In January, I sold the Perfect M3 and replaced it with an E90 335d sedan due to the rigors of a new commute. It was a painful sacrifice to let my unicorn-spec M3 go, but the M3 was just too nice to expose to the rush-hour slog down Intestate 25 into Denver. The perfectly imperfect 335d was sporty enough to keep me entertained while soaking up that commute with poise and grace. It was a good driver-quality example, but it had enough flaws and imperfections that I wouldn’t feel guilty about subjecting it to the daily grind. Six months on, and I still love it! I never thought I would look so forward to driving what, on all outward appearances, is just a normal sedan.
Spend a little time with the E90 335d, and you realize that it is so much more than just a normal sedan. All six-cylinder BMWs have buttery smooth torque, but add diesel to the equation, and that butter transforms into a custard shake on a warm summer’s night. Then as the turbo spools, instead of sipping that custard shake, you are blasted with it from a fire hose—a custard firehose! While you mop up the mental visuals of that analogy, let’s look at some numbers. The aluminum M57D30TU2 engine in the 335d is good for 282 horses, but a staggering 430 pound-feet of torque—and it makes them at roughly 2,000 rpm. The E90 M3, by comparison, produces only 300-pound feet of torque. Of course, the M3 will always be faster, but out in the streets of the real world, torque is what you feel. Add Colorado altitudes, and the turbo’s ability to normalize them, and the 335d truly does feel faster than the M3. For the record, it’s not, but for my rush-hour commute, it doesn’t have to be.
My Titanium-Silver-over-black-Dakota-leather 2011.5-model-year 335d was in the final months of E90 production. As such, it features all of the life-cycle impulse updates, along with a host of wonderful options like the sport package, adjustable side bolsters, adaptive headlights, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, and style 195 wheels. I mounted winter tires on those and added a set of BBS wheels with performance tires for the summer months. The only transmission option available was the ZF eight-speed automatic, but it is ideally suited to the low-end grunt of the 335d.
I’ve put about 5,000 miles on the 335d in the last six months, and even after the honeymoon phase has worn off, I am still enamored with it. The lines of the E90 sedan don’t pull at my heartstrings like the M3’s did, but the sport package front end does tidy things up. One of my favorite design elements is the cut line that arcs from the angled portion of the rear taillight through the door handles and into the front fender. I also appreciate the correctly proportioned grilles and dual single exhausts. Inside, the sports seats are a lovely place to spend a morning’s commute. They are bolstered enough to keep me in place through my frontage-road twisties, but comfortable enough to spend an entire day in the saddle. The sport steering wheel is another tasteful addition, which I plan on upgrading with a heated sport wheel.
BMW did an excellent job executing the 335d. There is virtually no glow plug delay on start-up, except on the coldest of mornings, and there is nearly no smelly diesel exhaust or even DEF fluid smell. Having owned a 6.0-liter Powerstroke diesel Ford Excursion and my current 6.7-liter diesel Ford F350, the 335d is the most non-diesel diesel I’ve ever had. The DEF tanks are hidden in the rear bumper and have a capacity designed to last the factory oil change interval of 12,000 miles. (I’ve been doing 5,000-mile oil change intervals). My average commuting mpg has been hovering in the low 30s, with my best being 45 mpg on a downhill highway trip from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to the Front Range. However, the most impressive fuel economy the 335d delivered was when a friend drove it from California to Colorado. He confessed to sustained bouts well into the triple-digit range in the middle of the night and averaged 35 mpg over the 1,300-mile trip—and he did it in slightly over two tanks of gas! I couldn’t be too cross with him because I accidentally kissed the triple-digit realm in my early time with the car because of how smooth and quiet it was. In fact, it’s the first car where I’ve had to set the maximum speed alarm to keep me out of trouble. The dogs love it!
So, the 335d has more torque than an M3, is a wonderful place to spend a commute or a day’s road trip, and gets excellent fuel economy. What’s not to love?
I have yet to acknowledge the gargantuan elephant in the room—335d maintenance and repair costs. My 335d is a late-model one-owner California car that was treated to no-expense-spared dealer maintenance. Some diesel-specific bits were covered under BMW’s extended ten-year, 120,000-mile warranty. This included the NOX sensors and one DEF tank. There was also an EGR cooler replaced, along with more typical E90 maintenance and consumables. The repairs over roughly ten years and 120,000 miles totaled north of five figures, which doesn’t include the warranty work he wasn’t charged for (really, that’s not bad for any semi-modern BMW). Items that it is currently due for are some typical oil seeps, another DEF tank (which is now out of warranty), and a round of top-engine plastic items that could likely leave me stranded. I’m into the car roughly $10,000, which is probably slightly less than its market value. Over the next year, it will probably cost me half of that to address its upcoming maintenance, but I am happy to pay it. Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome, or perhaps I am just numb to diesel maintenance costs after owning a 6.0-liter Ford Powerstroke, but if spending five, six, or even ten grand is what it takes to squeak a few more years out of the 335d, it won’t owe me a penny. Yes, it really is that good!—Alex McCulloch