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      03-29-2008, 06:13 PM   #1
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M3 vs. 335 (just a normal guy)

My wife and I drove the 335i and M3 back to back today. Some disclosure, I've made two test drives in the 335i already (one with my wife) and by the incompetence of the dealership been over the outside of the M3 but without driving or even being inside the car (no keys). I fully expected to come away from this and buy the 335i.


Acceleration: Pulls strong and fast. It will get you there but you do have to wait a very, tiny little bit after you press the accelerator. I've noticed this after every drive in the car and still the same today. The turbo's may be spooled up at idle but there must still be some ramp up time for the intake pressure because there was just something missing (by just fractions of a second) when you press on the accelerator. It's still awesome and BMW did a great job (a whole lot better than my twin turbo RX-7) but it isn't NA.

Brakes: They stopped the car and it was fast. With ABS it seems that for any one time stop braking distance is pretty much a factor of tire width and car weight.

Handling: On the highway up to 100 and the car felt planted and stable. On back roads the car felt flat. Traction control engaged on sharp 90 turns but not obtrusively (I wouldn't have known except for the light on the dash) and again no noticeable body roll. Turn in did not feel crisp.

Ride Comfort: Very smooth and quite. Little wind noise at speed and practically no exhaust noise even under hard acceleration.

Interior Quality: I really like the interior of this car. The leather is a bit stiff and a bit rough but in comparison to the G35 we liked this interior much better (quality and feel).

Overall Impressions: Really nice sporty sedan with excellent acceleration, good handling and a high quality interior.


Acceleration: First thought was that the 335i really does pull stronger. But with the more dynamic throttle response offered by the silly "Power" button the car feels better. Just that slightly faster engine response really does help this car feel more "sporty" (I'm sure everyone loves that word) and will make this car easier to control when applying power through and/or out of turns. Overall I don't think it had much more acceleration (head speaking) but yet it did feel faster (heart speaking). Could just be the more obvious engine noise.

Brakes: Same, thing as the 335i. Heavier car, bigger tires and they felt similar. Didn't track the car so I really don't know what the brake system differences are.

Handling: Still planted and stable but to a whole new level. I was able to take sweeping highway ramps at 75-85 and my wife felt comfortable doing the same at 85-95 (the salesman suggested 75 which would have been pushing it in my E36 M3). The car is fantastic. The traction control never engaged on any turn I made. Turn in was very sharp. The only disappointment was that the area didn't offer any twisty roads to push the car's handling so this part is of limited value. Overall impression was this car could easily out drive the 335i and that's with me having a high opinion of the 335i's handling (no slouch).

Ride Comfort: Surprisingly smooth and quite in a car with this level of handling. Much smoother than either of my cars but with better handling. We were on the default (soft) settings. Little wind noise at highway speed. Very civilized. You could definitely hear the exhaust but I didn't feel like I was in a boy racer car (not what I want at my age).

Interior Quality: The leather is much softer and smoother than the 335i. The leather is definitely a higher quality. The big steering wheels feels great. I like having an all leather shifter. The center console feels wider and the i-drive button is larger. All in all it's the same interior as the 335i but it feels more substantial and upscale.

Overall Impressions: Quality race car. I have the E36 M3 and a 93 RX-7 and this car feels like a newer/updated version of those cars. It's faster and handles better but has the same dynamic feel that I like. What really sold me was that it gave my wife the same impression. The positive changes although all small start on the outside and continue to the interior, acceleration and handling. I specifically wanted my wife along because she doesn't give a rip about an M badge and/or exhaust sound and did not want to pay the extra $20K. I don't want to pay $20K extra for those things either but I've got more positive association between those factors and the characteristics I will pay for (handling and quality). I'm sure it's a Pavlovian complex of some sort. Without hesitation she agreed that the car has higher quality and handles/accelerates better than the 335i. I don't want to buy a car because it's an M car or because it sounds "cooler" I want to buy the car because of how it drives and it's hard to be objective on a 20 minute test drive. Having someone in the car who could car less about the things I didn't want provide a nice filter on the car.

As an aside, we "window shopped" the RS-4 but the interior in that car was not what I consider upscale and with a $10,000 higher price I didn't even try to learn more about a car that likely has no perceptibly (to my amateur hands) better performance than the M3.

If you can afford both cars (it's a cash deal for us either way) and feel handling/interior quality are important then you should drive the M3. If the 335 is a stretch then don't drive the M3 because it's not that much better but it is good enough that you will notice the 335's shortcomings when you go back to it (why do that to yourself).
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      03-29-2008, 06:22 PM   #2
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Thanks for your impressions. My wife has a 335 vert and having driven that and the M3, I agree with you (taking into account the extra weight the vert has to lug around). My wife agrees that there is just a tiny bit of lag in the 335 but still loves her car.

She is also letting me get the M3 - the only thing she doesn't like about the M3 are the vents on the hood.
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