This week’s road test is actually a holiday test… we spent a week in Germany and what better vehicle could there be to drive around in than a BMW? The road test and the holiday are so intertwined it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins…. there’s also a motor racing aspect thrown in for good measure.
Landing at Munich airport, we took a train and then a bus to get to our first destination – BMW. When I first contacted BMW in Canada I requested a vehicle that we don’t get in North America. It just so happens that the very car I requested was actually going to be coming over here around the same time I was going to Germany. For Europeans and basically the rest of the world, diesel engines in cars are quite commonplace, but for some strange reason, we’re deprived of them in Canada and America.
We can count on one hand the number of diesel-powered vehicles we have: VW Jetta and Toureg (we used to get the Golf but not anymore), Mercedes E Class and for the first time – BMW in the 3-series and X5. I like diesels and think they are a far better option than all the money being thrown around creating electric and hybrid vehicles.
Until now I’d never driven a diesel car, only big trucks with diesel engines, so this was going to be something completely new for me. What I didn’t expect was how incredible the BMW 335d was going to be and how much fun I was going to have behind the wheel (and even in the passenger seat)!
Stuffing our suitcases and backpacks into the 3-series trunk was easy thanks to its larger than expected size as well as it’s perfectly rectangular shape. With a nice wide opening we really appreciated how quickly we could load it up and be on our way. The first thing we had to do was set the Sat-Nav for our journey. I’m useless at this type of stuff, partly because I don’t have to use them – my wife is more than up to the task of sorting out the audio system, climate control and Sat-Nav, leaving me to just drive a vehicle.
Fortunately, the Sat-Nav is quite similar to the one we get in Canada, so lickety-split my wife has it converted to English (I’d still be there today trying to figure that part out) and she programmed our destination: Linderhof Palace and then on to Neuschwanstein Castle by way of Austria. I’d Google mapped our entire week and printed the maps just in case we couldn’t get the Sat-Nav in our test car or we couldn’t operate it.
I needn’t have worried – the navigation system worked a treat all week and saved us hours of time getting lost in a country where we couldn’t speak or read the language. Within 5 minutes of getting in the car we were off on our adventures to see as many castles as possible in 7 days… well actually only 4 – we spent a bunch of time with friends… more on that later.
Setting the BMW’s multi-way electric seat was simple and I didn’t have to re-adjust it for the rest of the week – it’s not very often that happens to me, I’m constantly fiddling with the seating controls to stay comfortable. At times we drove for 3+ hours during our trip and not once did we get out of the car complaining of being stiff or sore from all that seat time.
Interior colour combination was odd… Saddle Brown leather seats, with light grey upper half of the interior including the roof liner, two different shades of dark grey/black everywhere else and puke-brown fake wood on the dash, doors, centre console and across the glove box. Personally, I wasn’t too enamored with it – other options are available though.
We arrived at Linderhof Palace and spent time in and around the palace, but didn’t take one of the tours inside. Heading down the quiet roads around southern Germany, we crossed into Austria like we’d just entered into a park – no fuss and barely even a sign. After stopping for lunch we headed north back into Germany and on to our destination for the evening…a small hotel right at the foot of Neuschwanstein Castle.
We got there early enough that we could do all our outside exploring of the castle as well as the surrounding villages and countryside before it got dark. There is only a couple of ways up to the castle – walking, taking a horse-drawn carriage, or our way… by car.
Because our hotel was right at the base of the castle, we got to drive all the way to the top of the mountain. With hundreds of people going up and going down it took quite a bit of time to travel up to the hotel. The diesel engine in the BMW was so quiet that most people didn’t hear us coming up behind them – it was only when someone turned around and saw us that they realized we were right there!
Hohenzollern Castle was supposed to be on one of our last days, but since we’d been much faster than anticipated, we thought we’d give it a shot and try and squeeze it in on our way to the north. We probably wouldn’t have tried it if we didn’t have the Sat-Nav in the car – we just typed in the destination and it showed us that it was only about 30 minutes or so away.. that seemed way too good to be true – it looked much longer than that on the Google map – more like 2 hours. Always up for an adventure.. off we went, trusting the car’s navigation to get us there in the promised time. What’s the worst that could happen… getting lost in a foreign country? Wouldn’t you know it – it was right!
After taking in the sights of Hohenzollern Castle, we headed off to Waghäusel – our destination for a few days. That part of the trip was quite an experience… after entering the destination into the navigation, we headed out for a 2 hour 45-minute trip northward. About an hour outside of Stuttgart we notice the navigation screen filling up with red triangles on all the roads around the city. Our automated navigator told us to exit the autobahn right away and for the next hour she took us through what felt like the entire west side of Europe to avoid the traffic jams.
More than an hour later and it still showed that we had 2 hours 45 minutes left before we were going to reach our destination! Driving through more towns and villages, onto one autobahn then back off then back on… it felt like we were going nowhere fast.. then out of the blue we were in Waghäusel! We’d done the entire trip in about 3 hours 10 minutes – not bad considering the roads around Stuttgart were at a standstill. Our trusty Sat-Nav had helped us to avoid a lot of major traffic jams while showing us parts of Germany we’d probably never have visited in our lifetime – all in real-time! If it wasn’t for that we’d still be there today sitting in traffic – try and beat that Google Maps!!!
