When you drive a Mustang or a Lamborghini, the menace of the engine is apparent as soon as you start the ignition. The roar of both cars is unmistakable and, even when the car is idling, it sounds like there is a sloth of angry bears fighting underneath the bonnet. The BMW 335i Coupe doesn't quite make the same animalistic noises as a Mustang or a Lambo, but when I picked it up from BMW's Khalidiya showroom and promptly got stuck in Thursday night traffic, there was a pleasing sound coming from the front. The 3.0L inline six twin turbo was just biding its time.
The best way to describe it is a "purrble" - part sly feline purr, part rumbling burble. Even though I was crawling between the lights on 32nd Street, the purrble pulsated away. It was not enough to scare the horses but just enough to give me a sneak preview of what the car was capable of on the open road. Like the old stereotype of the staid, bespectacled librarian who everyone knows is the wild child of the party once the library has closed for the day, so the 335i unleashes its inner beast once it is free from the shackles of tedious traffic.
Although, unlike the librarian, the exterior of the 335i is openly sexy rather than subtle about its mischievous intent. With the top up, the long, lean lines of the two-door body and flattened angle of the roof mark it out as a head-turner, especially in the rich tomato red shade of my test car. Put the roof down with the button inside - a tad slower than the Saab convertible, but still a pretty efficient operation - and it is a shameless attention seeker. It is then that the red and black leather seats are on show for all to see, and once you put your foot down and the purrble becomes a howl, it wouldn't matter if it was Pamela Anderson or Pam Ayres behind the wheel. People are going to stare and, if they are even slightly inadequate, try and race you. Within five minutes, a Nissan Altima tried to take me on. I whizzed effortlessly past with a cry of "Mate, you're only driving a Datsun!" as he vanished from my rearview mirror.
A wild U-turn gave me controlled but exciting oversteer, and dragging off lesser cars at the lights showed off the impressive torque. My passenger smiled and wasn't missing the comparatively unexciting ride of his Jeep or my Pajero. It is the perfect time of year for roof-down motoring and, whenever I am fortunate enough to test out a convertible here, I am always amazed at the number of convertibles I see on the roads with the roofs resolutely snapped shut. Taking advantage of the brilliant weather, I slathered on the sunscreen and drove from Abu Dhabi to Dubai with the roof and my foot down the whole way.
On the one curve for the whole trip - the sweeping 37B Dubai exit on to the Sheikh Rashid Highway - I was able to take it on at 80kph without once feeling the urge to nervously brake. Once on the motorway, the engine sang with delight at high speeds and I used the gearbox in manual mode so I could easily engine-brake rather than slam on the anchors. The 335i has the same chunky paddle shifters as other BMWs and they are a bit awkward for my small hands, so I shifted gears on the console instead.
I probably should have plugged my iPod in and cranked it up loud, as befitting this look-at-me car, but instead I twiddled the dial in the centre console and, like a nerd, selected BBC World for my drive to Dubai. This proved to be a worthy test for the stereo. Even at high speed with the roof down and the wind in my ears, I could hear the articulate tones of BBC World perfectly. By the time I arrived in Dubai, I was up to speed on topics as diverse as the possible closure of independent Islamic schools in Britain, whether the European Union is at all effective and the opening of a memorial to Freddie Mercury.
As well as stimulating my mind and enjoying a powerful car, the ergonomic leather seats meant I arrived without needing a chiropractor. Some sport-inspired car seats are actively uncomfortable, but the multi-adjustable nature of the 335i's seats means that, whether you are leggy and lanky or short like I am, you'll find a natural driving position. It was very difficult for me to hand the 335i back to BMW. Indeed, as I pulled into the showroom when it was time to part company, I am sure I heard it purrble. email@example.com