BMW 335i Coupe

By Jonathan Spira on 1 April 2007
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Our love affair with the automobile, despite dramatic swings in oil prices, continues to intensify – as does the amount of technology in the vehicle.  The first computer appeared in the 1968 Volkswagen 1600, controlling the air-fuel mixture in an electronic fuel injection system.  Since then, automotive computers have become ubiquitous, in fact cars even have local networks which allow different computers to communicate with each other.

The BMW 335i Coupe

The BMW 335i Coupe

One of the leaders in automotive technology, in fact a risk taker, has been BMW.  Not only was BMW the first car maker to include Bluetooth in its cars, and the first to provide a built-in interface to the Apple iPod, it was also the first to make satellite navigation available in every range.  BMW also introduced iDrive, a computer consisting of an LCD display and controller knob, designed to replace what would be dozens if not hundreds of buttons in the vehicle used to control secondary systems.

In-vehicle technology matters to many business travelers, myself included.  After all, most of us drive to far more meetings than we fly to.

So one question we will address in this space is, which car do you want to pull up to a meeting in?  Not based on status or impression, but on a more practical basis: which car will not only get you from point A to point B, but will allow you to safely speak with colleagues, catch up on CNN, bypass traffic congestion, and listen to audiobooks and podcasts on your iPod?

The first car that came to mind was the new BMW 335i coupe.

The new 335i sedan and coupe represent the fifth generation of the 3 Series, first launched in 1975.  The first 3er was the successor to the legendary 2002, the car that defined the term “sports sedan.”  And the 335i comes with the new 3.0 liter twin-turbo inline six producing 300 hp for which BMW claims 0-60 in 5.3 seconds.

All four earlier generations of the 3 Series were voted Car of the Year, year after year, by every major automotive publication, where editors cited the unparalleled handling of the vehicle.  So at a minimum the new 3er must handle well.  Its near 50-50 weight distribution and new suspension (shared with the sedan) allowed BMW’s engineers to dial in a more refined balance between ride and handling.   And handle it does.  I not only drove the coupe in a variety of conditions on New York’s streets, highways, bridges, and tunnels, but also on the Poconos Raceway, where its refinement was displayed at speeds in excess of 100 mph.

THe BMW 3er Series offers a coupe, sedan (both pictured), and cabriolet

THe BMW 3er Series offers a coupe, sedan (both pictured), and cabriolet

But handling is only part (albeit a very important part) of the equation.  For the business traveler, getting to meetings on time is key.  To that end, BMW offers an unparalleled satellite navigation systems as an option.  The large color screen is within the driver’s field of vision so the driver does not have to take his eyes off the road.  This is part of BMW’s iDrive system, which has been criticized in the press as not being user friendly but it in actuality very easy to use.  Just as with any computer system, a small investment in practice or reading the manual reaps huge rewards.  The driver can control hundreds of functions with voice commands (including placing phone calls, i.e. “Dial Eva Leonard,” and changing radio stations).

To further assist the business traveler/driver, BMW offers BMW Assist (offered in combination with Bluetooth hands-free calling) and its optional Convenience plan, which includes a Concierge personal assistant, ideal for finding a place to hold a meeting in a foreign city, getting restaurant recommendations as well as reservations, and ordering business (and personal) gifts,.  But wait, there’s more.  The most valuable feature for me is the new destination download feature: the BMW Assist center can download a destination and phone number to your satellite navigation system.  One click and your car is calculating the fastest route.  This could be for an address you provide or the location the concierge has reserved for your meeting or dinner (or dinner meeting).

Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI) is displayed on the iDrive's Central Information Display (CID)

Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI) is displayed on the iDrive's Central Information Display (CID)

Another important feature introduced in 2007 is Real-Time Traffic Information (RTTI).  RTTI provides reasonably up-to-date traffic information from a variety of sources including FM radio stations, highway-embedded sensors, video monitors, and local traffic monitoring centers.  The traffic data is displayed on the car’s navigation system using a variety of icons.  If a delay is calculated to be more than five minutes, the driver is offered the possibility of rerouting around the delay.

The coupe is strictly a four-seater (the sedan can seat five in a pinch).  The center console continues to the rear armrest.  An arm emerges from the rear-seat side panel to hand the driver (and passenger) the seatbelt.  Adaptive taillights are brighter and larger when braking is  urgent, while adaptive bi-xenon headlamps swivel to light up the curving  road up front.

Last but not least, there’s the car’s design.  The coupe looks like a true BMW, sleek, elegant, and sporty.  Unlike some of the more radical designs we’ve seen from Munich in the past half decade, with the 3er coupe everything looks all new without discarding its ties to the past.  And that is a superb look for the business traveler.

2007 BMW 335i Coupe
Base price/price-as-tested $41,295 (European Delivery $37,760)/$49,195
Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 3.0-liter/300 hp/300lb-ft twin-turbo dual overhead cam DOHC 24-valve I-6
Transmission 6-speed manual standard; optional 6-speed automatic
Curb weight/Weight distribution front/rear 3571 lbs manual/3582 lbs automatic  / 51%/49%
Wheelbase 108.7 in
Length x width x height 180.6 x 70.2 x 54.1
0-60 mph 5.3 sec manual/5.5 auto
EPA city/highway fuel economy (mpg) 20/30 manual  21/30 auto

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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