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BMW pushes for performance with North American-only model

Usually the Europeans get all the fun stuff, so what’s up?

BMW is launching a higher performance version of the 2011 335i Coupe and Convertible, dubbed the 335is, in Canada and the U.S. only. Huh? Usually the Europeans get all the fun stuff, so what’s up?


Apparently North Americans buy a much higher percentage of hi-performance 3 Series (335i and M3) than Europeans, and since many here have their cars modified, a factory tuner version of the 335i was a viable consideration.


The current BMW 3 Series, which was launched as a 2006 model, sees a refresh for 2011, getting a new hood and fascia, recontoured grill, headlights with LED “corona rings” and eyebrows, reshaped side sills and LED taillights. You’ll know the hotter 335is model by its black kidney grills, aggressive M Sport fascia, side skirts, high-gloss black mirrors and 5-spoke ferric grey 18” alloys.


Although you’ll probably hear it coming first. The sport exhaust system broadcasts a deliciously fruity burble that escalates to a feral wail as the tach needle swings to the 7000 rpm redline.


Power is up 20 horses to 320 and torque jumps from 300 to 332 lb.-ft., available from 1500 to 5000 r.p.m. There is an additional seven second overboost of 370 lb.-ft. should your Reebok hit the firewall.


A few hours of track time at the famed Estoril racetrack in Portugal proved the 335is Coupe to be exceptionally well balanced, communicative and very swift.


Where this power comes from makes for an interesting and slightly convoluted tale.


All 2011 335i models, save this “is” version, will get BMW’s new 3.0L single twin-scroll turbocharged 300 hp straight-six with the trick throttle-less Valvetronic induction system.


Because the “old” twin-turbo 3.0L engine (which makes exactly the same horsepower and torque) was more tune-able according to BMW, it continues its tour of duty here with enhanced mojo — mostly achieved via an increase in boost pressure.


A six-speed manual transmission is standard in the 335is — optional will be the excellent seven-speed twin-clutch DCT gearbox with steering wheel mounted shift paddles from the M3, without the M’s multiple shift settings.


Take one of the most poetic handling rear-drive cars on the road, add a bit more power, lots more torque, a sports suspension, stiffer engine mounts, snug sport seats, functional rear diffuser, an M Sport steering wheel, and you arrive at a particularly special vehicle that expands on the 335i’s considerable talents.


It is aimed at those who want more than a garden-variety 335i but can’t make the financial or psychological leap to a 414 hp V8-powered M3.


We’ll see the 335is Convertible first in early spring, followed by the Coupe a couple of months later.


No Canadian pricing has been announced.

 
 
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