Tuned 313bhp 2015 BMW 335d xDrive Touring F31
Was the F31 335d xDrive Touring the ultimate all-rounder of its generation? With svelte styling, practical accommodation, awesome performance and a brilliant engine it’s hard to bet against it. Words: Bob Harper Photography: Jason Dod.
So, what’s the best car in BMW’s current line-up? Or from its past? We could literally be here all week debating these questions but for a certain subsection of the BMW community there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a BMW wagon. BMW was actually a little late to the Touring party and it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the 3 Series Touring became a permanent fi xture in the model line up. However, once the dam gates had opened there was no stopping the onward march of the Touring and since then we’ve had several generations of 3 and 5 Series models to choose from.
“It did everything – to a slightly lesser extent obviously – that the M5 did”
BMW has always followed its own path with its estates though and has only rarely dipped its toe into what you could call the performance wagon. Audi has done very nicely out of this with its RS4s and RS6s and Mercedes has also had a lot of fun shoehorning monstrously large V8s into various estate bodies. In contrast BMW has only made two M Tourings, both M5s, but in total their production figures are miniscule – less than 2000 examples over two generations of 5 Series would almost go unnoticed in the BMW accounts department.
Instead BMW has ploughed its own furrow, preferring to produce Tourings that are superb all-rounders. Many of them have been pretty quick cars but have aimed to retain a decent ride quality, they’ve been relatively commodious but without compromising on their styling, but most crucially a Touring has never compromised on the Ultimate Driving Machine tag line – the estates drive just as well as their saloon counterparts.
If I was forced to choose one Touring from the current BMW range I may well have to move abroad as you can’t buy an M550d xDrive Touring in the UK and it’s equally disappointing that the M550i xDrive isn’t available with the Touring bodyshell at all.
Given I’m unlikely to be leaving these shores any time soon then I’d be more than happy with a new M340d xDrive Touring. It ticks a hell of a lot of boxes being ridiculously rapid, surprisingly parsimonious and with the Touring body it’s hugely practical too – the ultimate all-rounder? A shame then that it costs over £50k before you’ve added any options. But there is a solution to be found within BMW’s recent back catalogue in the form of the F31 335d Touring, it might not have an M prefix to its name but in every other respect it pretty much follows the same path as its M340d successor. And with prices for Approved Used examples now starting around the £20k mark it could almost be seen as a bit of a bargain, too. But what makes it so good? For many people the F3x generation of 3 Series is the epitome of what a 3 Series should be and as is often the way the styling of the Touring variant really does hit the spot, somehow looking svelte and athletic despite the practical load-lugging estate car connotations.
The F31 Touring was launched in 2012 and initially the 330d was the top dog in the range but this was soon joined by the 335d complete with xDrive all-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic gearbox as the only drivetrain configuration. Just as night follows day a ‘Lifecycle Impulse’ (a facelift in non- BMW speak) followed three years later and it’s these ‘LCI’ cars that are the pick of the bunch. Enhanced styling, a revised cabin, more extensive options and Euro 6 compliant engines were the main highlights although the 335d’s engine didn’t change its headline figures.
But what figures they were. The 2993cc twin turbo diesel pushed out an impressive 313hp at 4,400rpm and a whopping 465lb ft slug of torque from 1500 to 2500rpm. Its performance figures were impressive with a 0-62mph time of just 4.9-seconds although like all BMWs its top speed was limited to 155mph. The icing on the cake was a combined economy figure of 49.6mpg and a relatively low CO2 figure of just 151g/km, although you’d have to be exercising some enormous restraint to return those figures in normal everyday driving.
On the road though it was a devastating piece of kit. The LCI F31 was facing some stiff competition from its rivals so BMW did make a few tweaks to its underpinnings here and there. There were new springs and dampers on both the static and adaptive suspension set ups along with beefier anti-roll bars and thicker suspension top mounts and these all combined together to make the 335d a slightly more involving car to drive. The steering was sharper and both ride and handling improved. In short, the F31 335d was a brilliant all-rounder that had a little bit of both the Jekyll and Hyde to its nature.
But you don’t just have to take our word for it as the owner of the 335d xDrive Touring you can see here was pretty smitten by it, too. Larry Tampkins has owned this Touring for the best part of two years and although he’s recently sold it – we’ll come onto that later – he was a huge fan. Doubly impressive as not only does he like to change cars quite frequently but his previous steed was an F10 M5. Larry takes up the story; “The 335d is only the second BMW I’ve owned – I’ve previously owned VW Group cars, a couple of Golfs and a couple of Audis along with an Alfa Romeo – everyone has to own at least one Alfa during their life,” he says with a smile. “The first BMW was an F10 M5 – if you’re going to go… go big! I’d always wanted an M5 – one of my neighbours had one where I lived previously – and I thought it was astonishing, absolutely loved it. So when it got to the point when I could order one I went for it. It was a factory order, exactly the spec I wanted, and it was one of the last off the production line so it had the Competition pack and I was fortunate enough to get a brilliant deal on the car from BMW.
“I had that for a couple of years when I was living in Scotland but then I moved to Kent and soon discovered that house prices in this part of the world were not nearly as compatible with running an M5 as they had been in Scotland,” says Larry. So the M5 had to go, but what to replace it with? Surely just about anything else was going to be a real let down? Larry knew what he wanted though – a 335d Touring in Estoril blue. He didn’t necessarily need the additional luggage carrying capacity of the Touring, simply preferring the looks of the F31 over the F30 Saloon. Indeed he’s always been a fan of the Touring bodystyle and reckons that if BMW had made an F11 M5 he’d have had his M5 Comp as a Touring, too. The twin-turbo 335d was the ideal engine choice as not only did it offer the potential for decent economy when on a cruise its 465lb ft of torque was pretty close to the M5’s 502lb ft, especially as the 3 Series Touring was a bit lighter than the M5.
