Six-speed manual transmission is standard though convenience-minded owners have the option of the six-speed “Steptronic” automatic, as well. Opting for the latter, one is pleasantly surprised to find response time is about 40 percent faster than with a conventional automatic. This owes much to a new torque converter and improved management software. The benefit? Reduced fuel consumption.
A test drive revealed a silky smooth ride, indistinguishable from that of high-end luxury models. This owes a great deal not only to the near 50:50 front-rear weight distribution ratio but also to what BMW asserts is the most technically advanced and sophisticated suspension in sedans: mostly aluminum double-pivot front suspension with spring struts and a five-link system in the rear.
The all-wheel drive system, xDrive, is an option in the 335ci but standard in the 328xi set for launch in the fall of 2007. BMW tout xDrive as the most advanced and quick-sensing AWD, working in tandem with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to correct over- or under-steer in pretty much any weather and road condition. By itself, xDrive will of course boost positive control and traction in every wheel as road conditions warrant.
Safety features include the famed Adaptive Xenon headlights, proprietary to BMW and previously standard only on Series 5 models. This feature – adjusting two bi-xenon headlight modules to speed and direction of travel – developed from the German Federal Statistics Bureau finding that nearly half of all fatal road accidents occur at night when there is usually much less traffic. When the driver rounds a curve, for instance, sensors take cues from the steering wheel and activate a control unit that beams more light at what was previously a “blind area”. When cruising on the autobahn, however, the control unit focuses more light forward and activates dipped- or high-beam settings as necessary.
A second valuable safety feature are “runflat” tires that come standard. Besides a Tire Pressure sensor that warns that pipes up when pressure drops 30 percent below factory-recommended PSI’s, the rim shape and shields permit the driver to keep going for up to 150 miles even with completely flat tubes.
Innovative safety features aside, the E92 BMW 335ci is evidently a highly satisfying package that combines superb performance with touches meant to optimize fuel economy.