"Diesel has never been so sexy! A screaming performer."4.5 starson by mdifanis
Pros: Spectacular power plant, combined with great fuel economy and the legendary 3-series handling characteristics. 2009 mid-cycle refreshing looks noticeably sportier and more modern than previous years.
Cons: Split second delay at launch due to turbo lag and traction control. No spare tire, but run-flats are included standard. Run-flats are considerably more expensive, but must be used. I-Drive still confusing, but accesses a myriad of features.
Summary: This is not a car I had ever intended to buy, but it ended up being a purchase with which I am thrilled. I drive a 2002 Audi S8, a full-size uber-sedan with a 360 horsepower V8, spectacular performance, and a top notch interior. As my S8 now tops 160,000 miles, I had planned to purchase a pre-owned 2007 S8 sometime in 2010. And then Barak Obama started waiving piles of cash in my face to think otherwise.I have been very disappointed to discover that the navigation system will not permit the user to enter a house number if the street is a county road. How stupid is that? My $200 Garmin Nuvi handles county roads--and specific house numbers--with ease. Since my flat, boring part of the country has many county roads that run in a straight line through the entire length of the county, it does no good at all to bother entering the road if one cannot specify the house number or nearest intersecting street. (The system also allows intersections to be entered--but not for county roads!) I hope that a firmware update will correct this glaring defect in the near future.
I had a 1994 BMW 740iL in my collection, which was a gorgeous car with a fantastic 32-valve aluminum V8 engine. With 170,000 miles, it was worth next to nothing, until ?Cash for Clunkers,? at which point it was suddenly worth $4,500?but only if I purchased a vehicle that got a full 10 mpg overall fuel economy improvement over the clunker. So I started researching to see if any of the relatively ?green? vehicle offerings would be worth considering. Since I already drive a high performance vehicle, I would only be interested in a car with excellent performance and good to spacious interior accommodations. And the ?Clunkers? program required that the new vehicle purchase have a base price of under $45,000.
I have long been more enamored with the potential of diesel technology than with hybrid powertrains, as diesels have no batteries consuming space, adding weight, and eventually requiring costly replacement. In the realm of sedans, there are three options: VW Jetta TDI, Mercedes-Benz E320CDI, and the BMW 335d. The VW is affordable and an adequate performer, but no screamer. The Benz lacks sufficient horsepower to truly excite, and it is more than the $45,000 base price permitted under Clunkers. The BMW 335d, new to the U.S. market for 2009, is base priced just under the $45,000 Clunkers maximum, it features an absolute superstar power plant, it gets excellent fuel economy, and it is a phenomenally enjoyable car to drive.
As of this writing, the 335d qualifies for up to $4,500 from ?Cash for Clunkers,? plus a BMW ?Eco Rebate? good for another $4,500 off the diesel models, plus the $900 alternative fuels income tax credit, plus the new vehicle sales tax deduction. Add to that a modest additional dealer concession, and the incentives totaled nearly $13,000.
The car is a blast to drive. As a person acclimated to loads of horsepower, I cannot overstate the positively intoxicating thrust that this engine provides. Additionally, you can toss out every single diesel drawback you?ve ever heard. I have been showing off my newly acquired 335d to friends and colleagues this week. No one would ever know from hearing, feeling, driving, or smelling it that it is a diesel. One observer commented that it sounds more like a hot rod V8 than a diesel inline 6.
Whereas a gas engine must be wound up to high RPMs to extract maximum performance, which most of us don?t do all the time, the diesel produces its maximum torque at extremely low RPMS and its peak horsepower at much lower RPMs than gas engines. So one need not ?wind it up? to extract breathtaking thrust. After a split second of hesitation off the line (which I suspect is due to a combination of turbo lag and various traction control systems working to keep the tires from getting shredded), the engine yields a rush of power that is nothing less than intoxicating. I have been driving like a bat out of hell since picking up the car earlier this week, and I have still managed 27 mpg in mixed driving. Spectacular steering and braking round out an excellent overall driving experience.
The interior is very good for the most part. Both leatherette and the real leather (an available upgrade) look, feel, and smell great. Instrument cluster is simple and attractive. I-Drive is apparently improved, but it will still take some time for even a tech savvy driver to learn it. The high-res widescreen display is outstanding, and it would be a terrible waste not to have the NAV system included to exploit the great screen. However, the navigation system, while gorgeous, is less useful and user friendly than my $200 Garmin Nuvi. That is a serious disappointment for a $2,000 option. The winter package is needed to get a fold-down backseat, but with that feature, the utility of the vehicle increases markedly, as a folding ladder (or in my case, real estate yard signs) can easily be stuffed into the trunk.
Sport package gets upgraded suspension, 18? wheels and tires, and some trim upgrades. This proved to be a difficult option to find on the diesel, but I snagged one. If I do much driving in this during the winter, a second set of wheels and tires will be mandatory, as low profile performance rubber with tiny sidewalls won?t be your friend in snow or through potholes.
I cannot overstate my enthusiasm for this new diesel power plant. It is not merely an economical alternative to gas engines; it is a serious performer that makes it easy to extract breathtaking performance in more typical everyday driving scenarios while getting hybrid-like fuel economy!
Updated on Aug 27, 2009
Updated on Aug 27, 2009As a driver who spent his last 125,000 miles driving an all-wheel drive Audi and Mercedes, it is a shame to have more torque than can reasonably be used by the rear wheels available in a car that is only available in rear-wheel drive. The handling and steering feel is phenomenal--better than that of my Audi S8--but one of the most compelling Audi Quattro demonstrations I can perform is to launch from a standstill right into a turn--such as turning left onto a four-lane road-- at full throttle while the Audi puts all 360 horsepower to the pavement with no squealing or drama. The BMW, on the other hand, has its spectacular torque output neutered by the DTS and DSP systems, which will ALWAYS intervene if one at temps the sort of full-throttle launch into a turn that I just described. There is simply too much torque and not enough grip available in the rear wheels. I still love the intoxicating amount of thrust, but one must get used to how much and how early it can be unleashed.
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