These posts are challenging to write because best is subjective. Spoiler alert - we're not going to say one year 335i is better than another. We'll break down the differences by year and allow the reader to decide.
How to Pick the Best 335i For You
Before we dive into a year-by-year breakdown let's touch on the major 335i differences:
In our opinion, these are the big determining factors in deciding which 335i may be best for you. We'll provide a relatively quick overview of the E9x chassis, F30 chassis, N54, and N55 engines below. Additionally, we will link to a few helpful articles.
First, the E9x chassis is actually available in the E90 sedan, E91 wagon, E92 coupe, and E93 convertible body styles. It was available as a 335i from 2007-2013. The F30 (sedan) also features the F31 wagon and F34 'Gran Turismo'. Note - no F30 335i coupe or convertible is available. For the F-chassis generation, the coupe and convertible options received a 435i badge. BMW's F30 335i was available from 2013-2015.
F30 335i pictured below
E90 335i pictured below
Which body style do you prefer? We personally love the F30, and believe that's the better-looking 335i. Not to say the E90 is a bad-looking car - we simply prefer the looks of the F30 chassis. As an additional note - the E90 pictured is a facelifted "LCI" version. The pre-LCI E90s share a similar look, but have different headlights, taillights, grilles, etc. We explain some of the differences in our ultimate E90 buyers guide article.
Of course, there are also differences between interiors. We won't go too far into details on that as a quick google image search of F30 and E90 interiors will yield plenty of results. The F-chassis interior looks and feels more modern. However, we actually prefer the early E90 interior. Some love the screens and iDrive system. We love our 2007 335i which has none of that. Take your pick.
This is another interesting talking point, and a major difference between the E90 and F30 335i. Overall, both cars handle well. They're not track stars straight from the factory. However, they're both fun, sporty cars. The newer F30 generation has a slight edge in the handling department - though not by a huge margin.
The biggest difference actually lies within the steering feel. BMW's E90 generation 335i receives hydraulic power steering that BMW is known for nearly perfecting. We absolutely love the hydraulic steering. The feedback, response, and overall feel are excellent on the E90. It gives you a feeling of what the 335i is about to do.
On the contrary, in our opinion, the F30 steering tells you what just happened. BMW switched to electronic steering for emissions and fuel economy purposes. The response of the electronic steering is excellent. However, we believe it feels dead. Feedback is lacking and you don't feel as connected with the car or road.
Again, that's not to say the F30 steering is all bad. The move to electronic steering is an industry-wide trend. BMW's system feels better than many other electronic steering options. Nonetheless, we'll take the E90's hydraulic power steering, please. A test drive and some spirited cornering is likely the best way to determine your preference.
We're mostly just going to provide a quick overview and some additional resources. We've written a few articles regarding the differences between the N54 and N55 engines. The N54 is found in 2007-2010 335i models along with the 2011-2013 335is. BMW's N55 engine is found in the 2011-2015
One of the most notable differences are the turbochargers. The N54 features a true twin turbo setup while the N55 receives a single twin-scroll turbo. It's generally understood that the N55 took a step down from the N54 in the performance department. However, the N55 did improve reliability as compared to the N54. As of 2020, many of the early issues that plagued the N54 have been resolved. Neither the N54 nor N55 are regarded as reliable cars. However, the N55 is generally more reliable.
There is one more notable difference with the N55 engine alone. Early N55 models (2011-2013) feature a pneumatic wastegate (PWG) design. This means ALL E-chassis N55 335i models are PWG. In mid-2013 BMW moved to an electronic wastegate (EWG) design. The EWG models use a slightly larger turbo and it's simply a better wastegate design altogether. As such, the EWG N55s are better suited to mods than the PWG N55. You can read more about EWG vs PWG here. In order of performance potential:
- N55 EWG
- N55 PWG
If you're buying a 335i for tuning and modding above all else then the N54 is likely your best bet. The N55 EWG models come in second, and N55 PWG models are generally the least capable.
BMW 335i Differences By Year
Alright - it's time to move on now that we got some of the background information out of the way. There are some minor differences between each model year 335i. However, again, the engine and chassis differences are really the most notable.
2007 BMW 335i (E Chassis, N54 Engine)
2007 marked the introduction of the 335i model which was the first BMW to feature the N54 engine. As the earliest model year the 2007 model year generally suffered the most issues of all 335is early on. The HPFP and fuel injectors were the two big problem areas. Likely not all but most 2007 335is likely had their HPFP and injectors replaced with newer, less problematic parts.
