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2009 BMW 335d – Click above for high-res gallery

In recent weeks, America's comparatively stratospheric price of diesel fuel has slid back down to achieve parity with the price of conventional gasoline. One might think this development means it's a great time to invest in a new oil-burner for the driveway, but the reality is that unless you're an OPEC minister, there's no good way to ensure this pricing trend is here to stay. So, allow us to table the fuel economy argument for a moment and suggest a radically different reason for going diesel: driving enjoyment.

While this idea may strike as an inherently foreign concept to most American motorists, the truth is that the torquetastic nature of diesel engines is particularly well suited to the Great American Roadscape – even more so than hybrid drivetrains. You can be forgiven for thinking otherwise – after all, automakers haven't exactly given U.S. consumers a boatload of entertaining derv burners to sample, have they? Thankfully, the folks at BMW may have just the prescription: the 335d.

Photos Copyright ©2009 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

Long the benchmark of the entry-level luxury class – the very yardstick by which sport-sedan driver engagement is measured – BMW's 3 Series has sprouted a new diesel model for 2009. Packing a dual sequential turbo 3.0-liter inline-six that's 50-state legal, the 335d offers a utile 265 horsepower (at 4,220 rpm) and an embarrassment of torque – 425 pound-feet of the stuff at just 1,750 rpm. For those taking notes, that's five more than the 6.2-liter V8 honker in Chevrolet's new Camaro SS. In other words, this innocuous Alpine White sedan harbors the stones of a muscle car – or a full-size pickup.

Given such lopsided power figures, you might surmise that the 335d gets down the road in a decidedly different fashion than its gas-fueled Bavarian brethren – and you'd be right. While the 300 hp, 300 lb-ft. 335i has plenty of gumption, the 335d delivers its ceaseless shove from idle on up, rendering gearshifts from its six-speed automatic all but superfluous. Like all diesels, this 24-valve I6 is a low-revver, but its BorgWarner sequential blowers deliver sufficient torque to fell every last tree in the Black Forest.

Carpet the throttle, and the distant gurgle emanating from beneath the hood swells and hardens appreciably – but not objectionably. And while the mechanicals remain well isolated, even among casual gearheads, there should be no mistaking this powerplant's noises or its delivery for the gasoline model. In contrast, the likewise wonderful 3.0-liter twin-turbo gasoline setup in the 335i is quicker to rev and makes an altogether different, more melodic noise. Which tone you prefer aurally will depend on whether you favor a tenor soundtrack or basso profondo.

By extension, the 335d feels more at home piling up miles on the interstate than its octaned-up stablemates, where it can lope along effortlessly, its gargantuan passing power just a throttle-tickle away. We piled three Autobloggers and our gear for a 300-mile jaunt from Ann Arbor to Chicago by way of Lansing, whereupon we quickly learned that this car's natural, almost sleepy cadence lurks dangerously above the 85mph mark. Passing double- and triple tractor-trailers was a doddle, requiring little more than an outstretched pinky toe to gush past. At such velocities, the d's engine noise is just this side of nonexistent, and its ride so finely-snubbed that it's nearly impossible to appreciate the rapidity of the experience without sneaking a look at the gauges. At 80 mph, the engine is barely shrugging, turning just 2,000 rpm. There's a reason that BMW speedos read in 20 mph increments.

As an almost incidental footnote to our phenomenal progress, we realized a handsome 32.7 miles-per-gallon while lending absolutely no thought to fuel conservation. Given this the car's 16.2-gallon tank, this means that total range figures to be a Kegel muscle-straining 525+ miles – or longer if you are more restrained with the throttle. For its part, the EPA (and the sticker job on our cleverly disguised test car) says you should expect 23 miles-per-gallon city and 36 highway, and we believe it. By comparison, a 335i is rated at 17/26. Tipple lightly on those beverages, dear passengers, because this BMW ain't stoppin'.

