Reborn again. Driving the new F30 335i.

Now into it’s sixth generation, it’s interesting when you realize the BMW 3 Series has been with us for over 30 years (37 years to be exact, not counting the 2002 cars that preceded it) already. In that timeline, BMW carved out some of the most influential driving machines to roam the streets and stamped it’s dominance by creating what is now known as the (Luxury) Sport Compact Sedan category of cars.

Although the first ever 3 Series badge was christened on the E21s, it was not until the E30s where multiple body styles and iterations of the car materialized. From frugal diesels all the way to the legendary M3, it enforced BMW’s tagline back then as The Ultimate Driving Machine. Today, the E30 has attained cult status amongst automotive enthusiast the World over and remain one of the most popular BMWs around. Even surpassing the E21s.

The E30 looked good, handled brilliantly (although some might say, a little “interesting” in the wet), and most importantly was a hoot to drive. I used to have an E30. It might have only been a 316i, but it was light and it was good fun to throw into the corners, the car turning decisively and easily pivoting around you.

With the new sixth generation 3, you sort of wonder if BMW intentionally kept the chassis designation of F30 for a reason. Perhaps a reboot or sorts? With Hollywood churning out reboots and prequels of past successes, maybe it is time car manufacturers do the same. We are seeing that with Toyota’s release of the 86, back to the good old glory days of the tofu delivering coupes with a habit of going sideways. Could BMW be also taking a cue and hinting to us with the chassis code that the new F30 is the new E30?

In essence, no. Of course not. There is nothing decidedly retro about the new car. New BMWs are all about brand new technologies and high-tech materials, construction and design. This translates to the new car being slightly wider, slightly taller and slightly longer but also, lighter than the outgoing models. This 335i for instance, tips the scales with 40 kilos to spare when you put it next to the previous 335i.

In spirit though, I’m not convinced there isn’t a connection with the cult car.

Let’s start with appearances. Critics might point out the similarities between the new car and it’s predecessor, but when you look back at BMW’s of yesteryear, that has always been the evolution of the design language. Look at the E21s and E30s, the E36s and E46s, now we have the E90s and the F30s. While the E90 introduced “Flame Surfacing” to the World of small sporty cars, it is the F30 which completes this design ethos with the re-introduction of the shark-nose and sharper cut lines along the flanks.

Could the bold modern take on the classic shark-nose be another hint at bringing back the spirit of earlier Ultimate Driving Machines? I could do without that “Sport” badge along the sides though. I find those to look somewhat, chintzy.

If you really want to bring out the best in the F30 aesthetics department, order yours with the M-Sport kit. Go Google “F30 M-Sport Estoril Blue”, and you’ll see what i mean.

Inside, it’s perhaps another hark back to the pre-E90 days, with the classic presentation of the center console buttons and switches angled towards the driver, you know who’s in charge here.

Jokes aside, this new interior is a lovely place to be. Everything from the design to the layout of the instruments, everything is spot on and feels good. Controls fall into place readily and the fit and finish is a notch or two above the E90s. Sorry to owners of the E90s, but it really does feel a few steps ahead here.

With our car now being the top of the range 335i, we have all the toys to play with, and awesome heads up display, premium Harman Kardon sound system and even little gauges in the iDrive for some FnF-esque action. The 335i also comes equipped with what BMW calls, “Driving Experience Control”. Which allows you to adjust chassis, steering, engine and transmission behaviors to your needs with just a touch of a button. With the touch of a button (Eco-Pro), the car goes into petrol sipping mode, even to the extent of guiding you along on how much gasoline your present driving style will save you. Impressive.

So, a couple of points to the F30 for both outer and inner beauty. Looking good for my pseudo-hypothesis.

Now, for the most important bit of any BMW writeup. How does it drive? Well, to find out, thumb the starter button and punch that twin-powered turbo engine up! That’s how I’d love to have done this part of the review, but in reality, driving around on local roads, it isn’t a very good idea to punch the throttle too much. Not because it isn’t any good, but because the engine is so strong and willing to spin up to the redline, license busting speeds are attained before you can even finish reading this sentence. We are talking 0-60 times of 5.4 seconds with 407Nm of torque served up with just a simple flex of the right foot. Just a few years ago, those numbers were M-car territory.

The new 8 speed automatic is also a joy to use. In full auto mode it manages to select the appropriate gears when on the move. Flick the selector to the side and the gearbox responds with much more vigor to your throttle position and holds onto gears a tad longer. Up-shifts in non-sport modes are seamless in operation and with such versatility on hand, coupled with everyday traffic, perhaps even the stick-shift purists in us can be swayed.

Being a BMW, this is no straight line hero, the beauty of the lightened chassis means this new F30 comes alive in the corners. Through long winding curves, the car remains composed and flat even at speed, you will feel any mid corner bumps and dips thought the steering wheel and through your bottom, but the car remains neutral and very stable and composed throughout. Even in comfort mode, you can take on most of what the public roads can throw at you. It might have electric steering, but feedback from the road remains communicative and it provides a good idea of what is going on under the front tires.

For the record, i would like to admit i did not push the car to it’s utmost limits or even got close, I’d reckon with the sort of engineering BMW has done on this car, getting to it’s limits on a public road would require either a huge does of talent, bravado, or just plain recklessness.

With a safe and neutral handling characteristic, is it still fun to drive? I think my major reluctance to give the car back says it all. It is terrific, it goes, turns, dives and squirts out of corners so willingly and easily you tend to forget you are in a sensible 4-door sedan. It might sound strange to say this but it really does feel light on it’s feet, and the Straight-6 engine is as always, a gem. Always willing to deliver a wallop when called upon, making you just feel guilty when you have to haul it in every time common sense takes over. Take a drive up your favorite twisty road in the new F30 back to back with the outgoing E90 and i assure you, you will feel a difference.

So do i really think the new F30 is a throwback to the great BMW E30? I would like to think so. It might have a lot of high-tech weaponry to attack the roads, but it also is a hoot to drive.

To conclude, the new F30 is just great, i love it. I love how it drives, how it handles and with the M-Sport kit, how it looks. Problem now is, the competition. Traditionally, competition comes in either the form of a 3 pointed star or some Olympic rings, but now, there is some competition in house in the form of the 328i, which undercuts the 335i in price and doesn’t seem to lack too much in terms of performance. The 328i might have less power, but it also comes in with less weight. So once we have the chance, we shall see how the flagship 4-cylinder model stacks up against it’s bigger brother.

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