Driven: We Take a 2008 BMW 335xi on Summer Vacation Through the White Mountain Range

By Seyth Miersma

September 08, 2008

Just as soon as I received word that my request for a fleet vehicle to take on my summer vacation to the great state of Maine was to be filled with a Crimson Red 2008 BMW 335xi Coupe, I immediately knew that I would have to add a significantly expanded program of challenging roads to the itinerary. My girlfriend, Molly, was understandably overjoyed.

We set off east from Ann Arbor, crossing into Canada at the Detroit border, and proceeding on what amounted to a vast, dull shot across our neighbor to the north. Things brightened a bit when I realized that no one was paying strict attention to the 100 kilometer per hour speed limits and more still when the blackest of Tim Hortons’ daily brew started to work its magic in my bloodstream. The 335xi proved to be a truly fine highway companion, with a cosseting pair of supportive leather buckets, few audible intrusions from the outside world, and the ability to overtake groggy Canadians with a downshift into fifth gear and just a feather’s touch on the throttle. Molly and I, both respecters of BMW’s much-loathed iDrive system to this point, found that our non-iDrive equipped model was rather simple to interface with – though iPod manipulations were a little long-winded.

After completing the 15-hour or so journey to Lovell, Maine in Oxford County near the New Hampshire border, and spending a few days doing the sort of hiking, swimming, and drinking in mountain views that makes this part of the country such an enjoyable summer destination, I was chomping at the bit to tear around a few of the labyrinthine roads that inform the landscape. Molly’s well-versed step-dad drew us a route that would take us on a sort of half-day loop around the White Mountain National Forest, with a long stretch on the musically-named Kangamangus Highway being the featured attraction (though blasting up Hurricane Mountain Road wasn’t something I’ll soon forget either). 

The Kank undulates in wide, sweeping moments through a wooded landscape dominated by the looming Mt. Washington, giving car and driver plenty to think about between yawning stretches of vista-laden open slope. Fast and wide enough through most corners to allow us to carry considerable speed, the Kang couldn’t offer up a bend that would unsettle the BMW’s all-wheels-driven configuration. The 335xi’s combination of speed and grip goes a long ways toward making one forget about its abundant mass, though the experience is clearly more about one manhandling the road that dancing lightly over it. On the few tighter corners we found that day—including one stunning hairpin towards the end of the highway that offered a disconcertingly fast approach—I was still frustrated in my attempts to hang the ass out like a borderline lunatic. Damnable Prussian efficiency.

I was also happily surprised at the ride quality provided by the coupe’s fat and sticky 225/40R (225/35R in back) performance run-flat rubber. There was a remarkably small amount of shudder from beneath us, even on some doozies of crumbling, frost-shattered two-lane roads.

The BMW’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six is absolutely worthy of every one of the plaudits that it has earned since its debut, and proved to be a nearly bottomless well for entertainment during the ten days that the 335xi was in my charge. With the engine so good and the rest of the package so right, I couldn’t help but leave with the feeling that all of the more powerful BMW products that I’ve driven recently (eyes turn towards the current M3) are a bit unnecessary – at least in the Maine woods. At least I know which car to recommend to Steven King now, should I bump into him.

2008 BMW 335xi COUPE
Engine: inline-six, 3.0 liters, 24v
Output: 300 hp/300 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-60 MPH: 5.3 seconds
Top Speed: 150 mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 3814 lb
Fuel Economy, city/hwy: 16/25 mpg
Price as Tested: $49,720