2012 BMW 335i: A Family Sporty Car

by The Car Family

 For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

 For decades the BMW 3 Series has been one of our first choices for a fun to drive vehicle that delivers exceptional fuel economy and performance. The problem was that it was more sport than sporty with a tight interior and a stern ride over unkept roads. And now, for better or worse, comes the larger, more family friendly 2012 model that tends to those woes and adds such unique features as an engine that turns off at long stops, a plethora of options, and a turbocharged six cylinder powerplant that yields an impressive 30 mpg on the highway while offering 300 horsepower on premium fuel.

At a $45,100 base price the 335i is fairly dear, but you you can acquire some sophisticated equipment with a color Head-Up Display, a unique bird’s eye view of the car and its surroundings that must be seen, and must have safety features such as lane change warnings. You also get to show off that BMW key fob and resale remains solid.

 The new Bimmer sedan still looks sexy even though is it more full figured, being wider and longer for 2012. The larger build allows the rear seat to be more hospitable for adults and the trunk becomes more luggage friendly. The additional exterior sheet metal also makes the car look more elegant.

 Mom’s view: Let’s face it, no one needs a BWM, but a great many want it and the reason is simple; it really loves to be driven. The new 3 Series takes a little edge off that feeling, but nevertheless provides the owner with one of the best handling and stopping sedans you can buy. Add in that exceptional fuel mileage and the turbine-like response of the engine and you have a sedan that is a treat to drive. Our test vehicle had the six-speed manual, but we highly recommend the eight-speed automatic.

 On the downside is the location of the start/stop button hidden from view by the steering wheel and another button, located just above it. The latter allows you to disable the automatic engine shut-off when the car is paused at stop lights or in heavy traffic. It saves fuel, but with the manual transmission it was not as smooth as with the automatic. You also may select your suspension control level when you start the car depending on the driving you intend to do. The interior is still quite spartan and storage space is at a premium despite the enlarged interior. The trunk lid opens wide and should be a model for all cars. Overall, the 335i is still worth driving, but not as crispy as before.

Dad’s view: The accelerator pedal is too sensitive to small inputs making it difficult to modulate, especially with the manual transmission. You can choice between Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport with each option altering accelerator pressure and ride. You can use the iDrive system to modify the car’s abilities even further. I liked the Comfort setting as the EcoPro dulled every attribute of the sedan except fuel mileage. The Sport setting would be good for a trip to the mountains, but was too jarring for daily driving. There is an electromechanical steering assist that takes a little edge off of the handling, but delivers a better daily drive feel. Personally, this is the model to own as the back seat, although still a bit tight, can at least be used for adults. The power makes passing safe and the brakes are world class. The interior isn’t flashy, but with the right options you can make it so. Of course, with BMW those options are pricey. Don’t overlook the 328i model with an engine that makes 240 horsepower, is rated at 33 mpg highway and lists for over seven thousand dollars less. I prefer the six cylinder and can probably capture some of the added cost at resale.

Young working male’s view: I found the stereo above average, but the reception below average. The sound of the engine is quite pleasing and the adaptive xenon headlamps, are excellent. BMW still has the black and white gauges and the font is small so I like the Heads Up display, although it is washed out when wearing some types of sun glasses. Standard features include iPod/USB and Bluetooth, a 6.5-inch screen, and a iDrive system, with numerous programmable buttons. The iDrive menus are easier to navigate. If you use BMW Apps integration you can get music streaming from such sources as Pandora, but, you need to order a special phone holder and it may not work with all smart phones.

Regardless of all the electronics and aesthetics, the 335i is about styling and driving and the new model provides both. Fast, fun and practical are no longer mutually exclusive terms.

Young working woman’s view: With my wedding just a few weeks away this would be a great gift, but the reality is that I no longer need the attention. I’m just saying. With a dependent, or am I the dependent, the safety of the BMW is of major importance. It comes with stability control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, eight airbags and good crash scores. You can’t help but like the larger look which seems to justify the fact that bigger can be beautiful if the proportions are right. A nice sedan, but since my future husband is a CPA the car’s bottom line may need more justification than fun to drive and seats five.

Family conference: Not as trim or precise as previous models, but more liveable and certainly more family oriented. If you can live with the four-cylinder 328i you can save several thousand dollars. Both are well worth a test drive and either model can make you feel special and ease the pain of those payments.