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Motoring: BMW 335Xi one powerful drive

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 24th, 2008

It has been quite a March. In fact it has been quite a winter with a large amount of snowfall. Typically, in such weather, the worst type of car you could be driving around in is a sports coupe, unless of course if that sports coupe is from BMW, especially if its name ends with the “Xi” badge.

Well a few weeks ago, I was driving just such a car, and not even some lesser horsepower variant, BMW had given me the most powerful 3-series currently on sale (until the new M3 hits the showroom), the 335Xi.

This has a three-litre, inline-six cylinder engine, which has two turbo-chargers bolted onto it. The end result is that you get 300 hp and 300 lb/ft of torque. That power is sent to the wheels through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox as in my test car, with paddle shifters for appropriate gear selection.

Being an “Xi” model, that power is fed to all four wheels through what has to be one of the best all-wheel drive systems I have ever come across, which is great since it also has one of the best chassis in the business.

What that means is this is one fast and capable performance car. How fast? Well how about 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds and a top speed electronically limited to 210 km/h (the same car in Europe has a speed limiter at 250 km/h). So that makes this seriously fast and not just in the straight line. If you are the sort of person who really enjoys driving and loves to go through twisty roads at a decent rate of speed, then these new BMW coupes will always put a smile on your face on every drive. If you opt for the “Xi” model, you can keep smiling all year-round as this sports car will let you have fun and get you home safely no matter what nature throws at you.

This all-wheel drive system is really quite amazing and fairly idiot proof. I like the fact it allows a certain degree of swing before it reins it all in control, which makes you feel like a better driver than you might actually be. There is an off switch for the traction and stability control device, but if you just press it once quickly, it only shuts the system partially off. If you press and hold the button in for about 10 seconds, it will shut the system off completely so now you can test your driving skills and this chassis to the maximum.

I did just that and had an absolute blast making this car dance through the corners. This was fun, especially in a big empty parking lot covered in ice, but in such driving conditions it did point out its limitations.

First of all, the steering is not as quick as I expected it to be, the suspension is a bit softer than I expected which makes sliding a little tricky, and the automatic gearbox, which is brilliant in everyday driving situations (honestly the quickest upshifts and downshifts in an automatic based gearbox in the business), does like to shift up on its own when it hits the redline in the manual setting. To me that is not total manual control and I prefer how Lexus does it, allowing you to bounce the needle off the rev-limiter for as long as you want. But don't think for one moment any of this is going to put me off from buying one and nor should it put you off either.

As a driving machine, this is one hell of a car. To cap it off, that engine with that all-wheel drive system in a capable chassis, sounds like the ingredients to what makes a Subaru Impreza STi into the brilliant car it is, but with one crucial difference, this BMW is luxurious too.

Open the door and you are greeted by the best interior a BMW 3-series has ever had. In the past, I always found the interior in the 3-series to be dull and lacking in style, but not anymore. The fit and finish is fantastic and everything is placed just where you'd want it to be. Not only is this interior good looking, it is very comfortable too. First of all, there is plenty of space front and back for actual adults, which is rare in a coupe. Then there are the seats, which are great. You can drive this car all day and not be tired. BMW also somehow gets the driving position just right in all their cars, and despite its stylish body the visibility is great.

Speaking of body, I honestly think that this is the best looking 3-series coupe ever made, which is very interesting because the current four-door sedan version is very boring to look at. I guess it goes to show that Chris Bangle, the design director for BMW and Rolls Royce just loves designing two-door cars. You can see that in the design of the 6-series, the Z4 and the new 1-series, not to mention the elegant new Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe. Bangle's designs are often controversial, but he knows what he is doing. I have met him on many occasions in the last few years and trust me he is a great guy to talk with too.

So the new BMW 335Xi is a great car and designed by one of the auto industries best designers, but the news gets even better thanks to its price. You can get into a 328i Coupe from $43,600. A 335i coupe starts at $51,600, and the 335Xi is yours from $54,100. If you load it all up with a navigation system, premium sound, sports package and the intelligent cruise control system (which automatically keeps a safe distance behind the car in front) and the price is about $67,000. Sure to a lot of people, this is not a cheap car, but when you look at what this car has to offer for the money, it is one hell of a bargain. It is however cheap to run, I averaged 11-litres/100km, which is amazing for a car of this type, so it won't hurt you much at the pumps.

So it looks like this car can do no wrong. Only question left in my mind is this, if the 335Xi is so good, how much better will the new M3 be? Guess I will just have to wait and see. Stay tuned.
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