Some things just don't mix.&nbsp; Oil and water.&nbsp;Fire and rain.&nbsp;Empathy and Simon Cowell. Add to that list automotive performance and fuel economy.&nbsp; Let's face it, no one confuses a Prius for a high-speed hot rod except maybe Al Gore's son.&nbsp; Give the guy credit for proving Toyota's hybrid can be clocked at 100 MPH+ (although Orange County law enforcement failed to see any virtue in it). Common sense dictates good gas mileage means a boring vehicle.&nbsp; You can already sense where this is going, can't you?
BMW's 335d breaks that pesky trend by offering up tried and true 3 Series performance with decent fuel economy.&nbsp; The only hitch is that this car doesn't use gasoline.&nbsp;&nbsp; The letter "d" that replaces the "i" normally found on the tail end of a BMW's model number means this sport sedan is packing a diesel engine.&nbsp; Let us pause and give thanks to the automotive Gods for allowing these powerplants back into the U.S. market.&nbsp; They offer two things we all love - power and epic range before fill-ups.
Do not fear Dr. Rudolph Diesel's invention
A brief primer: Some of us remember diesels of the 70s that were not only smoky and loud but severely unreliable when made by General Motors.&nbsp; More recently, California and the states that have adapted their strict pollution control standards&nbsp; banned diesel sales because of the higher particulates they produce.&nbsp; BMW, Mercedes and VW now have diesels that can now be bought in all 50 states.
Why so clean?&nbsp; For one thing diesel fuel itself has been reformulated to contain 97 percent less sulfur.&nbsp; Also, CDI technology (common-rail direct injection) has made diesels much quieter and cleaner.&nbsp; Taking it a step further, BMW and Mercedes use a liquid called AdBlue.&nbsp; It's very similar to what children would euphemistically call No. 1 (hey, no snickering).&nbsp; The exhaust gets spritzed with this urea solution, making things nice for Mother Earth.&nbsp; Volkswagen's Jetta TDI manages to skip the AdBlue treatment but the Touareg V6 diesel needs it.
Diesel Bimmer style
BMW's 3.0-liter inline 6 continues the cleaner, quieter trend that diesels are enjoying.&nbsp; It employs twin turbos, one smaller than the other, to achieve 265 horsepower and, more importantly 425 ft-lbs of torque.&nbsp; It's in that torque figure that diesels enjoy their advantage.&nbsp; I like torque.&nbsp; You like torque.&nbsp; Torque is our friend.&nbsp; Torque is that Hand of God push off the line that feels oh-so-satisfying.&nbsp;&nbsp; From a stoplight the 335d feels like it's strapped to a Saturn V rocket for the first few seconds.&nbsp;
That said, the 335d is a few ticks slower than its fraternal twin, the gasoline drinking 335i.&nbsp;&nbsp; Come on though, 0-60 in just under 6 seconds is hardly under achieving and the "d" offers two things the "i" can't -&nbsp; enormous grunt off the line plus fuel economy that's 33 percent higher.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In mixed driving I'm seeing 29 miles to the gallon, pretty dang good for a performance car.&nbsp; A national survey now finds diesel fuel costs less than standard unleaded gasoline.&nbsp;&nbsp; Locally in Seattle I find it's about the same as mid-grade gas.
A lot of clatter about no clatter
&nbsp;At idle there's a different engine note that most casual observers will overlook.&nbsp; During acceleration there's slightly more gravelly engine growl than I've experienced with VW and Mercedes diesels but cruising is very quiet.&nbsp;&nbsp; The 335d you might buy is subtly badged with only the "d" on the decklid to show the difference.&nbsp; Watching the streaming video you'll see my tester is a whole different story.&nbsp; It's a promotional vehicle with graphics that are certainly louder than the engine.&nbsp;
Enthusiasts will love the bountiful power and responsiveness of the pedals but a word of warning;&nbsp;in stop and go traffic some drivers will find the 335d&nbsp; a bit much.&nbsp; Those used to laid back throttle control may find the immediate nature of the powerful 335d twitchy because of all that low-end grunt.&nbsp; Same with the very touchy brakes.&nbsp; Personally I like that the binders do their job the moment toe touches pedal but not everyone enjoys such a Type A experience.&nbsp; That's what test drives are for.&nbsp;&nbsp;
A real curve job
Let's not forget that handling is what makes a BMW and that remains the same with the diesel.&nbsp; I'm not sure what kind of deal they've made with the devil but the 3 Series seems telepathic on twisty roads.&nbsp;&nbsp; The body is rigid and flex-free and the ride quality is firm but comfortable.&nbsp; No reason to complain here.&nbsp; No reason at all.