All of this highway talk is not to say that the 335d isn't adept at carving duty – the car's rock-solid chassis, progressive, drama-free brakes and tight, linear rack-and-pinion steering all reward just like every other 3 Series currently on the market (Note: Active Steering is not available on this model in the U.S.). It's just that the d's low-revving delivery is more in tune squirting away from stoplights and dispatching interstate miles by the stateful than it is bouncing off the rev limiter while straightening spaghetti corners. It's a fundamentally different sort of enjoyment and it reflects a set of priorities.

At one point in their development, it was hard not to loathe run-flat footwear, but now that both tire manufacturers and suspension engineers have had a few generations to refine and integrate their unique ride and handling characteristics, they seem to be on better terms with each other. We didn't find our car's front strut/rear multilink setup to be objectionably firm, although lateral breaks in the pavement did deliver a noticeable thwack from the 17-inch Bridgestones. However, even this was noted more in our eardrums than by our backsides. We suspect the optional sport pack ($2150) with its stiffer suspension, inch-larger footwear, and firmer sport seats might be pushing things a skosh for those with sensitive nether regions, but in the past, we've had a 2008 sport pack sedan on Michigan's pockmarked winter roads and the combination didn't strike us as intolerable.

Admittedly, this is all sounding like so much gravy – is there nothing to complain about? Well, hang on. Despite reportedly effecting upwards of 2,500 changes to the 3 Series for 2009, there's no getting around the fact that this sedan's cabin is getting on a bit. Color and trim choices are restrained and rather somber, there's too much hard (if well-grained) plastic, and the pop-out cupholders are about as accommodating as the warden at Sing Sing. In fact, the whole interior generally feels style-free – perhaps because its architecture is so familiar. At least everything feels reassuringly solid, the seats are well sculpted and the armrests are finally usable, but a bit of surprise-and-delight would go a long way here.

Lest we forget, BMW's latest iDrive is now markedly more intuitive than before, thanks largely to a new array of buttons clustered around the ol' metal porkpie. The system even seems to be quicker scrolling from menu to menu. However, iDrive still isn't terribly easy-to-use, and it strikes us as telling that with each successive generation, BMW has been backing out more and more redundant buttons to go along with its all-in-one controller. Progress through regression, as it were. At least there is a new bright and crisp 8.8-inch display to keep tabs on all of the functions. Still, at $2,100 for sat-nav, we would be sorely tempted to consider going the iDrive-free Garmin route instead.

Speaking of cost, you can all but grenade your 401k (well, what's left of it) just upgrading the stereo. Riddle us this: $875 for the upgraded 13-speaker Logic7 premium stereo, plus $400 for an iPod/USB adapter and $595 for Sirius (including one year's service). HD radio? That'll be another 350 clams, bitte. Add in navigation and you're looking at $4,320 in center-stack extras, and you still don't have segment standards like Bluetooth ("smartphone"), keyless entry ($500 "comfort access"), leather cosseting your keyster ($1,450), or even folding rear seats ($475).

All of which makes the $100 paddleshifter option seem like an even bigger bargain, but since there's not much need to swap cogs with all that torque (and there's a standard tipshift feature on the console-mounted gearlever anyhow), the more significant "get" is the three-spoke sport steering wheel that the paddles come bundled with. Not that there was anything wrong with our tester's standard wheel, but for a Benjamin we'd take the racier-looking item. Those looking for a three-pedal arrangement will have to settle for a 328i or a 335i, however, as there are no manual transmission diesels for America, just as there is no all-wheel drive model, no coupes, convertibles, or touring bodystyles. If you want hot oil, it's an automatic rear-drive sedan or nothing, which makes sense, considering BMW wants to minimize its exposure while still seeing if there's sufficient demand for its diesels in America.

