BMW 320d - Road Tests - Motoring - The Independent

BMW 320d

Can BMW live up to its old slogan with the new 3-series?

Price: From £27,080 (on sale February)
Engine: 1,995cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbodiesel 184bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox (eight- speed auto optional), rear-wheel drive
Performance: 146mph, 0-62 in 7.5sec, 61.4mpg official average, CO2 120g/km

BMW's 3-series has often featured in the UK's top 10 bestselling cars list over the past decade, despite the car-maker long having been perceived as an upmarket brand. "The ultimate driving machine" – that's how BMW used to sloganise itself. Maybe people bought into that at face value, without actually knowing such an "ultimate" if it bit them on the nose. But the truth is that most recent BMWs, the marvellous M5 excepted, have been disappointingly ordinary to drive.

There was little wrong with the most recent 3-series, however, a car launched in 2005. Now, almost too soon it seems, it's time for a new 3-series. How could the outgoing one reasonably be improved, except to make it look more interesting? Will it be just another case of technology swamping the car that lies beneath?

Well, here it is, revealed to the world's motoring press in 320d and 328i forms, although greater and lesser engines will follow. In isolation the new 3 doesn't look massively different from the previous one, apart from a more bulbous bonnet and some sharper detailing between the headlamps and front grille, but it's a little larger, a little roomier and a little lighter.

Inside it returns to the "driver-centred" cabin once an essential part of the BMW vibe, with the centre console and dashboard shaped to direct functions in the driver's direction. The fit and finish are impeccable, and the central information screen has the look of a horizontally compressed iPad. Various equipment and trim combinations are rationalised as Modern (with instrument faces and key colour-co-ordinated with the interior trim), Sport and Luxury, with ES, SE and M Sport also offered as before.

BMW aficionados will be intrigued by the reappearance of the 328i name, because it once signified a 2.8-litre, straight-six engine and a promise of smooth, sonorous, powerful pace. Rear-wheel drive and six cylinders; that was the BMW dynamic motif. Time, however, moves on and if you want six cylinders in your 3-series you'll have to buy a 335i, which actually has a 3.0-litre engine plus turbochargers. Today's 328i is numerically nothing of the kind, having instead 2.0 litres and four cylinders. It also has a turbocharger and a plethora of modern design niceties, which together enable it to release an extraordinary 245bhp and a solid wall of pulling ability while returning just 147g/km CO2 on the official tests. With those figures you can forgive its four-cylinder sound.

This 328i is the keen driver's choice of the new range as so far sampled, but it's the 320d which is really BMW's star here.

The outgoing 320d was close to being the perfect saloon, for its pace, frugality and refinement. In these respects, the new one is similar. I tried both the 328i and 320d with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, which has almost too many ratios to make the paddleshift manual mode worth using but works well as the automatic it is intended to be, bar occasional surges in the 328i.

So far, so fine – but the real treat is the way the new 3-series, in either guise, steers with rock-solid precision and possesses the easy, natural, fluent balance that always used to be a BMW's blessing. These are crisp, agile cars, but they also ride smoothly and quietly even in the firmest setting of the optional active dampers. They represent a return to BMW's form, properly "premium" in more than just superficialities. And, praise any deity who may be interested, they still have a conventional handbrake. Other car-makers please take note.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Manager with some Agile experience

    £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

    Data/ MI Analyst

    £25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

    Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

    Project Manager (upgrades, rollouts, migrations)

    £350 - £425 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager - 3 mont...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week