By Samuel Ee
No other compact saloon is, at the mere mention of its name, immediately associated with sporty performance and driving excitement. Since it debuted almost 40 years ago, the BMW 3 Series has been a very special model, one that is usually described with a superlative, such as the best small sedan in the world. The latest version isn't that small anymore but it still doesn't disappoint.
The sixth generation of the 3 Series looks like a scaled-down version of the current 5 Series with even nicer proportions except that its flat nose with headlamps that segue into the double kidney grille give it a slight squint.
The 3 Series continues to grow - it is 93mm longer at 4,624mm, with a 50mm extension that takes its wheelbase to 2,810mm. More importantly, it has a rear seat that can actually be called spacious now, with an extra 15mm of knee room and 8mm of headroom.
MORE STORAGE COMPARTMENTS
The cabin also has more storage compartments but otherwise, the interior doesn't look much different and the dashboard has the same look and feel of other BMWs.
The track is also wider - up 37mm in front and an additional 47mm at the rear - and this benefits its handling.
The first 3 Series variant to be launched here is the BMW 335i, with the familiar direct injection 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine featuring a twin-scroll turbo and Valvetronic variable valve timing. Its 306 horses and 400 Newton-metres of torque under the hood drive the rear wheels in classic fashion.
In the new 335i, this unit has been optimised for improved fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. But it remains a free-revving gem with good torque and refinement.
As with other high-end BMWs, the lower centre console has a switch for the Driving Experience Control function and its four driving modes - Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+.
In the new 335i, one interesting contrast is between Comfort and Sport settings. The 335i is equipped with Adaptive M running gear with variable damping as standard. When Comfort is selected, the ride becomes slightly softer and the steering is considerably lightened, making the car feel unusually detached for such a well-endowed 3 Series.
But in Sport mode, the 335i returns to familiar BMW territory. The steering becomes heavier and meatier, and the car hunkers down with more aggressive damping as both the response of the engine and transmission are sharpened.
Enter a corner fast and you can hear the rear wheels straining to keep the tail in. Step harder on the gas for the exit and it is even possible to oversteer, especially in the Sport+ setting with its reduced intervention by the electronic stability control.
Under such situations, the well-weighted steering with Variable Steer is precise and direct. You can always place the 335i exactly where you want it.
|BMW 335i Sport
|Price: $227,800 (with COE)
Engine: 2,979cc inline-6 turbocharged
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Max Power: 306bhp @ 5,800-6,000rpm
Max Torque: 400Nm @ 1,200-5,000rpm
0-100kmh: 5.5 seconds
Top speed: 250kmh
CO2 emissions: 169g/km
Distributor: Performance Motors
Tel: 6319 0100
The eight-speed automatic transmission is equally sweet. Pull the left shift paddle and it will obediently change down, even at high engine speeds, for further control of the 335i.
With its size, build quality and quiet luxury, the new BMW 335i seems more grown-up than before. But it is still extremely fun to drive. Little wonder that it remains the benchmark in its segment.
This article was first published in The Business Times.