Part 1: Summary
Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to hit the open road in the "d" on a trip that would cover 1,900 miles over the course of 10 days, and take us from Southern California to places such as Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe to name a few
This trip not only presented some excellent driving through some amazing scenery but also a much needed recharge for these asphalt junkies. Freude Am Fahren is alive and well in this family. In recent years my wife and I have been fortunate enough to travel all over Europe and especially Germany. We have driven topped out on the Autobahn and full tilt on the famous Nürburgring.
It has been over a year and a half and 38,000+ miles since delivery and those wild rides, yet I am still smiling. The 335d is a truly amazing vehicle. (Voted by The Diesel Driver Magazine as 2011 Diesel Car of The Year.) http://www.thedieseldriver.com/2011/...r-of-the-year/
Lets take a quick look back at what makes the 335d so special:
The 335d represents a true anomaly in which great performance and great efficiency do not have to be mutually exclusive qualities in a car. The 3.0L turbo diesel inline six M57 has a mountain shaped torque curve,
and kicks out an enormous 425lb-ft at a mere 1750rpm. Pair that with 265hp, and the quick ZF 6hp28 six speed automatic transmission, and BMW states that's good for a 0-60mph run in 6.0 seconds. However this figure much like its EPA rated consumption of 23city/36hwy, tends to be a bit underrated. (More on the consumption later.)
Road & Track, in its 2009 BMW 335d versus Audi A4 comparison, was able to pull out a 0-60mph run of 5.3 seconds in the diesel. (http://www.roadandtrack.com/tests/co...-2009-bmw-335d
) I have confirmed with Road & Track this was done using a one foot roll out and a first gear launch. Other owners have seen even better performance using a second gear launch.
The 335d really is a first rate highway cruiser, easily one of BMW's best on this side of the pond, as the massive amount of torque on tap makes passing, and climbing hills, effortless on the road. This car simply pulls with ease then asks for more. To put this in perspective, the upper rpm limit for max torque, 2250rpm, equates to ~90mph in sixth gear. Also for inquiring minds, in the 335d at the 155mph limiter in sixth gear, the tachometer will read ~3750rpm on flat autobahn. Combine all this with a range that will have the occupants needing refuel long before the car and you have a must-drive vehicle.
(Author's note: "I have personally driven 601 miles to a tank, in the past, which came out to 40.85mpg. [5.75 L/100km]")
Part 2: Highlights from the Journey
Starting off in Santa Ana we headed northeast for Las Vegas. We were finally able to put the crowded and slow highway traffic behind us somewhere around the Anaheim Hills. We were now able to open it up a little bit too as the pace of the traffic quickened. I reset the values on the trip computer as I wanted to see what kind of consumption I could achieve, unencumbered by traffic, while taking some time off of this leg of the trip.
The landscape really opened up once we hit I-15 and got into the desert. The color palette soon turned to an interesting mix of green, red, and browns with mountains dotting the horizon.
I-15 tends to be very flat for long stretches in the desert. We experienced more than a few drivers taking advantage of this to reach triple digits. Having seen more than a few cops patrolling the desert I thought the better of it, however we were still moving with a good impetus. In addition we were only running the correct tire pressure setting for up to 100mph. Though I will admit it was a little disheartening to be passed by vehicles, that were it legal, we would have blown the doors off of. Oh well, I had been there and done that, legally, in Germany and had my fun.
The instantaneous consumption needle sitting below the tachometer which is much maligned in the 3 series community is, not surprisingly, a perfect fit in this car. It provides a response to right foot modulation in far greater fidelity than any digital readout can. It was surprisingly easy to keep it left of 30mpg even at highway speed due in large part to the open flat land we were traveling. About four hours into our trip we were able to see the outskirts of Vegas in the distance. I was surprised how quickly the miles had flown by, moreover reminded of how fast time flies when you are having fun driving.
We had finally reached our destination. The Palms Casino and Resort. Since our consumption reset back in California, the car said we had averaged 34.0mpg [6.91 L/100km] with an average speed of 77.6 miles per hour. Not Bad. Though later developments would lead me to believe the vehicle calculations tend to be a couple mile per gallon low.
While The Palms does not sit on “the strip” it is not very far at all from it. The accommodations were great. I would not have any problem staying there again.
The drive down the strip made for some awesome photographs as well as a really cool surprise from the Navigation system. Every casino on the strip, and probably in the city, was recreated as a three dimensional virtual building and accurately represented its real life counterpart.
Fast Forward several days. We refueled in Vegas since we did not start the trip with a full tank. We headed back for Santa Ana for free room and board for one night as well as free laundry before continuing our trip up the California coast.
We traveled the 264miles back to Santa Ana and as we entered the driveway the car reported an average of 35.6mpg [6.60 L/100km] for an average speed of 77.7 miles per hour.
After a night of peaceful sleep we were back at it the next morning. Our route would take us up the coast on Pacific Coast Highway to our stopping point in San Jose.
