BMW. A manufacturer more associated with driving 'on everybody's bumper' and 'no thought for stone chips' than the vehicles themselves. Sadly, BMW's are renowned for the people who drive them - but lets not think about that for the minute. What I'd like to do is draw your attention to one BMW engine in particular.. The BMW E92 335i
There aren't many cars that I praise in factory form, but the BMW E92 335i happens to be one of those cars. Another car that is 100% bang on and enjoyable from the factory is a Renault Megane 225, and there are a few others but lets continue my 335i story for now!
I think the engine is superb. Despite the mechanical/electrical issues they can suffer from, I cannot fault how they drive. I recently drove another BMW E92 335i, and believe BMW hit the nail on the head when they made these cars. So much so, that the engine can now be found in nearly every performance BMW in showrooms today! Look at the BMW M135i, and the BMW M4, both of which wouldn't exist if it wasn't for this car. BMW created something great and slowly perfected it into the modern variants. Sadly.. the modern versions feel too computerized for me and (BMW M4 aside) I personally cannot cope with the lack of 'feel' between throttle and power. The BMW M4 is a very well 'tuned' version of its younger siblings that you can buy. The E92 335i is the best one they built. BMW should have corrected the errors and used the same ECU and dare I say ''theory'' in the new models. Yes they can eradicate faults. Yes they can fix whatever needed 'fixing' from early models - but after all the issues were sorted (using a Siemens ECU at the time), they made a crazy decision and switched to a Bosch ECU, which has more restrictions than the Wehrmacht and has left the modern cars feeling robotic.
I love Bosch ECU and think they are great. BMW switched to Siemens 'mid' E36 and that sparked a lot of hatred from engine tuners and enthusiasts alike. Sometimes when driving an E36 323i/328i you'd have a lack of power (I mean torque) that suddenly comes back when it feels like it. That is Siemens. Search the BMW Forums and you will see people fitting the older BMW E36 3.0 M3 'Bosch' ECU and wiring loom to their BMW E36 3.2 M3 engines. Why? Because they hate Siemens. People do the same in the BMW E46 M3.. Why? Because they want their engines to run properly - ALL of the time, not just 'some' of the time.
Excuse my rant but the ECU and the ECU setup is important when building a car. Renault can use Siemens and they use it 'well', because they have stuck with the same protocol for decades and know what they are doing. For BMW to switch to Siemens (cheaper) and maintain that in their late E36 - all of E46 - E90/E92 - gave them enough time to master it. Not a problem. BMW had a good Siemens ECU that worked perfectly in their Petrol/Petrol Turbo cars. But when they got the recipe right.. BOOM! They reverted to Bosch and I have no idea why. Modern ECU's are good because they are complex. It defines a clear line between professional engine tuners and the Diesel Popcorn Limiter gang that sprung up on Forums two years ago. I love the Modern ECU, and could do a great setup on this car with the Bosch system. Sadly, it may never 'feel' like these older models and that is a problem. A bit like new Porsche 911 (991) owners selling their cars. Porsche switched from Bosch to Siemens and the same problem has happened. The new Porsche's feel robotic and 'distant'.
Perfection. Absolute driving heaven. These cars are one of my favourite chassis and I've said this since James, the current vehicle owner, bought this car 4-5 years ago. It is so well balanced from the factory - all of the BMW E90/E92/E60/E61 Series are lovely cars to be in. Hindsight is a bugger, but something keeps telling me I should have bought an E92 325i or 335i instead of the VW Golf MK5 GTi I had a couple of years ago. I was warned (funnily enough) by a BMW Technician NOT to buy a BMW 335i because they all break, but that's what warranty is for, I suppose. All cars have their peccadilloes and if we worried about every fault nobody would buy a Ford Focus ST225 or an Opel Astra VXR which both pull really well after Stage 1 Tuning. The BMW E92 Chassis is probably the best thing BMW ever made, but most owners will never exploit its potential.
The design of this car was a definite improvement on the E46 model. The BMW E46 sits a little too high for a Sports Coupé and I put the previous model in the same Category as a MK5 Golf in terms of ride height and that ever so slight 'sea sickness' that becomes more prominent with a lot of E46's when the Suspension isn't overhauled (well, replaced) at appropriate intervals. The E92 may suffer the same fate but I've not driven one that feels like a boat yet! I think BMW got the suspension and height spot on with this car, and looking at the newer BMW M4 you can see they haven't gone back to the E46 height. Thank God.
Driving bliss. It is sharp and responsive. The car feels 'alive' when my right foot engages. This is like driving the a Porsche 996/997 and I am encapsulated! I could drive this car forever if it was Automatic/Tiptronic. I can't see myself buying a brand new car when the semi analogue to digital era is probably the best time we will ever have. 2002-2012 is my favourite car decade - I can't see myself wanting a post 2012 car for a long time now.
Usually I'll comment on the exhaust but this car has modified downpipes, and Full Miltek System. I think it is too loud and prefer the original exhaust note in these from factory. This particular car is being tuned for full power, so has supporting mods. I have previously posted videos being in this car and it has received a lot of attention on Facebook. This proves there is a huge market for modified and performance cars! The noise from this thing screams fear into lesser-powered motors. Cars 'move' into the slow lane as I thunder down the A47.
These cars are great fun to drive. I doubt many would drive one of these (Manual or Auto) and give me negative feedback. They drive effortlessly and even without tuning I would still use the car daily. Win! Win!
Nicholas Lawrence //ON CARS