The 230-horsepower 328i moves more capably from stoplights than its 200 pounds-feet of torque would suggest. Highway passing power feels modest, however, and you'll want to pay close attention during your test drive if you're getting the optional six-speed automatic.
The turbocharged 335i moves swiftly at any speed. I found usable passing power as low as 1,300 rpm. Push harder, and a hint of turbo lag precedes a surge of power that doesn't build so much as it stays there, even as the tach needle heads toward its redline. If all-out punch is what you want, the 335i delivers more of it at any speed than its competitors.
The six-speed automatic that's optional on the 335i is different from the automatic in the 328i; I've driven only the stick-shift 335i. The diesel-powered 335d, meanwhile, comes only with a six-speed automatic. Upshifts and downshifts are relatively smooth, though the latter are rarely needed. With 425 pounds-feet of torque at just 1,750 rpm, the 335d can scoot comfortably around slower traffic in sixth gear -- uphill, if necessary. Diesel engines are renowned for their fuel efficiency, and proof comes in the 335d's EPA-rated 23/36 mpg city/highway.
Brakes are a BMW forte, and my tester's antilock discs didn't disappoint. The 328i has smaller brake discs than do the 335i and 335d.
My tester's xDrive all-wheel drive proved unflappable, with virtually no wheelspin on icy roads. City drivers should also take note: xDrive increases the 3 Series' turning circle from a relatively tight 36.1 feet to a so-so 38.7 feet.