We decided to make a quick detour through Los Angeles for lunch. We stopped to eat at The Ivy since my wife had always wanted to check it out. We didn’t see any celebrities for our troubles. The food was good if only a bit pricey.
We set out for the coast. Once we reached Santa Monica we hopped on PCH. This would prove to be a less than optimal choice. The scenery was awesome but the traffic was at a near stand still for a while.
The traffic messaging feature on the navigation works really well in California. It was able to show us all the problem areas on our intended route. Unfortunately the only available detours wouldn’t do much and keep us along the coast. We decided to just sit tight and enjoy the scenery.
Eventually the traffic jam cleared and we were again on our way.
The drive along the coast presented many twists that would have been fun to rip through at speed. Unfortunately the traffic would veto that idea. The amount of pull in this car really becomes intoxicating and you will find any excuse to use it. As a consolation, we were presented with several passing lanes where we were able to get on it a little bit.
I really wanted to lay waste to the pavement along the coast. Oh well better luck next time I guess.
Not the best looking sunglasses around but hey they are free from Uncle Sam, so I guess I can’t complain right?
Four hundred thirty-nine miles since our refuel in Las Vegas, and still on the same tank, we were now in the Santa Barbara area. Despite the long bout of stop and go traffic on PCH, the car took just over 13.5 gallons from the pump for a consumption of 32.44mpg [7.25 L/100km]. Another 270 miles or so would put us in San Jose. We decided to press on.
It had been awhile since I had done much night driving in the car. The amber gauges and illumination found in the cockpit may look dated compared to the Greens/Whites/Blues of other vehicles but serves a very important function. It works really well at preserving night vision and reducing eye strain. With the Anthracite headliner found in the M-Sport, gauges dimmed to a faint ghosting, and the power sun shade extended, you have a very dark cockpit that makes driving at night a lot less fatiguing than many vehicles even without throwing window tint into the mix.
After reaching San Jose we grabbed dinner, checked into a hotel and bedded down for the night. The next day we would visit the Winchester Mystery House and continue on to San Francisco.
The Winchester House in San Jose has an interesting history and is reported to be haunted so naturally wanted to check it out. A more robust history can be found on the internet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winchester_Mystery_House
. The cliff notes version goes something like this: Sarah Winchester, spouse of William Wirt Winchester of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, visited a medium after a series of tragic events most notably the death of her daughter and subsequent death of her husband from Tuberculosis at the age of 43. The medium explain these events were brought on by the spirits of those who had died at the hands of Winchester rifles. Sarah was told that if she could appease those spirits by building them a house then she might live a long life.
The house was under constant construction, until Sarah Winchester's death in 1922, to keep the spirits at bay. The layout of the house does not make much logical sense and there are such things as staircases that go up into walls and doors that lead to nowhere, which were probably additional measures to confuse the spirits. The staff at the mystery house were courteous and professional and the tour guides knew their subject well. We were even lucky enough to get our own private tour when we bought the behind the scenes tour, since we ended up being the only people in our group. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the house. The house is also the site of a haunted maze on Halloween. The preparations we could see from the tour looked like it would have been good. Overall I was very pleased with the visit, sure it may be a little touristy but it was an enjoyable experience, a great way to kill a few hours learning some history and worth the visit.
After lunch at Chipotle and a quick car wash to remove road grime and high velocity bug splatter we made the quick trip over to San Francisco. The highway traffic was light and we made good progress.
That was, until we left the highway. Once off the highway everything stopped rather quickly and we were in the middle of bumper to bumper gridlock.
Upon arrival into the city, the navigation system exploded with a representation of what seemed like, every building in the city.
The majority of buildings were simply grey shapes with detail reserved for major landmarks. With the help of the navigation system were able to eventually bypass the bulk of the traffic and make it to our destination, The Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf. We decided to valet the car as the Hyatt had its own parking garage and we knew finding our own parking would be a nightmare. The car would not move again until we were ready to leave the city.
For the next several days we decided to take in the sights. That evening we walked down to Ghiradelli Square. The pier presented us with a great view of the Golden Gate bridge and the bay at sunset.
The next day we had lunch with a long time friend, and her husband, from back in my college days who now calls the city home. It was great to catch up after more than a few years. We ate at Nettie's Crab Shack. The food was really good, especially the crab cake appetizers. Even with it being a seafood restaurant they have something for everyone, including really good burgers for those who prefer turf over surf.
Later that day we headed down to the pier to check out the sites. My favorite was Musee Mechanique http://www.museemechanique.org
which the website states is “one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines.” It was really cool to see what, for lack of a better term, arcade games were like around the turn of the century. I was really amazed that many of the older contraptions were still in excellent working order. Before ending our walk along the piers we headed over to Alcatraz landing and bought tickets for the next days tour.
