accelerating in adverse conditions then its rear-wheel drive brother. 

* Sound is hard to describe in words, hence you can listen to the 335i engine in the video below.

TwinPower-Turbo 2979cm3 6-cylinder engine

The N55 is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission made by ZF, while a 6-speed manual gearbox also is available. Some might argue that a performance engine as the 335i' should be accompanied by a manual gearbox, but the 2 extra gears of the 8-speed automatic gearbox make this also a worthwhile consideration. Not only is the gearbox changing gears quicker them most drivers, the sport automatic transmission also comes with a steering wheel that includes paddles, giving the driver almost complete control over the gearbox. Only when shifting up too high or low the gearbox will not follow instructions, to prevent any damage or stalling the engine. 

Although it is not the primary goal of this engine to be the most fuel efficient way of getting the F30 to its destination, BMW has also fitted the 335i with the "Efficient Dynamics" package, including the start / stop system and the "EcoPro-mode" that shifts the gears earlier in order to save fuel. To my experience the EcoPro-mode is used rather seldomly, instead the sport mode is the most appealing mode to drive the 335i in.

A new feature is the speedo that shows if the engine is switched off completely or merely shut down by the auto start / stop system, indicated by the "ready" mark. 
Often when BMW introduces the new model to replace an old one of the same type, it tends to grow larger, but also it seems to be trimmed more towards comfort then its predecessor. This is also true for the F30, it has gained some weight which results in a more neutral handling. But the weight distribution on this car is excellent, it has been one of BMW major advantages, making the car a perfectly balanced car even though the handling has changed towards a more comfortable type.

As this 335i is equipped with the optional xDrive, it has again some extra weight and a more "dampened" handling compared to the rear-wheel drive version. However, the F30 comes with different options regarding the suspension. Apart from the standard suspension, BMW also offers a sport suspension (already included in the M-package) but also an Adaptive Drive suspension that allows the driver to adjust the settings of the car manually, thus influencing the handling. So if the standard F30 is too soft for our liking, I would advice to try one of these options to see if the handling is more towards your liking.

3. Interior, multimedia and communication

BMW has chosen to align the 3-series to the 1-series, and the 7-series to the 5-series. This strategy is also extends to the interior of the 3-series, its design is different then the one found in the 5- and 7-series and can be compared more to the one of the 1-series.

What I particular do not like about the interior design of the 3-series is the lack of attention to details, resulting in a failure to give the occupant of the car a true "premium" feeling. One of the most obvious examples is the switch for the car lights on the left, it is a pure plastic button that seems to have been "glued" onto the dashboard instead of being integrated into the design. Integration of the ventilation vents and the center console climate control unit into the interior design is satisfactory, although these elements also do not convey the premium feel one might expect from a BMW. Compared to the 5-series, the latter one has some chrome accenting and a better integrated design, giving the details a better look and more premium feeling. 

The 3-series sport steering wheel is one of three steering wheels (the other being the standard and M-sport) available
However, the interior of the 3-series also has its positive sides. The sport steering wheel feels solid and provides a good grip for both hands, including red stitching as a nice detail. BMW has changed the functions of the buttons compared to the previous 3-series E90, the cruise control that used to be operated with a seperate stick behind the steering wheel now can be controlled from the buttons on the left side, while the driver can operate the phone and music from the buttons on the right side.

The "Sport Line" package includes comfortable sport seats
In the center console the buttons are located in a logical way and can be reached easily from the drivers position. There is some storage space that provide for small items and two cupholders (below the small storage unit behind the smoking package), but larger items have to go somewhere else.
Automatic Air Conditioning, dual zone
In the multimedia department we find the navigation-system professional combined with the second generation iDrive-controller that has been intoduced back in late 2008 / early 2009. BMW does not make any distinction between its model-series here, but shares the same system throughout its portfolio. It comes with a large screen that has ample room to share extra information on the right side portion - called the split screen function -, and a simple to operate interface. 
Navigation-system Professional

Communication is another major asset of this car, one can connect the phone by the USB-connection of via the Bluetooth-interface. After having connecting your phone once, the car will automatically connect the Bluetooth function each time the device enters the car. From this connection a range of information, including phone numbers and MP3-tracks, can be used through the iDrive-system.

4.Optional Equipment

This section discusses (part of) the optional equipment available on the F01. Ranking from 1 (definitely a yes), 2 (nice to have, but not a minimum requirement) to 3 (not necessary).
  • Automatic Air Conditioning: two zones, easy operation; ranking 1
  • Enhanced Bluetooth functionality with USB audio interface: enables smooth connection between phone / MP3 tracks / charging with the car; ranking 1
  • Cruise control with brake function: comfort feature that goes without saying; ranking 1
  • Armrest, front with sliding adjustment: extends just enough forward to give the arm a comfortable resting position; ranking 1
  • Xenon headlights: gives the car a more modern appearance and better lighting, but not absolute necessary; ranking 2
  • Rain sensor with automatic headlight activation: options functions very well and is used often, so for a relatively small amount of money it provides great value in use; ranking 1
  • Exterior & rear-view mirrors, auto dimming: options functions very well and is used often, so for a relatively small amount of money it provides great value in use;  ranking 1
  • Adaptive Headlights: minor use, rather save the money; ranking 3
  • High-beam Assistant: usually I operate the high-beams myself and do not use this function; ranking 3
  • Comfort Access: nice comfort feature but the normal key is also sufficient; ranking 2
  • Electric Glass Sunroof: allows more light to come into the car, thus giving a more "spacious" feeling, but comes at a steep price; ranking 2
  • Electric Front Seats + Driver Memory: after having adjusted the seat one is unlikely to touch the option very often again, so manual operation is also sufficient; ranking 3
  • Seat heating, front: costs only a small amount, but its use in cold conditions is huge; ranking 1
  • Navigation-system Professional: expensive option with extra features, but the core function of guiding the driver can also be done by the smaller navigation system business; ranking 2
  • Head-up Display: nice to play with, but limited value for money; ranking 3
  • Loudspeaker system - Harman / Kardon surround sound: although the "small" HiFi system also is enough for listening to music, the Harman Kardon system is still a major improvement for a small amount of extra money; ranking 2
  • Speed limit display: useful feature for keeping track of speed limits in unknown territory; ranking 2
  • Park Distance Control (PDC), front and rear: helps to prevent any minor damage while parking the car; ranking 1
Final thoughts:

BMW tries to combine two concepts within one car which inevitably results in a compromise. On the one hand there is the fun loving straight six engine with 306hp and an awsome sound, but it is fitted into a 3-series that is tuned towards comfort and has the xDrive four-wheel drive system. If the same engine is fitted to a Z4 or 4-series (the new 3-series coupe), it will probably be more fun if you remember what you can expect from this compromise. But still the 335i xDrive combines a good daily driver with a load of "every day" fun, more then with a 6-cylinder diesel engine.

Even with an interior that is less then amazing and has some parts that do not justify a "premium" title, it is still a car that has a satisfactory interior including state-of-the-art multimedia and communication equipment that also is available in the larger BMW-series, which still makes it a good car. 

BMW 335i xDrive Sport Line media:

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