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    Style Council Sampling a #BMW-F31 #BMW-335i-Touring that’s been equipped with a load of BMW M Performance goodies. The Touring is one of the best-looking versions of the 3 Series and with a smattering of M Performance accessories we reckon it looks even better Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith. #BMW-335i

    It’s not that long ago — and I know this because we’re talking about during my lifetime and whatever my kids might think I’m really not that old — that a BMW was seen as a very exclusive machine. Only the well-heeled could afford one and while dynamically they knocked the spots off offerings from the British manufacturers it wasn’t as if any Tom, Dick or Harry could wander into their local showroom and buy one. Back in 1973 if you fancied a large saloon with a decently sized engine you had plenty of cars to choose from; how about a 3.3-litre Vauxhall Ventora for less than £2000, a Ford Granada 3.0 GXL for £2300 or a #BMW 3.0S Saloon for an eyewatering £4900? No wonder there aren’t a huge number of E3 Saloons left on the roads these days.

    Fast forward a little over ten years though and we can already see BMWs becoming more competitively priced and while you might think that BMW’s entry into the company car market is a relatively recent phenomenon a glance at an Autocar road test of the four-door E30 318i from 1984 shows that even 30 years ago BMWs were starting to be seen as a leftfield entry into the fleet market. “We have tended to look at the BMW 318i as a company car,” said Autocar, “and there is no doubt that it is being aimed strongly at that sector of the market.”

    Perhaps what comes as the biggest surprise though is that with a base price of £8250 the 318i was actually cheaper than a Vauxhall Cavalier 1.8CDi.

    Admittedly you’d have to pay extra for just about everything on the BMW – you didn’t even get an aerial for over eight grand in those days, let alone a radio – but in the space of ten years the company had come from being over twice the price to almost on a parity with Luton’s finest. And in the ensuing years BMWs have become more prevalent on our roads and while once upon a time they were viewed as an expensive and rarely glimpsed oddity you now can’t drive down the road without tripping over one. Yet even though BMWs are now a common sight and bordering on the mainstream, BMW has been careful to retain that ‘premium’ branding and feel.

    Even though this is the case, chances are that virtually whatever modern BMW you drive it won’t be long before you see another on the road that’s identical to yours. Sure, if you order an M6 Gran Coupé in a particularly wild BMW Individual hue you should be safe, but for the rest of us who are more likely to be in the 1 or 3 Series end of the market you can be pretty sure that it won’t be long before you spot what appears to be an identical BMW to your own steed out on the road. However, opting for a Touring version of the 3 Series will inevitably increase your chances of standing out from the crowd as the Saloon outsells the five-door by nearly three-to-one.

    And opting for the ‘Estate’ shouldn’t really be a hardship as out of all the versions of the 3 Series it’s perhaps the Touring that’s most appealing. To my eyes it’s just that little better proportioned than the Saloon and that’s something that holds true no matter which incarnation of Three you’re talking about. And with the latest F31 generation somehow the extended roofline endows the car with a longer, lower, sleeker profile and it’s a machine that looks good from virtually every angle. The fact that it has a significantly larger load carrying ability than its siblings is an added bonus that can’t be ignored, too. And if it appears smart and dashing in its standard form it can look even better with a generous application of BMW M Performance accessories as can be witnessed by this rather fine 335i example we have here.

    It’s perhaps more usual to see a Saloon or Coupé fitted with items from BMW’s M Performance catalogue but I reckon that Touring owners are missing a trick because to my eyes this Estoril blue example really does look stunning. I’ve been having a meeting with some of the chaps at BMW UK while snapper Smithy has taken the Touring off to get cracking on the photos and when I arrive at our prearranged photo location I’m struck by just how stunning this 335i looks. I can’t quite put my finger on which individual component it is that’s making it look so good, so can only assume that it’s the entire package that’s giving it such visual appeal.

    Kicking things off at the front is the lower front splitter which endows the Touring with a hunkered down appearance and on this machine the moulded black plastic has been left in its natural state but it can also be painted, too. This seems to be a personal choice and having seen plenty of cars fitted with this type of front spoiler setup it does seem to be colour dependant, too – it works better painted on some machines than others. Also at the front is a pair of black kidney grilles which again is a matter of personal taste. I like them on just about all colours apart from black but I know plenty of people who think a black car needs a set of black grilles! On this Estoril machine I think they work particularly well.

    Moving down the car and we have a set of the M Performance carbon mirror caps which I’m a sucker for – show me some sexy carbon weave and I’m sold. Along the sills you’ll find the second part of the M Performance Aerodynamic Package, the black plastic blades that run along the bottom of the sill trims and just above these we have the black stick-on film with the M Performance logo and I still can’t 100 per cent make up my mind whether I’d fit these on a car or not… the good news though is that they’re optional so you have the choice of fitting them or not.

