Trying to Find the Goldilocks Car
Author: Dustin McClelland
Graduate from college? Check. Get an amazing job? Check. Reward yourself? Hell yes. It was the spring of 2015 and I had finally decided to splurge and buy a brand new BMW. I ordered a 2015 BMW 335i with the M Sport package and prepared for the dream of every BMW fan: European Delivery. Driving at triple-digit speeds on the Autobahn and through beautiful Southern Germany was something that everyone should experience. The trip to Europe led me to join the CCA , which was the gateway to taking the 335i to the track. But not just any track! It was Road Atlanta (aka the pork chop). However, this marked the beginning of the end for what I thought was a very special 335i. What I’m about to tell you will not be pretty, and it will not be logical, but it is my BMW journey.
The 335i was amazing. It was quiet. It was fast. It was reliable. It was my dream car—until it wasn’t. The more I drove it on the track, the more I realized its weaknesses. And I proceeded to do what every novice does—I started throwing money at parts. A tune, suspension, exhaust, and brake pads were not cheap. And it was then that I realized that I was dumping money into a car to try and make it more responsive, give me more feedback, and perform better on the track. It was around this time that my friend bought a Dakar Yellow E36 M3 and started to track with me, and one ride in his car made me realize that my F30, for me at least, was missing those old-school BMW dynamics.
Enter Betty Weiss. Betty was my 2004 BMW Alpine White (editor’s note: I see what he did there)E46 330i ZHP sedan with a six-speed manual transmission (a golden girl). It was more responsive and provided more feedback than I had ever felt before in a car. And I finally understood what the automotive journalists meant by steering feel. I spent the better part of a year catching Betty up on maintenance and enjoying putting over 20,000 miles on her that year, but as I started to track Betty and drive her harder, the more I started to realize that I was missing the power from the N55 (editor’s note: the engine in the F30 335i, among others). I was also getting tired of replacing parts every month.
Photo credit: GotBlueMilk
This brings me to my current car: the E92 335is. The 335is is a car that I never knew much about, but I knew that they were pretty rare (editor’s note: the 335is was US market only and 3,597 were produced compared to 8,299 E92 M3 LCIs and 15,799 total E92 M3s US/Canada models). After doing some research, I learned that Joe Wierda was responsible for the 335is (editor’s note: read more about the story here)and, in a way; it’s the successor for the performance package E46 (ZHP). It wasn’t an M3, but it was the highest performing standard 3-series that you could get and at the time was the last hydraulic-steering equipped 3-series. I happened upon a 2012 335is with 39,000 miles and some Dinan modifications with no accidents and a complete service history in Alpine White over black just like my ZHP. It was a done deal and I named her Chloë.
When I bought the 335is, and not an M3, my group of friends gave me a lot of shit. They may have been right in saying for the track an M3 would be much, much better, but for me, the turbo equipped 335is made more sense for me. Fast forward a few months and I started to realize that while the 335is was an amazing car, it had its weaknesses also. The rear end had more floatiness than I liked, and suspension overall was a little soft. After a lot of research, I purchased Ohlins Road & Track coil overs, M3 rear subframe bushings, front and rear M3 control arms, front and rear tension and control arms and Vorshlag camber plates. I took the car for a drive with the Golden Gate Chapter of the BMW CCA (editor’s note: hey, that’s us!)and to say the car had a transformation would be an understatement. My friend Adam Mahoney drove the car recently and his impression of the car was that it is fast and smooth. To quote him directly, “Chloë is cool, calm, and collected!”
Check out Chloë on Instagram @Chloe.The.IS and if you listen to podcasts, listen to Everyday Driver episode 345 for my car debate on modifying Chloë or replacing it with an M3. The discussion begins at 40:45.