The BMW 335d: Can A Diesel Be The Ultimate Driving Machine?

By Jonathan Spira on 22 November 2009
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To many people, diesels are slow, noisy, and belch black smoke. DSC_0205 If that’s your recollection too, you’ll be surprised to find out that diesels in Europe currently account for roughly 50% of the new car market.  In the United States, the market for diesel automobiles is miniscule, thanks largely to a reputation for poor reliability, largely due to problematic diesel models from Cadillac and Oldsmobile in the 1980s.

Today diesels are staging a comeback thanks, in part, to low-sulfur diesel fuel and fluctuating fuel prices  The renaissance is being led by German car makers including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen.  Car enthusiasts began to take note of diesels last year when BMW announced plans to offer 50-state diesel-powered BMWs (namely the 3er Series and X5), promising no compromises in handling and performance.  In BMW’s home market of Germany, 70% of BMWs sold are diesels.

Until about 10 years ago, Europeans were happy to relegate diesel technology to trucks, buses, and taxis (a common assignment for the Mercedes 240D).  But that changed around 1997, when Bosch introduced the diesel Common Rail System, where diesel fuel is precisely injected at a very high pressure (much higher than in a gasoline engine).   Its name derives from the one common fuel feed pipe – or rail – that provides fuel for all injectors.  The Common Rail System reduces exhaust emissions and lowers engine noise, thereby ameliorating the two most common objections to diesel-powered automobiles.

Anyone who has driven a modern diesel automobile knows of its advantages over gasoline.  Diesels use far less fuel, about 30% less on average, than their gasoline-burning counterparts and emit 25% less carbon dioxide.  They also produce 50% more torque, which translates to higher acceleration at lower RPM.


To date I have only spent a few hours in a BMW 335d but all I can say is, “what torque, what torque.”  Just like the 535d (see our review here), the 335d has sick amounts of torque and provides bone-crushing acceleration devoid of any turbo lag.  There’s no question in my mind that this car will establish the BMW diesel line in the mind of the enthusiast.

On 23 December 2009, I will take delivery of a new BMW 335d at the BMW Welt delivery center in Munich, Germany.  I’ll have more to report then.