If the 3's interior is starting to look overly familiar, so is the sheetmetal wrapper it came in. BMW has actually refreshed a substantial number of exterior pieces for this model year, including a new grille, bumpers, hood, side mirrors, and updated light fixtures front and rear. That's a lot of changes, yet most bystanders and carspotters alike won't notice these alterations in isolation – you really have to view the 2009 model side-by-side with a 2008 to appreciate the improvements. While the 3 still isn't what we would call a beautiful car, it is now more assertive looking, particularly from the rear, where the reshaped jeweled taillamps and wider stance (up .95 inches) help it look a bit less frumpy and a bit less, well, mid-Nineties Nissan Maxima. Like most BMW sedans, the 3 is a design that responds particularly well to the fitment of larger wheels and tires, so the modestly-sized kicks on our tester downplayed things somewhat.

Any other issues? Sure, we observed a brief bout of stereotypical diesel rattle during one particularly cold morning warm-up, but it wasn't pronounced or accompanied by any of the "wet dog shake" that we've experienced in some less well-behaved modern diesels. More germane to the drivetrain's operation is its urea injection system, whose ablutionary powers require fresh AdBlue fluids every 12,000 to 15,000 miles – but at least that's free for four years or 50,000 miles (as is most everything else with BMW's standard Maintenance Program).

From where we sit, the fact that the 335d is the costliest 3-Series this side of an M3 doesn't really upset its value proposition. The model retails for $43,900, while a comparable 335i automatic rings up at $41,625 (plus $825 in destination charges for either), meaning that there's a $2,275 difference. Thankfully, Uncle Sam helps out by kicking in a $900 tax credit, leaving a shortfall of just $1,375. Sure, the diesel gives up 45 horsepower, but it also gains 125 additional torques, a substantial improvement in fuel economy and a motoring style all its own. Don't get us wrong – we treasure the 335i's 3.0-liter gas twin-turbo engine – it's one of our very favorite powerplants. But this 335d is a different kind of wonderful, and it paves its own way to driving excitement.

Photos Copyright ©2009 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      This car is down on torque at any speed to something with the mentioned LS3 in it, due to its more advantageous gearing.

      Anyone who somehow thinks a pushrod V8 isn't making enough torque to scream away from lights without hitting the rev limiter simply has never driven a proper pushrod V8.
      • 6 Years Ago

      The main reason they make this engine in Europe can be easily seen in July/August around the coast of Mediterranean Sea. Many, many sedans the size of 3-series with German license plates are hauling their RVs (Caravans in Europe) on the hitch behind them. Why do we need 3 series with more torque than biggest optional engine on all pick-up trucks is beyond me, here in U.S. If there's an RV involved, in U.S. it will be hauling BMW behind it on a hitch - not the other way around.

      This engine


      would get fuel consumption close or same to Jetta TDI and that car (comparing European prices) would cost LESS than 328i when you consider rebate from Government. Not to mention you would have manual without a problem. Heck, for all I care, bring it as 123d like you do in Europe.

      I'm more and more convinced that all car manufacturers are considering U.S. consumer as a moron. No, but no, thanks, BMW.
        • 6 Years Ago

        I'm more and more convinced that all car manufacturers are considering U.S. consumer as a moron

        If it makes you feel better I don't think luxury buyers in america go for diesel engines in their cars anyway.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I want the 123d so bad. :(

        If they brought it across the pond, I'd have a deposit down tomorrow. The 3-series is nice, but I'm just not interested. I'd rather have a small, sporty car that gets great economy and is good for trips to the mountains. Give me the 123d hatch, and I'm all over that business.

        That engine is an amazing piece of tech. 100hp/L for a diesel? I don't think anyone else has done that, even a year later.
        • 6 Years Ago
        In other worlds it probably wont sell.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm not sure how many guys would want to drive a car with "E.D."
      • 6 Years Ago
      I would love to hear a comparison between this car and the 335i sometime. The 335i sounds absolutely magnificent when revved, and I cannot imagine BMW making a car sound as hideous as a truck.

