If you consider yourself something of a BMW purist - chances are you do on this website - then the manufacturer's recent output might have you worried. That's not just more M SUVs either; have you seen the Vision iNext? Looks like the future is both autonomous and goppingly ugly.
And yes, sure, BMW must make cars that sell to the majority, and it turns out they want these things. Odd folk. However, we're the minority, that small but significant section of fans who look for E46 and E90 M3s on 18-inch wheels, clandestinely seek out E60 M5 manual footage and make very odd faces around M1 Procars. More than that we know, beyond the M cars, there were some great run-of-the-mill BMWs, and that seems to be being lost with each new model generation and the inexorable push towards automation.
So while the usual criticisms of increased maturity and dynamic aloofness were probably levelled at the F30 3 Series when it arrived in 2012, there's something quite appealing about this particular car as its replacement nears. No doubt it'll be more capable, more connected and more impressive than ever, but will you be able to buy a six-cylinder, rear-wheel drive, manual, Touring version of the next 3 Series? Probably not, yet that's exactly what we have here.
Yes, there are rare specs and then there are rare specs. This is a 335i Touring with the standard manual gearbox; that's perhaps more understandable in the coupe, but must be incredibly hard to come by in the estate. Moreover, its 335d contemporary - which again would probably make even more sense with the more practical Touring body - was xDrive only. The stars have aligned to give us perhaps the most interesting non-M specification of outgoing 3 Series. Hands up if you also got into BMWs thanks to a 3 Series of some kind, with a manual gearbox and six cylinders? Here's what might be one of the last.
It's not even that there's nothing like this 335i in the BMW range; a direct rival doesn't seem to exist anywhere. More than 300hp in a compact Audi or Mercedes will be automatic-only, and an Insignia VXR is all-wheel drive. Again, they exist for an obvious reason - most people want automatic, all-wheel drive fast estates - but, if you don't, this looks like an absolute peach. Oh sure, BMW manuals are known for being far from the greatest (and the ZF auto is very good), but how much more interesting is this car for having three pedals and a stick? Now it's out of warranty (and the turbo has been replaced), it might benefit from some more power, too...
At five years old and with 50,000 miles, this 335i has shed considerably more than half its value. It's a really nice spec - have you seen the red leather? - and will be sold with a fresh MOT and recent service. There really isn't another, either, with not a single other 335i manual Touring of this generation available on PH. There are 340i manual saloons, but all of the Tourings for sale use the auto. As a last bastion of the manual, six-cylinder BMW in a normal bodystyle, and with the added bonus of it being a very good 3 Series, there's a considerable amount of appeal in this 335i. Because sometimes the old ways are the best - aren't they?
SPECIFICATION - BMW 335i TOURING (F31)
Engine: 2,979cc, straight-six turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 306@5,800-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@1,200-5,000rpm
First registered: 2013
Recorded mileage: 53,000
Price new: £38,685 (Luxury saloon)
Yours for: £16,950