Feb 29, 2008 update to the BMW 335i Coupe project car

Coupe Scoop

At Ocala
There's a turbocharged inline six in there somewhere.
Comfortable interior.
The unloved seat belt mechanism.

BMW set the bar pretty high… We’re going to have to work to get better times out of this one.

Our bright red BMW 335i Coupe—our newest long-term test car—is more than living up to our high expectations.

After 1000 break-in miles, we headed to our test track in Ocala to measure the BMW’s baseline for braking, acceleration and handling. From an editorial perspective, we’d like a project car to need help. The slower the baseline, the easier our job is to improve it. BMW set the bar pretty high, though. We’re going to have to work to get better times out of this one.

First off, the 2008 335i is one seriously fast car. Barely broken in, it rattled off consistent 5.0-second zero-to-60 mph times, and the box-stock 335i turned some of the fastest times we’ve ever run at Ocala, despite being on the stock Bridgestone tires.

And it didn’t just post good numbers, it did it with composure. The suspension felt like it had a good balance from front to rear and the 335i flicked through our transition zones quickly and confidently. We also took the 335i to Moroso Motorsports Park, where we shot some in-car video.

If we were disappointed with anything, it would be the brakes. After about five laps we saw pad-related fade. Thankfully, racier pads are a quick, cheap change.

So we’ll kick off the project with a brake upgrade, but then what? Well, the BMW could probably benefit from reduced body roll through uprated springs and anti-roll bars, and we’ll be looking at some camber adjustment, too. Our track work chewed up the outer blocks on the front tires, and tire temperatures were considerably higher on the front’s outer shoulders.

But like we said, it’s going to be a difficult car to improve: The 335i combines an almost uncanny combination of ride quality, handling and class. The 335i has been getting about 20 miles per gallon in mostly around-town driving with no problems other than a defective side-mirror adjuster, which was fixed under warranty. There are, however, a few minor flaws that have bugged us.

Most noticeably, the flimsy seatbelt extenders motor the belt out to your waiting hand too slowly to do you any good. Also, we know we probably shouldn’t even make the complaint, but the cup holders are unsubstantial, unstable conveyances that pop awkwardly out of the dash.

We have this car for two years, so our plans are to take it easy at first with just some mild tweaks, then start leaning on it a bit more. We plan to run a few SCCA autocrosses as well as BMW CCA and NASA driving schools. Our thinking is that the type of person who buys this car will only modify it in minor ways while it’s still new, then get wilder as the 335i gets older and depreciates. We’ll follow that lead.

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