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BMW 's 3 Series adds a new diesel dimension

December 05, 2008|By MALCOLM GUNN/wheelbase communications

For years the BMW 3-Series has been home to a wide range of products geared to nearly every entry-luxury taste.

Now you can add an economical-to-operate diesel-powered sedan to the current list of gas-powered coupe, sedan, wagon and convertible models.

Diesel Bimmers are not completely new here, but you would have to go back to the short-lived 1984-'85 524td to find the last propeller-logoed oil burner to find sanctuary in a select few North American garages.

Now the four-door 335d turbo-diesel is arriving and it's a very big deal for the German automaker since it's emissions legal in all 50 states. BMW is no stranger to diesels in Europe, however, as the gasoline models there are actually a rarity. The new sedan joins the X5 xDrive35d sport utility wagon as BMW's 2009 diesel offerings.

Meeting strict new emissions standards is accomplished by capturing all of the usual nasty, smelly diesel soot produced by the 265-horsepower 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder and then injecting a chemical called AdBlue (which is urea) to convert it into ammonia. The remaining gaseous vapor comes out the tailpipe.

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AdBlue is stored in a 4.5-gallon heated reservoir located behind the rear bumper, enough to clean the exhaust for about 15,000 miles. Fluid top-ups are supplied by the dealer for the first four years or 50,000 miles as part of the BMW's no-charge maintenance program.

The 335d generates a whopping 420 pound-feet of torque between 1,750 and 2,250 rpm. This impressive amount of twisting force is primarily due to the engine's twin turbochargers of differing sizes. The smaller of the two operates at lower speeds to help reduce dreaded turbo lag, which is the time delay between when the accelerator pedal is pressed and when the turbo's boost kicks in. As the car speeds up, the larger turbocharger comes into play. A six-speed automatic transmission supplied by General Motors takes care of the shifting.

BMW claims the 335d will reach 60 mph in six seconds flat, a time that rivals the rest of the 3-series fleet, excluding, of course, the 414-horse gas-V8-powered M3.

But what blows the field away is the car's extraordinary 23/33 mpg city/highway fuel-economy rating. By comparison, the 300-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo 335i gasoline model earns a 17/25 rating.

As with the updated-for-2009 3-Series sedans and wagons, the 335d benefits from revised front and rear bumpers, a new hood, trunk lid and side sills as well as reshaped headlamps and taillights.

Inside, the power-window switches have been more conveniently placed and the floor console has a larger storage tray. The coupe, convertible and M3 variants remain unaltered for the 2009 model year.

The 335d includes high-tech features such as a system that sets the brake pads closer to the rotors should the driver suddenly let off the gas. In this case, brake sensors presume that a hard stop might be close at hand and a shorter reaction time might be required. The standard-equipment list includes six airbags, climate control, eight-way adjustable front seats, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a power moonroof in addition to the expected amenities at this level.

BMW's optional console-mounted iDrive knob, which controls most of the car's onboard functions, including navigation, has been augmented with switches that provide a direct link to the system's key functions instead of you having to scroll through menus.

With its performance and fuel-saving attributes, the 335d has to be considered a relative bargain for less than $45,000. And you know that if BMW is willing to drive a diesel into North American showrooms, that others are not far behind.

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