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BMW 3 Series coupe (2006 – 2013) expert review

By Vijay Pattni, 23rd April 2009

The verdict

Pros Brilliant engines Fantastic to drive Good level of equipment Cons Uninspiring interior High running costs Harsh ride on some models Full Review 1. Exterior Ubiquity may have dulled its appeal, but the BMW 3 Series Coupe is an undeniably handsome car. From it’s hunkered down, rakish lines and those ‘angel eye’ headlights, it is excellently proportioned. The M Sport bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels [...]

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Expert rating:

4.2

Pros

  • Brilliant engines
  • Fantastic to drive
  • Good level of equipment

Cons

  • Uninspiring interior
  • High running costs
  • Harsh ride on some models

Full Review

1. Exterior

Ubiquity may have dulled its appeal, but the BMW 3 Series Coupe is an undeniably handsome car. From it’s hunkered down, rakish lines and those ‘angel eye’ headlights, it is excellently proportioned. The M Sport bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels add a sporting menace, which – depending on your preference – attracts a lot of attention, but undoubtedly mark this model out as a proper sports coupe.
Our rating: 4

2. Interior

Gone are the wraparound cockpit-inspired dashes from BMWs past – this Coupe has flat, functional lines. It’s not the most inspiring interior –  the cabins of both the Audi A5 and Mercedes E-Class Coupé feel classier – and sitting inside gives you no heavy indication of its on-the-road price. But it’s in the detail you realise where your money has gone – the leather, plastics and general feel of everything inside is solid, comfortable and high quality. It’s a nice ambience, if a little dull, which trades on its discretion and quality rather than flair and creativity.
Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

You get more of everything in this 335i – as you would expect. It’s longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, which means inside you get more legroom, shoulder room and headroom. The Coupe is a four-seater, and the rear two seats are contoured and comfortable, with rear passengers getting separate heating vents. The boot will swallow 430 litres – impressive for a car of this type – and the rear seats fold down to allow extra loading. You’ll even find yourself saying ‘thanks’ to the seatbelt assistant – an electric arm which extends out to hand the driver and front passenger their seatbelts.
Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

The BMW 3 Series is renowned for its handling, and the Coupe does not disappoint. The steering feels satisfyingly heavy, while the chassis offers up monumental grip, the electronic stability control and traction control systems keeping the handling very safe.  It’s just as happy snaking through town as it is sweeping through fast B roads thanks to its near perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The M Sport suspension does a fantastic job of keeping the rear wheels planted and the front wheels fluid, you won’t even realise you’re on BMW’s infamous ride-hardening run-flat tyres.
Our rating: 5

5. Performance

The twin-turbo, straight-six engine provides 295lb/ft of pulling power and a whopping 306bhp. Power is available from as little as 2,000rpm, meaning you can venture into licence losing territory before the engine has even woken up. Hold the revs over 4,500rpm and the 3-litre engine responds with a classic BMW metallic bark and violent acceleration. The 0-62mph dash is dispatched in just 5.4 seconds and the 335i will comfortably hit its 155mph top speed without breaking a sweat.
Our rating: 5

6. Running costs

A 306bhp 3-litre twin-turbo petrol engine isn’t going to be cheap, and you’ll pay for this top-spec Beemer at the pumps. We couldn’t manage to improve on a combined average mpg figure of 22.7, and the downside to big brakes, wheels, tyres and performance is servicing. But with BMW reckoning most buyers of the 3 Series Coupe will have a combined household income of £70,000 p/a, it’s unlikely to deter its target market.
Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

BMW scores higher than its German rivals with a Reliability Index score of 86.10. Mercedes and Audi score 116.27 and 135.50 respectively (the lower the figure being more reliable). The quality of BMWs does depend somewhat on where they’re built, but everything about the BMW 3 Series is sure to stand the test of time, as it feels meticulously engineered and satisfyingly solid. It’s clear this car is built at BMW’s home in Munich.
Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The 335i Coupe has been engineered to divert ‘impact energy’ away from the cabin and send it around the car, thanks to reinforcing bars around the bodyshell and a ‘strong boot floor’. The Beemer also gets a ‘passive safety system’ which includes front, hip/thorax and curtain airbags as well as belt latch tensioners and belt force limiters
Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

You get a lot of kit for your money – the standard spec includes the DSC traction control system which includes a hill-start assistant, start-stop technology, brake drying and fade compensation, as well as park distance control, run-flat tyres and xenon headlights. The M Sport spec adds 18-inch alloys, sports seats, M suspension and upgraded interior trim. Our test car came with £4,000 worth of optional extras, including the BMW navigation system, a USB audio interface (which offers full iPod connectivity), voice-control and leather.
Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

It’s a BMW 3 Series, which means sooner or later, you’re going to see four million on the road. But there’s a reason for such a high common denominator – it is a fantastic sports coupe. Mind-blowing performance, superb handling characteristics, excellent build quality and menacing good looks mean the 335i M Sport Coupe is a genuine real-world M3. Who needs a V8 when you’ve got one of these? Wind the windows down, wind the 3-litre straight six up, and revel in the majesty of a great driver’s car.
Our rating: 5

Expert review 4.2stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling5
  • Performance5
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?5

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:
Coupe 320i SE
A great low-cost way into a 3 Series Coupe.
Best-seller:
Coupe 335i SE
Value for money kit with that award-winning engine.
Blow the budget:
Coupe 335d M Sport
Rock-solid diesel with all the M Sport extras.

The steering feels satisfyingly heavy, while the chassis offers up monumental grip.