Additionally - this is not just unique to 2007 - oil coolers are hit-and-miss on these models. Our 2007 335i (build date of April 2007) came equipped with the sport package and oil cooler. Most sport package cars with 18" wheels feature the factory oil cooler. However, most XI models - even with the sport package - did not receive the oil cooler. You can check by looking in the wheel well on the front passenger side; you will see a grate that houses the cooler behind it.
We highly recommend an oil cooler for those looking to push the N54 hard. To note - the factory oil cooler isn't excellent anyways and it's an easy add-on. If you find a great 2007 335i that's missing the oil cooler don't pass just because of that. Simply plan on installing an oil cooler.
2008 BMW 335i (E Chassis, N54 Engine)
In 2008 BMW began rolling out the facelifted models, also referred to as LCI. Later 2008 models are LCI while early-year models are pre-LCI. Otherwise, there weren't many changes to the 2008 model.
2009 BMW 335i (E Chassis, N54 Engine)
2009 saw the introduction of a new iDrive system. Many refer to the earlier iDrive systems as very clunky and hard to use. We personally prefer the simple layout without any unnecessary screens or iDrive. However, if you want a model with iDrive features the 2009+ system is much better. All 2009 models are LCI body styles. Additionally, M Sport packages for the 335i became available for later 2009 models.
2010 BMW 335i (E Chassis, N54 Engine)
No significant changes between 2009 and 2010 models.
2011 BMW 335i (E Chassis, N55 PWG Engine)
Model year 2011 335i's moved on from the twin-turbo N54 engine to the single-turbo N55. The N55 moved from piezo injectors to solenoid-style injectors. This was a huge reliability upgrade over the problematic piezo injectors on the N54. However, the N55 uses the same fuel pump as the N54. It was around 2011 or 2012 when a longer-term fix for the HPFP issues were found. Some early model N55's may still have the faulty pumps - though as of 2020 it's likely most would have already failed and been updated with the newest versions.
2012 BMW 335i (E Chassis, N55 PWG Engine)
No significant changes between the 2011 and 2012 models.
2013 BMW 335i (E & F Chassis, N55 PWG Engine)
Finally, in 2013, the long-running E90 chassis was phased out in favor of the newer F30 chassis. Early 2013 models were still E chassis, however, later year models were F chassis. Otherwise, there were no major changes.
2014 BMW 335i (F Chassis, N55 EWG Engine)
The biggest change for the 2014 model year was the switch to electronic wastegate control. This improves boost control and reliability of the turbocharged system. Additionally, EWG models received a slightly larger turbocharger that holds torque and power better toward the top-end.
2015 BMW 335i (F Chassis, N55 EWG Engine)
No significant changes between 2014 and 2015 models.
2011-2013 BMW 335is (E Chassis, N54 Engine)
We saved the 335is for last and grouped together the years since there were no major changes from 2011-2013. This was a "premium" version and came with a DCT instead of the standard auto on the N54 cars. It's also only available in the E92 coupe, and E93 convertible body styles. Unlike the standard 335i of the same years, the 335is uses the older N54 engine. HPFP issues were resolved (mostly) by 2011. Fuel injectors were newer indexes, however, they're still not uncommon issues. All BMW 335is models use a factory oil cooler.
Aside from the N54 powered 1M, the 335is is probably the most desirable and rare N54-powered car. As such, they're typically a decent chunk more expensive compared to older N54's or similar year N55 335i models.
Best 335i Summary
In summary, there really is no 335i that is best for every single person. In our opinion, the two biggest factors at play are differences in body styles and engines. Some prefer the looks of the pre-LCI 2007-2008 E90 while others like the 2008-2013 LCI looks. Meanwhile, some prefer the F30 335i. Then there are the differences between the N54 and N55. Tuning, modding, and performance nuts will likely find more joy and excitement in the twin-turbo N54. However, they're all very capable engines. Those who are happy with 300-400hp will find all models meet their goals.
Ultimately, if you're in the market for a 335i we recommend test-driving some of the different options. Check out an N54, an E9x N55, and an F series N55. Our preference is N54-powered cars, however, that does not mean they're better. It also does not mean everyone shares that preference.
Which 335i do you own or are considering purchasing? Feel free to drop a comment and let us know!