      However, BMW's price structure is just f***ed. Especially for (what seems to me) as outdated dashboards and poorly designed components. Yuck.
      • 6 Years Ago
      nice to see a few positive comments before the usual suspects start moaning about diesels.
      autoblog again with the "oil-burner" bit in the first paragraph. enough!
      • 6 Years Ago
      The 09 refresh of the 3 Series front and rear has def. improved the flow of the car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dear BMW,
      335d Sports Wagon, please.
        • 6 Years Ago
        And make sure that a RWD model is available, in isolation or in addition to an xDrive model.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wouldn't mind one in my garage.

      I lied. I don't have a garage.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Thats an awesome car with an even better engine and drivetrain. now, if only they could bring it with a manual, which would maybe push audi to bring the 3.0 diesel into their a4. A4 avant, with the 3.0L diesel and a 6 speed manual would be a perfect ride for me. I'd rather the a4 over the bimmer, i personnaly find the exterior design to be nicer, and the interior is light years ahead of what bimmer offers.

      but nice car none the less, we should get more oil burners over here, thats for sure.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's not the transmission. It's the clutch. Good luck finding a clutch that can stand up to 400-and-some-odd-ft-lbs-torque at 1750 rpm. That clutch would be fried like food at the KFC.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The 335d is automatic only in all markets, even Europe. It was an engineering decision and I think BMW felt the market was too small for a manual 'box version to warrant the extra cost of the manual. The rev pattern of this car makes it more suited to an auto anyway.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Low RPMs don't affect a clutch. RPMs are actually the easy part for a drivetrain, as long as the RPMs don't get so high that the drivetrain flies apart. You just need a clutch that can take up 400 ft-lbs of torque. And BMW has many of these. If they don't have one they like, they can buy them off many other companies.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually, I think you can get a 335d manual in Europe, and it was just caution on BMW's part that led to the 335d auto-only decision for the U.S. In other words, it would've cost too much $$$ to homologate both versions for the U.S., and they figured there was more of a market for the automatic.
        • 6 Years Ago

        The 335d is not offered with a manual transmission anywhere in the world.

        I'd be plenty happy with a 330d manual (228hp,367lb.ft[Euro spec]). Make mine a touring variant, thanks.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "I'd be plenty happy with a 330d manual (228hp,367lb.ft[Euro spec]). Make mine a touring variant, thanks."

        The 330d has 245hp, 384 lb-ft for the current model year.

        The 330d's 0-62 time is 0.1 seconds slower that the 335d's however... an AWD manual 330d is quicker to 60 than a 335d though.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm curious to see what the aftermarket does with this thing. I'm very interested in it, and I'm glad they finally brought it over here, but it's too slow, imo (5.7s to 60 vs. 4.7ish for a 335i), and that's even harder for me to overlook when it's a 4 door with a slushbox than it would be if they had a coupe version with a stick.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Car and Driver's estimates are known to usually be a bit generous.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Granted, but C&D got 4.8 out of the 335i (my recollection was 4.7, I went back and looked it up earlier), and 5.7 out of the 335d, so while they may be generous with their numbers the difference between the two should be a valid point of comparison. They're close, but not close enough for me. I like the idea of kicking peoples' asses at stoplights and such with a diesel, but I don't think the stock 335d is quite fast enough for that. The massive torque at low revs will get me off the line faster than most cars, but I don't think it's enough to make up for the relatively slow 0-60 time (compared to the 335i).

        I could be wrong... I haven't driven one, but just looking at the numbers and from my experience with my own diesel, I'm not seeing the 335d keeping up with 370Zs, C5 corvettes, etc. that are driven by half-competent people. I really, really, really like the car, I just hope that the aftermarket finds another 50-100hp and at least a half second to 60 somewhere.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I own the 335i and love it but it will not do 0-60 in 4.7 it is more like 5.0. Even chipped with a full catback it is around 4.8 and the M3 is stock around 4.7.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I want this car.
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