United States Penitentiary Alcatraz California, the prison for those who break the rules in prison, was home to some of our country’s most notorious criminals. The list of famous inmates includes Alphonse “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Arthur “Doc” Barker, Alvin “Creepy Karpis” Karpavicz, Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, and Meyer “Mickey” Cohen to name a few. The pictures do not do justice to how sealed off from the outside world you feel once you set foot on the island. This was not a place you wanted to end up. It is cold and unforgiving. The phrase “so close, yet so far” really has meaning here with the outside world just over a mile away yet the frigid waters of the bay acting as an insurmountable obstacle to freedom. No one knows what happened to those escapees, but I am willing to bet they ceased their existence in this world shortly after entering the water.
After our tour of Alcatraz we headed out for the mountains and the Lake Tahoe area. We decided to take the slightly longer route and cross the Golden Gate bridge. The traffic leading up to the bridge was a little on the slow side with some stop and go but once we hit the bridge it smoothed out. We encountered a long traffic jam in Sacramento thanks to rush hour. On US-50 it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.
We refueled 471 miles from our last fuel stop back in Santa Barbara, somewhere around Placerville. The car took just over 14 gallons for a consumption of 33.31mpg [7.06 L/100km]
We reached the mountains after dark. It was here where the car really began to shine. Things tend to get really dark when there is no ambient light around, to the point where low beam headlights, even xenon, aren’t enough by themselves. High-beams quickly become essential on dark mountain roads. The car delivered in spades. The high-beams really do turn night into day. The automatic high-beam assistant, which may seem gimmicky to some, worked flawlessly this night. I was really impressed. It was spot on with detecting all approaching traffic and taillights of traffic ahead of us. This relatively small helping hand allowed me to keep both hands on the wheel and focus all my attention on negotiating the very winding road ahead of us.
The driving up in the mountains was exciting. Despite weighing around 3800 lbs the 335d is surprisingly agile when it counts. The car felt well planted and took the numerous twists and turns with ease. Brake fade was never an issue throughout. In addition, with the massive torque and dual turbo setup this vehicle excels up in the mountains. The car continued to pull well even at elevations well north of a mile. There were a few instances where some bad tailgaters were turned into specs in the rear view.
The accommodations at our destination, The Montebleu Casino and Hotel, were great. The Jacuzzi in the bedroom was an interesting touch.
The restaurant inside the Casino had good food at a good price. The Polish waitress gave me a chance to use the few Polish words I do know. Yeah, I probably should be fluent being of Polish heritage and all. It’s on my to do list when I have the time to really get into it.
For the next several days we traveled around Lake Tahoe taking time to go hiking in the mountains and even made an impromptu run down to Reno, to grab some Jimmy John’s. That’s the great thing about the diesel, you can just go places on a whim and not worry about fuel. Gasoline vehicles with performance on par with the 335d do not have nearly the range and efficiency of the diesel. Conversely vehicles with the range and efficiency of the 335d do not have equal performance.
Being up in the mountains wasn’t the most comfortable place to be for someone that doesn’t like heights, but I did okay. Interesting for someone who was trained to fly helicopters huh?
On a side note, the desert does have some amazing sunsets. The picture does not do it justice.
Was quick as it had begun, our trip was coming to a close. It was time to head back to Santa Ana. My R&R leave was nearing completion and I wanted a couple days to take care of things before I headed back to Afghanistan.
We headed over to Gardnerville to refuel. Not that we needed to, but I wanted to have a full tank for the last leg to see what kind of consumption I would get. Since our last refuel our driving, which was practically all mountain and had involved many uphill climbs, gave us a consumption of 30.30mpg [7.76 L/100km]. Thinking back, this was really impressive.
We decided we would take US-395 to avoid the large cities and rush hour traffic. The drive back would be a little bit slower due to the speed limits and small towns that dotted our route. We decided to take in the awesome scenery and the d said thank you with some amazing fuel economy.
We arrived at a gas station in Santa Ana just before 20:00. We had traveled 445.6 miles at an average speed of 64.5mph. The onboard info reported a consumption of 37.9mpg. After filling up and doing the math, the real consumption for that leg of the trip was 39.24mpg [5.99 L/100km]!
I had just missed surpassing my personal best. I think dropping the torque hammer out in the desert, passing some semi trucks, had cost me a couple miles per gallon. Oh well, this was still a great number.
In conclusion, the 335d is an amazing vehicle combining great performance and great efficiency. It truly stands in a class by itself here in the United States. Sure there are vehicles that can match or surpass its fuel efficiency but I can’t think of a single one that can do it while matching the performance of the 335d (0-60mph low 5sec, 425lb-ft@1750rpm) and being considered “a driver’s car.”
Well done BMW, well done.
Now give the United States some more diesel vehicles.
It’s a shame that as of this article the 335d is no longer in production and its fate rests with the decision makers at the top. The M57 is still easily one of the best engines available in the United States. Will we see a 335d again? Time will tell.