Magic Carpet Ride: 2009 BMW 335i xDrive Sedan

January 26, 2009, 9:11 PM UTC

2009_bmw_3_seriesThe hour was late, and I was anxious to get out of the city and head to the Berkshires for the weekend. Waiting for me in the underground garage was an Alpine White BMW 335i with all-wheel drive. That would be a joy to many but I viewed the ride with somewhat mixed emotions.

Unlike the vast majority of motoring journalists, I have never been a huge fan of BMWs. I’ve found them a bit austere and more technical than I like. In addition, I’ve felt somewhat chagrined that I couldn’t appreciate all the dynamic attributes so enjoyed by my professional colleagues. Instead of testing a car’s full limits, or even nine-tenths, I’m more of a six-tenths driver.

Two and a half hours later, after covering 100 miles, I had been converted. This BMW, with this engine and driveline combination, and this interior was actually what I had needed on that winter night. The 3-liter, 300-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine provided just the right amount of seamless power on the highways to zig around the laggards and lag behind the leaders. At the same time, the razor-sharp steering, curve-hugging traction and responsive brakes produced, if anything, a bit too much confidence. Surprisingly, the white BMW didn’t attract any unwanted attention from local law enforcement officials.

The following day, I got a chance to confirm my early impressions in the daylight. Instead of the usual black, the chestnut brown leather interior in my test car provided needed warmth so often lacking in BMWs, and the wood grain instrument panel was a huge improvement over the typical gray carbon fiber or piano black trim. And unlike on its higher-end models, BMW hasn’t abandoned the traditional single-function shift lever, a welcome touchpoint for gear changes

Sure, there are some things about BMWs that drive me nuts. The single-knob instrument controller, known as iDrive, is too complicated for me to master in a single weekend. Paying $52,445 (the as-tested price; base is $42,300) for a car with less-than-commodious back seat leg room seems a bit much. And I’m conflicted about the image associated with BMW owners.

But the 335i xDrive (formerly the 335xi) was a BMW I could love. And I didn’t even get a chance to drive it in the snow. That will have to wait for another time – one that I will anticipate with relish.

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