Those hoping to row their own gears will be saddened to learn there is no manual transmission offered with the 335d.&nbsp; Apparently there's just too much tranny twisting torque for BMW's existing gear boxes so a 6-speed automatic with manual shift control will have to do.&nbsp; Steering wheel paddle shifters are available by checking the Sport Steering Wheel option box.
A new way to get in touch with your car
The interior is classic 3 Series right down to turn signals that take some time to get comfortable with (though ultimately well done) and cup-holders that are a bit of a reach.&nbsp; Not much storage in the small center console either.&nbsp;&nbsp; At least we Yanks get the Big Gulp holders we all seem to cherish.&nbsp; I was recently in Italy and my 318d Budget rent-a-car was stripped of the ones that spring from the instrument panel.&nbsp; Yes, Budget rents BMWs.
You might remember I've whined and complained about BMWs user interface called iDrive.&nbsp; Everyone has.&nbsp; Thank goodness it's better now.&nbsp; Shortcut buttons for the CD player, radio, menu, telephone, and navigation conveniently surround the multifunction knob that gets twisted, turned and nudged to select stuff on screen.&nbsp; A huge improvement?&nbsp; Sure as rain in Seattle.&nbsp; Still, after a week of use I wouldn't call it overly intuitive.&nbsp; A nice touch?&nbsp; Gently graze the radio preset buttons (that seem to be larger now) and the info screen previews the station setting before you commit.&nbsp;&nbsp;
Seats are nice and supportive, not overly bolstered on the sides.&nbsp; I'm a big fan of keeping my keys in my pocket so keyless entry and ignition is appreciated.&nbsp; For all my friends and family back in Minnesota I'll point out the toasty heated steering wheel.&nbsp;
Got friends and family?
For those who press the 3 into carpool duty, two average adults will be OK in the back seat, three will be a bit snug.&nbsp; BMWs are rear drive (and yes, all-wheel drive) so there's a drive shaft tunnel to deal with.&nbsp; On top of that foot room is not overly generous.&nbsp; Nice to know the 3 Series has spit and fold seatbacks to expand the trunk capacity.
Open up the trunk lid and one thing is clear -&nbsp; no spare tire.&nbsp; The 335d dances on run flat tires which are a little harder to find and expensive when you do.&nbsp; When it comes to TP capacity the 335d is the same as all 3 Series, 5 packs of Kirkland brand bath tissue.&nbsp; FYI, the average sedan's trunk holds 6.
Is diesel right for your wallet?&nbsp;
Starting at around $45,000, 335d is around $1,600 more than the gas-powered 335i when figuring in a $900 federal tax credit.&nbsp; BMW picks up all the maintenance for four years, including the AdBlue (which goes for around $10-12 a gallon when it eventually goes on your tab).&nbsp;
If the 335d and ungainly named X5 xDrive35d do well in the states there's always the possibility of other BMW diesels coming to the U.S.&nbsp; Getting back to my 318d wagon rent-a-car, three of us put over 1,200 miles on it in five days.&nbsp; Even loaded down with TV equipment and suitcases, it performed well.&nbsp; I figure 0-60 in around 9.5 seconds is about right.&nbsp;&nbsp; It wasn't nearly as fast as the 335d but it could be a good choice for those who feel the extreme low-end grunt of the 335d is too much.&nbsp; For now though, let's be happy with what we do have.&nbsp; The BMW 335d is a poster child for performance done efficiently.&nbsp; With those big splashy decals? It's a billboard.