[12] Bmw 335i N54 In Today Gallery

We just ran an 8-car comparison test of entry-level sport sedans and the big winner was the all-new BMW 3 Series. Specifically, the 328i. As if the BMW 328i besting all the actual competition wasn't enough, we discovered another feather for its burgeoning cap: The 328i is a better car than its sibling, the more powerful, more expensive 2012 BMW 335i.

Granted, the 335i is the faster of the two (duh), what with a twin-scroll turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 providing the forward thrust. The (for now) only six-cylinder F30 3 Series dashes to 60 miles per hour in just 4.7 seconds. That's a tenth of a second better than the E90 335i even though it's the same engine. It then smokes the quarter-mile in just 13.3 seconds at 104 mph. Those numbers would have been worthy of an M badge just half a decade ago. But despite the 335i being fleeter of foot (the 328i hits 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and completes the quarter-mile in 14.2 at 98 mph), the better driver's car is the 4-cylinder version, and that's even though the 335i weighs just 50 pounds more.

The 335i costs about $6000 more than the 328i. True, in the world of BMW that's (almost) nothing. Basically two options packages. And obviously the more potent motor should cost more. But therein lies the rub. Faster is one thing, but once you leave the drag strip and head up into the canyons what matters more is handling. And this is where the 335i falls down. See, the 328i and the 335i have more or less the same suspension. Meaning that when the 335i really gets cooking, its struts and springs have to deal with more forces than the less quick 328i produces. Along the same deserted road I found myself having to brake mid-turn in the 335i where minutes earlier in the 328i I just drove on through. In the 335i I was simply carrying too much speed for the corner. Did BMW correct for the extra pounds over the front wheels? They're German so, yes, of course they did. But they didn't do enough, as the 328i is the better balanced of the two.

There's also a technological newness component at play. Where the new turbo I-4 feels perfectly matched to the 328i's transmission and chassis, the 335i's mechanical pairing feels less polished. For instance, both new Bimmers feature start/stop technology (don't like it? The button to turn it off is right above the ignition). While the gas saving technology works near seamlessly on the 328i, when the big turbo 6 reboots from its momentary nap, it's not happy about waking up. The car feels strained. The bigger 535i (same engine and transmission) feels similarly put out each time it needs to restart itself. It's as if the car would rather do something else besides start driving again.

The 335i's start/stop had additional problems. From the big boss man himself, Ed Loh, "Most vexing was the auto stop/start system, which we found surprisingly harsh in the way it woke the engine from slumber, and less than reliable.  On four separate occasions the system malfunctioned and completely shut the vehicle off while at a stop in traffic. It sprang back to life at the touch of the ignition button, but not before mystified cursing set in." Hmmm...

Do we chalk that up to earlier production run gremlins? Or to an engine that when it was first designed some years ago was never designed to constantly switch on and off and is now being asked to do so? Either way, the new 2.0-liter feels like the more advanced motor, and it's nearly as potent. The engine is just one more part that makes the 328i feel like the better product. Put another way, the three editors on staff that spent considerable time in each, all preferred the slower, cheaper 328i. It's just better. Remember, you can't have total victory without total victory.

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