    At the rear the Touring’s finished off nicely by an attractive spoiler that fits to the top of the tailgate while in between the twin-exit exhausts you’ll find a black plastic diffuser which helps to complete the sporty look of the car. The roof spoiler is painted (it would look really odd if it wasn’t!) and like the front splitter the rear diffuser can also be painted in body colour if you so desire. Incidentally BMW does recommend that if you’re going to fit the front splitter then the rear spoiler should also be fitted (and vice versa) or it could result in an aerodynamic imbalance.

    Before we move on to the rather fine set of alloys the Touring is wearing we should also mention the exhaust system that emerges from the rear valance either side of that diffuser. The M logo etched into each of the twin pipes gives the game away that this isn’t your regular 335i setup as this machine has the M Performance rear silencer that promises an improved sound as well as looking good, too.

    We’ll put it to the test momentarily but before we do we should just mention the rather arresting set of alloys the car’s fitted with. Their official title is M Performance Dual Spoke 624M and they come in a 20-inch diameter and come clad in a set of run-flat tyres; in this instance a set of Pirelli P Zeros. The wheels themselves measure 8x20- and 8.5x20- inches (front and rear respectively) and the tyres are 225/35s and 255/30s. They’re a forged design and weigh around a kilo less per wheel than a normal cast BMW 20-inch wheel which obviously has an effect on the car’s unsprung weight and should consequently give an improvement in handling. The 624M wheel and tyre set is available in two finishes – matt black or polished – and it’s the former we’ve got here.

    While I’m generally not a huge fan of black alloys these ones have partially polished faces to their spokes and I actually really like the way they sit with the car and they catch the light as they turn, looking good in motion where so many black alloys just look like a dark blob within the wheel arch.

    So this Touring certainly looks great, but how does it translate to the road? Despite the its good looks I don’t think I’m going to feel any additional downforce that may be generated by the aero kit, but what we need to look at most closely is the how the bigger alloys affect the car and whether that M Performance exhaust is worth its £800 price tag. Over a variety of different roads the 335i proves to ride well, and while there’s always a concern when you install larger wheels that there’s a possibility of upsetting the car’s dynamic balance this doesn’t seem to be the case here. Sure, if you hit a particularly huge pothole you do feel it, but on what I’d term ‘normal’ UK roads the 335i rides comfortably. That there’s plenty of grip should be a given, but unless you really provoke the Touring it simply remains utterly planted. While we don’t tend to get quite so much feel through the steering wheel these days with the latest generation of electronic power steering systems, this car actually feels better than most, and perhaps that’s down to the slight reduction in unsprung weight? Either way the 335i is still a very impressive piece of kit to hustle along a decent road; the eight-speed ‘box proving the perfect match for the turbocharged straight-six.

    The #BMW-M-Performance exhaust also seems to work very well, offering a little bit more with its vocal repertoire than you’d get with the standard system, most notably at higher revs and it does elicit a delicious burble and the occasional pop and crack on the over run or when swapping cogs on a charge. Notch the pace back a tad and it’s a perfectly civilized companion on a longer drive and on the motorway run back to BMW’s new Aldershot HQ it’s quiet and subdued, which is just how it should be. For my taste the exhaust offers a perfect blend of subtle aural delights but I would hasten to point out that if you’re looking for a significantly louder-than-standard setup you’d better look elsewhere.

    All-in-all, the M Performance 335i Touring certainly ticked all my boxes. I love the Touring shape and the M Performance additions enhance it to my eyes. The best thing about BMW’s accessories program, though, is that you can pick and choose what you want. For example this machine didn’t have any of the interior goodies we’ve seen on other M Performance demo vehicles so you really can cherry pick the upgrades that most suit your needs. As you can see from the prices in the spec panel on page 53 the individual prices aren’t unreasonable and don’t forget that many dealers will be offering reductions for ‘kit’ prices where several items are purchased and fitted at the same time. In the final analysis, what the #M-Performance range of accessories offers is the ability to make your BMW look out of the ordinary, to be just that bit more individual than the other similarly spec’d machines you’re likely to see on your daily commute. And in this increasingly homogenised world that’s no bad thing at all.

    The 335i is an impressive piece of kit to hustle along a decent road; the eight-speed ’box proving the perfect match for the turbocharged straight-six.

    Opting for a Touring version of the 3 Series will inevitably increase your chances of standing out from the crowd.

    DATA FILE #2015 #BMW-335i-Touring-F31

    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, turbocharged #N55B30 / #N55
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 306hp @ 5800-6400rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 1200-5000rpm
    ECONOMY: 37.2mpg
    EMISSIONS: 179g/km
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    0-62MPH: 5.2 seconds
    M PERFORMANCE PARTS FITTED: Front splitter, matt black (can be painted): £486. Rear diffuser, matt black (can be painted): £440. Rear roof spoiler, matt black (can be painted): £319. Black kidney grilles: £95. Side sill attachment trims, matt black (can be painted): £294. Side sill decals: £98. Carbon door mirror covers: £504. 20-inch 624M complete wheel and tyre set, matt black: £2800. M Performance exhaust system and tailpipe trims: £800.

    All prices quoted are for parts only but include VAT. Contact your local dealer for painting and fitting costs, plus details of any promotions running on M Performance packages.
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