The next morning our host Andreas picked us up and drove us around seeing the sights of his town. The whole time he was in the passenger seat he nagged me about going too slow and being too cautious. Eventually, I gave in and handed him the keys to the Bimmer… telling him that if he smacked it up he could explain to BMW why their factory race driver destroyed their nice new car (at the time he drove the BMW Alpina GT3 car in the FIA Masters Series).
At this point, I have to tell you that I had no idea how good the BMW 335d was until I got to be a passenger!
With a highly-skilled race car driver behind the wheel, we took corners and roundabouts faster than I thought were physically possible in a road-going BMW. I had no idea we could go from 120 km/h to zero in one car-length while my eyes were still traveling at 120k. On two-lane highways, I’d have overtaken perhaps two… maybe three slower vehicles, but Andreas took us past nine, or ten or eleven at a time – before slamming on the brakes and going straight through a roundabout as if it had a lane through the middle! We’d turn left at a roundabout doing 80 km/h and he’d be on the gas before we’d even passed the second exit. Was I scared? No chance. Was I having fun? Oh yeah… this was almost as good as the time I got to ride in the Formula 1 two-seater.. but we got to do it for 4 days – not just 3 laps of a race track!
I’ve always loved BMW’s for their handling, but I’ve got an all new respect for them now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience one with a highly-skilled driver behind the wheel. The power and torque from the diesel engine and 6-speed automatic transmission is nothing short of incredible. Even Andreas was blown away by how responsive it was compared to his brother’s BMW M5 – he wouldn’t have considered it over an M5 until he got the chance to drive the 335d…now he would seriously consider getting one.
All too soon our week in Germany was over and we had to head home.. but we had one more interesting and long trip to make. Andreas had been called to do some testing at the famed Nürburgring race track in the North of Germany. Leaving at 8am on a very wet and cold morning, we drove 2 ½ hours to the world-famous track. The weather didn’t get any better when we arrived, but that didn’t stop us from standing around the track taking pictures of the various teams that were also there doing testing for the 24-hour race just a couple of weeks from then.
After getting completely soaked, we changed, said our goodbyes to Andreas, grabbed something to eat and headed off towards Munich. With 5+ hours of travel ahead of us this was really going to put the BMW 335d through its paces. After about an hour we’d cleared the rain and the road dried up to the point that I could actually start pressing the accelerator pedal closer to the floor.
Cruising at a steady 210 km/h was both relaxing and comfortable in the Bimmer. On one stretch of the autobahn I got us up to 230 km/h for a couple of kilometers before settling back down to a steady 210 km/h. I wanted to see just how fast I could go, but at around the 230 mark the car got a little twitchy and I thought I’d just leave it at that – no point in ruining everything by being stupid.
Our destination was a quiet little hotel (Langweider See) just outside of Munich. We arrived as the sun was going down, checked in and relaxed by the lake with a glass of beer – what a beautiful place to spend the night!
Reluctantly, the next morning we returned the fabulous 335d to BMW and spent our last day in Germany enjoying the sights and of course the beers of Munich.
Wow! What a car. I’m completely addicted to the power and the torque of the turbo-diesel and the silky-smooth automatic. The seats are as comfortable as it gets, with long distances between stops leaving you just as refreshed as when you got into the car at the beginning of the journey. You know it has to be an outstanding car when a race car driver gets excited and gives it two thumbs up.
Our holiday and the car completely intertwined to the point it was impossible which part we could have done without the other. In the end it was neither – both made it one of the best weeks of our life and something we’ll never forget. One other thing we’ll never forget is the incredible Sat-Nat system… we could never have gotten to the places we needed to as quickly as we did if we hadn’t had it in the car – actually, we’d probably still be in Germany (which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing — darn Sat-Nav!).
I’ve always been less than complimentary about factory-installed satellite systems until now – it’s worth every penny BMW ask you for. Now if there was only some way I could get BMW to let me test drive one of these babies for…. oh… 3 years or so?!
Amazing power and torque from the diesel engine and perfectly matched automatic transmission
Great fuel mileage considering we weren’t exactly taking it easy
Fabulous Sat-Nav system
Very comfortable seats
Odd combination of interior colour choices
Acura TL, Mercedes C-Class
By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
For more information visit: www.BMW.ca
Powertrain: 3.0-liter, TwinPower Turbocharged I-6-cylinder engine; RWD; automatic transmission;
Horsepower (kW): 265 (298) @ 4,200 rpm
Torque (N.m.): 425 (575) @ 1,700 rpm
0-100 km/h: 6.3 seconds
Curb Weight: 1,735 kg
Top Speed: 210 km/h
City: 9.0L/100 kms // Highway: 5.3 L/100 kms // Combined: 7.4 L/100 kms
I/We averaged 8.5 L/100 kms during combined driving.
Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain & Gail Shankland & BMW (car pictures)
Also Published at: Flagworld.com & Automobilsport.com