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2009 BMW 335D - BMW 335D Road Trip

A 500-Mile Journey On One Tank Of Fuel In One Fast Diesel

Jason Sands
Dec 1, 2009
Photographers: Jason Sands
If you've been watching any TV lately, you've seen BMW's new marketing campaign that highlights its new clean diesels. One of the vehicles it's promoting is the new 335 diesel model, which has an MSRP of $43,900 and is advertised to get up to 36 mpg and go 580 miles between fill-ups. To see if BMW's 265hp, 425-lb-ft, diesel-powered 3 Series was up to the challenge, we decided to try and drive from Los Angeles, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, and back to Lancaster, California, where we'd be attending a sled pull. Oh yeah, and we'd do the entire 500-plus-mile loop on one tank of fuel. Here's our story.
Photo 2/11   |   2009 Bmw 335d left Side Angle
Day 1
10:03 a.m., 0 Miles
East Los Angeles, California
To make every last drop of fuel count, we decided to top off the tank in East L.A. The BMW 3.0L's immense torque made it fun to zip in and out of traffic, but our test vehicle's Sport Package meant the suspension was a little too stiff for Los Angeles potholes. The sequential turbo system was amazing and was quicker spooling than any diesel we've driven so far, new or old. BMW claims 425 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm from this six-cylinder, and we believe it! The smaller turbo is almost fully spooled by 1,500 rpm, and at around 2,500 rpm, the larger turbo takes over all the way to the 5,000-rpm redline. What a powerband!
11:29 a.m., 79 miles
Victorville, California
Our original plan to drive 65 mph to conserve fuel was quickly abandoned after a few semis nearly mowed us down. We bumped the cruise control to 68 mph, and then to 73 mph. Our fuel economy meter on the dash said we were getting 29 mpg and that we had more than 480 miles left until empty. Outside, the temperature was 103 degrees, but the dual-zone climate control kept the inside at a cool 67 degrees. The 335d was also so quiet you could hear a whisper in the car, even at highway speeds.
12:05 p.m., 110 miles
Barstow, California
We were 100 miles into the trip, going a steady 75 mph on the I-15 freeway. It was so far so good, as we'd only used about 1/8 of a tank of fuel. From there on out, it was mostly long, rolling hills until we reached Las Vegas.
12:57 p.m., 172 miles
Zzyzx, California
We pulled off the road a few times to do some impromptu acceleration tests, and the BMW felt quite fast, especially with the traction control turned off. On the S-curved onramp back onto the freeway, we hit 80 mph and the stability control kicked in around a corner, and told us to cool it. After fooling around for a bit, we were off to Vegas.
3:03 p.m., 262 miles
Las Vegas, Nevada
Alright, we made it to Vegas! So far the car had performed flawlessly, and the tank was still about 5/8 full. The BMW was so quiet, we nearly ran over a few tourists who were unaware of its presence until the electric cooling fans kicked on. Later, a couple of guys started talking about diesel trucks right by us, unaware that the idling 335 was a diesel model. We told them it had 425 lb-ft and could spin to 5,000 rpm. "Wow!" they said. "What kind of mileage does it get?" We said we weren't sure yet, but we made it from L.A. to Vegas on half a tank. They were impressed.
Day 2
1:53 p.m., 301 miles
Las Vegas, Nevada
It was time to head back, and fuel stops were few and far between on the freeway we were going to take, which made us a little nervous about stretching it. Even with 40 miles of stop-and-go driving in Las Vegas night traffic, we were still confident we could break 500 miles-if not make it all the way to Lancaster, California.
3:02 p.m., 391 miles
Baker, California
We'd been coasting down Baker Grade, a 10-mile stretch of I-15 that is arrow straight. In fact, we'd been coasting for about 10 minutes with our BMW's mpg gauge maxed out at 60-plus mpg. We never touched the pedal as we rolled into town and stopped to check out the world's tallest thermometer and some old farm equipment. We only stayed outside for a few minutes, seeing that it was 115 degrees out. After a quick passenger refuel consisting of a snack and some water, we were back on our way toward the sled pull in Lancaster.
3:53 p.m., 457 miles
Barstow, California
Our fuel gauge had dropped all the way below a quarter tank, but we were confident we could make it at least another 100 miles. We turned onto Highway 58, a pretty bleak part of interstate that runs up toward Lancaster. Not much food or fuel there. We heard on the news that there were some big fires up toward Los Angeles, but the sky looked clear, if a little hazy. We pushed on.
4:34 p.m., 500 miles
Boron, California
We passed the 500-mile mark just in time to see signs for fuel. Our fuel light, which had just chimed on, signaled that it might be a good time to stop. We looked toward the exit and toward where a gas station should be-but there wasn't one. We found ourselves under a high cloud of smoke spanning more than 100 miles that had turned the landscape a cloudy, blood red. With no fuel in Boron, we had no chance to refill until Mojave, California-a good 50 miles away. The BMW said we had about 66 miles to go until we were all out of luck. We slowed down to 63 mph to conserve fuel and continued on under the red sun.
5:01 p.m., 533 miles
Mojave, California
Our fuel light stopped chiming and was now a silent reminder on the dash of our desperate need of diesel. With only 20 miles to go until Lancaster, we might have been able to make it, but in the end we chickened out and refueled in Mojave, California. We topped off the tank to the tune of 15.89 gallons in a 16-gallon tank, giving us an average of 33.5 mpg. We didn't reach our fuel economy goal, but we got darn close, and we did it with style, comfort, and speed.
Acceleration and Dyno Testing
We were able to get some pretty good numbers when we tested the '09 BMW 335d, both on the dyno, and during quarter-mile runs. First we weighed the car and were surprised to learn it was 3,860 pounds without driver-which is pretty light for a loaded BMW. That meant it should have been pretty quick, and our testing didn't disappoint. Our first acceleration run yielded a 9.72-second eighth-mile time at 74 mph, and a quarter-mile time of 14.99 seconds at 93 mph. Still, that wasn't good enough, so we unloaded the car, kicked the passenger out, and turned off the traction control by holding down the DTC button until a little warning sign appeared on the dash. Our next run yielded an impressive 9.14-second eighth-mile time at 77 mph. We're confident the car is capable of low 14 or high 13-second quarter-mile runs under optimal conditions in stock form, making it a good second and a half faster than any of the diesel trucks we've ever tested.
On the dyno, we found out why the BMW felt so fast. Rated at 265 hp and 425 lb-ft at the crank, the little 3.0L inline-six in the 335d actually made 258 hp and 421 lb-ft at the wheels, making the crankshaft numbers closer to 300 hp and 525 lb-ft. To really put these numbers into perspective, the 6.6L Duramax, 6.4L Ford, and 6.7L Cummins engines all make about 270 to 300 hp at the wheels, despite being more than twice as large as the little BMW engine. Oh, and the 3.0L is 50-state legal and meets 2010 emissions. When we say this is an amazing powerplant, we're not kidding.able