BMW has put the fun back in driving with a sporty coupé that has a kick in the tail, says Sean O'Grady. A team of readers also take it out for a spin

Price: £33,420
Engine: 3-litre six cyl: 306bhp@5,800rpm
Performance: 155mph; 62mph in 5.5 secs; 30mpg
C02: 228g/km
Worth considering: Vauxhall Monaro; Audi TT; Alfa Coupé; Porsche Cayman

According to the blurb, "BMW has a long tradition of four-seat coupés dating back to 1937. The principle has always been the same: graceful elegance married to sporting driving behaviour. There is much more besides, of course, but these two characteristics are the prerequisites for any successful BMW coupé."

If that's the case then, to my eyes at least, BMW only scores half marks for this latest application of its automotive principles. For while BMW's two-door saloons have been dubbed "coupé" for some years now, I've never been completely convinced that they weren't just, well, two-door saloons (with a bigger price tag).

At least this new shape is an improvement on the last generation, but I still find the "coupé" tag unconvincing. It's just not sexy enough to properly deserve that title. The Peugeot 407 Coupé does a better job, for example. Still, the 335 Coupé is striking, and grows on you - familiarity breeding respect, perhaps.

When it comes to the second element of the BMW coupé philosophy, this six-cylinder coupé is much more the part. Indeed, I was quite taken aback on first acquaintance with just how "old school" this machine is. You don't have to be very careless to have that back end twitching around behind you, even in perfectly dry conditions.

It's just not what you expect in a modern piece of machinery, even one as powerful as this. It is much more lively, I have to say, than a Jaguar XK or even an Aston Martin Vantage under the same provocation. For some, that will be alarming; for others, a welcome return to older rear-drive "sporting" values.

The old complaint against generations of BMW 3-series saloons (and their antecedents) was that they were "tail happy", especially in the wet.

For the most part, BMW has spent the past two or three decades engineering its cars to be ever more predictable and safe, but there have always been a few lairy exceptions such as this one, seemingly engineered just to show that the Bavarians haven't forgotten their roots or their sense of fun.

The key to the character of this car is its engine, an all-aluminium straight six. BMW claims this is the first engine in the world with two, smaller, turbochargers fitted in place of the usual one, ensuring superlative power delivery right across the rev range.

It's right. Peak torque arrives at a mere 1,300rpm and is maintained until 5,000rpm. That alone is enough to qualify it as a worthy member of a long BMW tradition. It deserves to succeed.

Leo Doyle, 46, Housing manager, Ladybank, Fife

USUAL CAR: RENAULT MEGANE 1.6 DYNAMIQUE

This car takes a bit of getting used to. I had two major distractions to contend with. The footwell appeared to have been designed for the smaller shoe size, resulting in foot contortions while braking and changing gear. The second distraction was the multifunctional navigation/climate control/entertainment system controlled by a knob between the front seats. It probably looked like a good idea on paper. So the actual performance of the car was the highlight of my time with it. This car is pure speed, with smooth gear changes and swift acceleration. Cornering did sometimes lead to rear-end roll, but on the open road this car is in its element.

Chris Pashley, 65, IT consultant, Chester

USUAL CAR: BMW 320 SALOON

This is a wonderful car, happy around town or on the open road - so smooth. It has power and braking to spare, pleasing the keen driver or cosseting the more sedate ones who want a superbly built car but with tremendous reserves of braking and acceleration. This BMW coupé is a revelation; it feels so solid on the road and just begs to be driven. It took me a few moments to acclimatise myself to the controls, but this was easy because everything is where you expect it to be. The seats are comfortable, with just the right amount of support. And in the front, having your seat belt handed to you by the "belt butler" is an added luxury.

Mike Wright, 61, Chartered accountant, Edinburgh

USUAL CAR: MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS ESTATE

In the 1980s I was fortunate enough to have a string of BMW 323 and 325 cars and spent most of the decade with a smile on my face. As the Nineties progressed, my passion for the marque diminished, and with the arrival of stylist Chris Bangle it was finally extinguished. But this new car proved to be serious fun. It accelerated (without turbo-lag) with a spine-tingling induction roar from the straight six unit, accompanied by a scrabbling from the rear as the electronics allocated the 300bhp and 260lb/ft of torque to the rear wheels on the greasy road surface. In the cabin, the quality materials and nicely weighted controls are beautifully blended. Well done, BMW.

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