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That Toureg V10 diesel is the only other diesel I can think of that was brought to the U.S. market to make the diesel the high performance option, but that vehicle got pretty abysmal fuel economy from what I recall. So it seems that the 335d is the first performance oriented diesel that also offers really impressive fuel economy.
My third vehicle is a 2006 Mercedes-Benz R500. I purchased that as a relatively high performance and highly functional SUV alternative. Since I did not need off-road utility, I did not want to end up with a vehicle that was heavier and sat higher than necessary, and I also wanted adult sized space in all three rows of seats. I don't think the R-class is a beauty contest winner, but it sure is a nice vehicle for its intended purpose. Like you mentioned, I am quite happy having the large wagon/SUV/crossover/minivan/touring vehicle (whatever the R-class is) for when I need to haul people or large items, while having the BMW as a daily driver. And since I snagged one of the rare 5.0L V8 models, the Mercedes has extremely good power for such a large, heavy vehicle (especially combined with the seven-speed transmission), but it feels so slow and wallowing compared to the BMW, and the BMW burns exactly half the fuel.
I'm so looking forward to getting my car, maybe by xmas if I'm a really good boy.
I was very close to buying the Q7 TDI, but with two SUVs in the garage, it just did not make a fit.
I needed a better commuter car, thus the 335d was in order. I also considerd the new A3 TDI, but passed based on smaller size.
There is very limited selection of diesels out there today, and I've been waiting for years for the right one to be introduced to the US market. I was hooked on the Touareg V10 with bi-diesel when it first came out, but I think it was priced to far out there and to be honest I've never liked the look or feel of that hatchback SUV style.
I purchased the car on August 10th. I have put just shy of 5,000 miles on it in the last seven weeks. Given that I migrated to this car from a 2002 Audi S8 (which I still have), it certainly feels like a smaller car--for better and for worse. I love the driving dynamics. It simply blows away the Audi S8, which was at the time an $80,000 flagship sport sedan. But the 335d is obviously smaller all around. Since I frequently haul backseat passengers, I am pleased that the current 3-series does not feel two whole sizes smaller than the full-size Audi in terms of leg room and back seat comfort. But it is a bit smaller and noticeably narrower. I would never put a third passenger in the center backseat, for example. The Audi has an insanely large 18 cubic foot trunk that also has a full size 18" alloy spare wheel and tire beneath the trunk floor, so the 3-series definitely has less space there. However, the cold weather package gets me fold-down rear seats, so I can still put my real estate yard signs in the back of the car if I put the seat down (the signs would lie flat in the trunk of the Audi, leaving the back seat intact). I love the feel of the real wheel drive and the ideal weight distribution on the BMW, but the BMW's mega-torque sure would be nice to combine with all-wheel drive.
I love the high-res iDrive screen, but I am disappointed with the NAV system overall for its price. It is out of date compared to what is available for my $200 Garmin Nuvi, and it has several functional limitations, such as not allowing rural addresses to be entered. But it sure looks gorgeous, so it impresses passengers, even though it disappoints me functionally.
The engine is simply spectacular. While I could certainly appreciate the better 0 to 60 numbers delivered by the 335i, I strongly suspect that the 335d feels stronger in everyday driving where one is not winding the engine up to redline from every stop. I also think the phenomenal fuel economy, while still preserving spine-tingling performance, is awesome. In a typical mixed driving tank in my Audi S8, I would average 17 mpg on premium gas. In the 335d I average 28 mpg or so, while still having slightly faster 0 to 60 times than the 360 horsepower Audi delivers.