He headed onto the Chandlers website and put in his search criteria – 3 Series, Touring, 335d and Estoril Blue – and the car you see here popped up as the first search result. In the morning he’d told his fiancé that the M5 had to go and by the evening and a couple of phone calls later a deal had been done and Larry was the proud owner of a 335d Touring. “I was particularly keen on Estoril Blue,” Larry tells us, “and I wanted the Shadowline trim and this car ticked both those boxes and as an added bonus it had several M Performance parts on it, too. It had the front splitter, side skirts with decals, rear diffuser and spoiler at the top of the tailgate too, as well as M Performance 19-inch wheels. I particularly liked the M Performance sills as they gave the side of the car much more depth – it’s a little thing, but I think the sills really enhanced the look of the car.”
So what were Larry’s initial reactions to the 335d? “Everyone kept saying to me when they saw the car, ‘Oh, the 335d is really quick isn’t it’, but when you’re coming from an M5 it initially perhaps didn’t feel quite as quick as everyone was saying! But once I’d recalibrated a little the 335d was perfect, especially the torque and the twin turbos which made it super responsive. It did take a few months to bed in with the 335d, but after that I absolutely loved it.”
During the two years he’s owned the car it was absolutely bulletproof with absolutely no problems. While Larry reckons it was the perfect all-rounder the only thing he would have been tempted to change if he’d kept it for longer or if it hadn’t been on a PCP would have been to have fitted some lowering springs, just from an aesthetic perspective as he felt it did seem to sit a little bit high as far as its looks were concerned. Had he not been tempted by another BMW he reckons he’d have paid Birds a visit for one of its suspension packages.
Despite having now sold the 335d Larry is full of praise for the car; “It did everything – to a slightly lesser extent obviously – that the M5 did. I could sit four people in it in comfort, it would cruise effortlessly on the motorway, it had epic torque, even the gearbox was fantastically responsive, kicking down really quickly. It’d pick up from any revs and just went! It was brilliant. The torque and the pick up of the 335d was mind-blowing, I really, really enjoyed it.”
Despite the step down in performance Larry reckons there were some circumstances when the 335d was a more effective weapon than the M5. “On big A roads there was nothing to touch the M5, it was phenomenal and I’d go back in one in a heartbeat, but on B roads the relative size of the 335d really helped, you could drive quickly and safely (and obviously legally), but because the 335d was narrower you could actually press on probably no slower than the M5 – the lack of girth with the 335d was pretty helpful. It would wriggle through gaps where in the M5 you’d probably be backing off a little due to its size. It was xDrive as well so you could do all that even when it was damp, or when it was hosing it down. In what we’ve had of the British summer so far this year I’d have more fun in the 335d with its xDrive than I would have in the M5. In short the 335d was brilliant fun.”
While Larry was still enjoying the 335d and despite thinking about what to eventually replace it with it wasn’t actually Larry that instigated its departure. “Chandlers contacted me,” he says, “as they had lots of customers who were interested in cars like the 335d, and I said I’d only consider changing the 335d for something with a badge ending in 40i as I wanted something with a more inspiring exhaust note. In the end they came back to me with a superb deal on an M4 for just a very small increase over what I was paying for the 335d.
“I’ve been very impressed with the M4 and to be honest the only thing the 335d was missing was that vocal exhaust note that you can only get from a petrol engine,” Larry explains. “What I missed with the 335d was the theatre of a proper M car, while it didn’t ultimately make the noise of an M car it would keep up with a lot of far more sporting cars. The torque and the pick up of the 335d was mind-blowing, I really, really enjoyed it.”
Given Larry’s penchant for a fast wagon we couldn’t resist asking him whether the new M3 Touring is likely to be on his shopping list in the near future? “The day BMW launched that teaser image of the new M3 Touring I was completely sold on the idea of one, although I do struggle a little with how it’s going to look as I’m not fully sold on the new kidney grilles. I’m really intrigued as to how the M3 Touring will look, I have a feeling that I’ll end up wanting one – do you really need both kidneys!? A four-wheel drive M3 Touring would be the absolute pinnacle for me. Having driven a new rear-wheel drive M4 it already puts its power down incredibly well, so an xDrive version will be just phenomenal. An M3 Touring will definitely be where my lottery winnings will be going… although I could also be tempted to an M5 CS too!”
Ultimately the F31 335d xDrive Touring is one of those rare cars, a machine whose depth and breadth of ability is seemingly greater than the sum of its parts. It looks great, has plenty of interior accommodation and goes like stink when the mood takes you. The flip side of the coin is that it’ll cruise with aplomb and return impressive economy while doing so. It might not pack the drama or theatre of a full blown M car and misses out on the sonorous exhaust note of a six-pot petrol but these days it looks like a bit of a bargain as a used purchase that you can buy with both your heart and your head.
It looks like a bit of a bargain that you can buy with both your heart and your head
A big part of the 335d’s appeal is its driveability – aided by a torque figure of 465lb ft.
2015 BMW 335d xDrive Touring F31
- ENGINE: Six-cylinder, twin-turbo diesel
- CAPACITY: 2993cc
- MAX POWER: 313Bhp @ 4,400rpm
- MAX TORQUE: 465lb ft @ 1,500-2,500rpm
- 0-62MPH: 4.9-seconds
- TOP SPEED: 155mph
- ECONOMY: 49.6mpg
- PRICE (NEW): £41,665 (2015)
The F31 335d was a brilliant all-rounder that had a little bit of both the Jekyll and Hyde to its nature