10 years ago11.4K views
"It's not until late in our cross-country test bash that the defining differences between the 2008 BMW 135i, 2008 BMW 335i and our long-term 2002 BMW M3 become crucial. We're vectoring along California State Highway 190 approaching Death Valley and climbing to the 4,963-foot summit of Towne Pass, and then the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engines of these 1 Series and 3 Series BMWs begin to carve out a decided advantage over the normally aspirated mill of the brilliant but aging M3.
The less frenetic acceleration of the current-generation cars becomes their most profound strength on this long, steep climb above 3,000 feet. Fewer gearshifts, more accessible power and a less demanding load on the driver are good when ripping across straight sections of desert road at barely sub-mach velocity.
But only a few hundred miles back, where the road was smooth and winding and the air was far denser, the M3 had been in its element. The question, then, is which is the better machine?
To find out, we drove these three cars on back roads and byways. We headed to the hills and to the desert and then on to the track — the 1.5-mile, 10-turn Radical Loop at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, to be exact. In between, we hit our usual test facility to gather standardized data for acceleration, braking and handling.
We also ran the 2002 BMW M3, 2008 BMW 135i and 2008 BMW 335i through our 28-point testing evaluation, quizzed each participating editor about his personal favorite and weighed the features of each carefully to determine a victor. May the best BMW win."