Dark gray and full of attitude, it sat in the parking lot waiting for the next happy driver. Ahhh. The 2007 BMW 335i Coupe, another masterful automotive creation by the boys sporting blue propellers, another great driver’s car ready to go through its paces. This one – with its red leather interior and a smooth, inline six-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission – wowed us with its balance, its power, and its looks, enough so that we named it our Editors' Choice for Car of the Year.
What We Drove
Wouldn’t you drive it? With so many luxury performance choices, this new offering from BMW intrigued us, and made us wonder whether it would be just another coupe cum sedan or an actual honest-to-goodness different choice. To our unbridled joy, we found the BMW 335i to be much different than the sedan, and actually better in many driver-oriented ways. Our tester had BMW’s sport package, which added sport seats and 18-inch alloy wheels. That package jacked the sticker up a thou to $42,295, including a $695 destination.
Wonder of wonders, the BMW 335i Coupe is a great driver's car, thanks to suspension changes and the twin-turbo engine; it makes everything snappier and more scintillating. Even the six-speed manual feels renewed. The 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder is the sedan engine with two turbochargers, and power is rated at 300 horses at 5,800 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Turbo lag is barely discernable. In a word, the powertrain would be described as responsive.
We found the BMW 335i to be close to M-level fun to drive – though a little skittish in the corners. Not sure if that’s the driver, the car or the tires, but it adds to the experience. All in all, given the sport seats and the lowered height, you feel close to the road but wrapped in leather protection.
Enough glass all round, big rear view and side views are nicely placed – though smallish. Visibility – for a coupe, excellent, though you sit so low that it feels harder to see than it is. Fact is, there’s enough glass to eliminate most blind spots, but it is what it is – a low slung coupe with tight seats and a low ride height.
Fun to Drive
Fun defines this car, but without the compromise of a “rattle your cage” ride or an unforgiving interior. Call it fun for grownups – style, sport and sophistication with two doors.
These are driver’s seats, meaning that they grip you in a nice tight hug. While they’re excellent and firm, the leather was a bit too stiff for my tastes. The seats offer a power up, down, fore and aft control, along with power lumbar, tilt and a manual thigh support -- as well as the normal recline. Really, it’s a perfect driver’s set up and actually quite comfortable for the long haul as long as you like it firm and well bolstered.
While the seats are comfortable, there’s not much legroom, and shoulder room is also a bit compromised. The center console area that shoots all the way though the vehicle hurts the comfort standard a bit as your legs don’t have much side-to-side area in which to move.
The 335i is whisper quiet for a performance coupe, with a little road noise and some faint whispering from the wind, probably coming from the sunroof. Hit a corner hard and you can hear the tires complain, though it’s properly muted and, indeed, necessary. You are driving, after all – not reading a book.
The trunk’s low lift over fits with the profile of the vehicle, and helps usability. A nicely appointed and rather large trunk area swallows just about everything, though there’s no pass through.
Gaps are consistently tight, with relatively few exceptions, and controls have a nice, weighted feel that bespeaks of quality. Overall, it feels more expensive than it is – which is saying something for a luxury car! Some slight variations in gaps and flush, along door panels and hood line, take some of the joy away, and the front/rear fascias don’t line up perfectly with the metal joints and chrome trim.
Excellent, though the red leather is too garish and the seats are a bit unforgiving. However, during aggressive driving they are a godsend, holding you in place with comfort. Soft-touch surfaces are nicely applied, and the wood grain is not overt but subtly placed. Everything looks and feels well made, especially the fine steering wheel. It’s a real driver’s piece that feels good in your hand. The orange graphics are a bit old school, though.
This is one of the sexiest cars BMW has ever produced, with its low-slung stance and nicely balanced design. The doors are light and small enough not to swing back in and be a bother to passengers, and the long sweeping hood is fun, aggressive, mean, sexy and the perfect touch to this car’s balance.
Overall, it feels like you’re sitting inside a leather handbag. In our tester, red leather was everywhere, and it distracted from this remarkably well done BMW design; red leather isn’t exactly subtle, nor function over form, and definitely more loud-Yankee than understated-German. The back seat is cramped, and the fold down armrest is too big, as it pushed people out of the way and compromised already limited space. Perhaps the biggest oops inside the BMW 335i is the seatbelt presenter. There are many wrong ways to make seatbelts reachable inside a large coupe, and the 335i’s flimsy arm that looks ready to break after just a few uses is certainly one of them.
In a strange reversal, the rear seat cupholders are excellent, but the front seat ones are lousy. Rear passengers get holders that are integrated into the rear console, but the front ones are a bad German joke. They pop out of the dash above the glovebox and aren’t very deep, ensuring your cup of coffee will spill at the slightest provocation. The glove box is nicely proportioned, and the snap-out door compartments will hold most things pretty easily. The center console unit is too small, however, and the back seat netting is also too small to cram much back there.
In a marked departure for BMW, the environmental and stereo controls are easy to use and clearly marked in white. They’re easy to use and reach, too, which is also a refreshing change from BMWs usually confounding designs. Temperature control knobs are especially easy to manipulate, as is the fan speed, though we wished it pushed more air out of the vents.
Some of our staffers will tell you that there really is no competition for the BMW 335i, and they’re nearly correct. There’s the revised Infiniti G35 coupe coming later this year, and, um…maybe the Audi TT, the Volvo C70 and the Mercedes-Benz CLK. There’s also the upcoming Nissan GT-R, but it’s not on the road yet and won’t be for some time. The truth of it is that if you’re in the market for a twin-turbocharged two-door luxury sport coupe, there really is very little competition to the 2007 BMW 335i.
2nd Opinion – Perry
When it comes to a practical, all encompassing, superior car, the 2007 BMW 335i stands alone. The 335i nears perfection and surpasses cars at twice its price while at the same time delivering the goods at a reasonable price. There isn’t much not to like, brakes, steering, handling, comfort, styling and performance are all standard issue along with great resale and free maintenance while under warranty. If I had to nit-pick the 335i, I would have to ask for larger side mirrors. That’s it! I liked the car that much. No other car gives you what the 335i offers for money.
– Ron Perry
2nd Opinion – Wardlaw
Consider yourself warned: Test driving a 2007 BMW 335i Coupe could be hazardous to your financial health. Unless you have the wherewithal to write a check for payment in full, be prepared to ask yourself hard questions. Date nights or BMW? Vacations or BMW? Procreate or BMW? Private school or BMW? 401K or BMW? It’s gonna be a tough call. The BMW 335i is the best car I’ve driven this year, a thrilling turbocharged thoroughbred designed for effortless speed. Best of all, I could swing the lease payment if I took a second job. Imagine how good a Domino’s Pizza sign would look on this gorgeous piece of German engineering. Hmmm…weekends or BMW?
– Christian Wardlaw
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry