BMW 320d xDrive M Sport Saloon road test report and review: We have a look at a popular BMW model, but now with xDrive confidence. DAVID HOOPER finds it attracts lots of attention.
IT’S funny the effect some cars have on other road users. Drive something small and low powered, and you can be bullied by big SUVs and executive cars, but this week’s test car, the new BMW 320d, seemed to have an invisible protective bubble around it.
Resembling a menacing stealth car from a psychological thriller, our all-black test car, with its black wheels and very darkly tinted windows certainly caught people’s attention. Drive it at 70mph on the motorway and nobody dared to overtake in case it was a police car. They would catch up slowly and sit in the outside lane and edge past, until they saw it was me at the wheel, and not a traffic cop. Similarly, catch other vehicles up, and they almost jumped out of the way.
The new BMW 3 Series range is the seventh generation which debuted at the Paris Motor Show. Prices start from £33,610 on the road, but our test car, with its substantial list of extras totted up to a hefty £48,000, all but a few quid!
So what do you get for your money? Well quite a lot actually, and overall it’s a very accomplished piece of kit, especially with the X-Drive system which provides excellent levels of grip in all conditions.
The interior, for a 3 Series, is surprisingly spacious and feels roomier than previous generations, let’s face it, everything’s getting larger these days, including my waistline, but that’s another story! It was finished in an attractive brown leather, which you could be forgiven for thinking was a throwback to the 70s, but it actually looked good and attracted compliments from my passengers.
Externally it’s classic BMW 3 Series, with instantly recognisable styling. The new look lighting fore and aft looks great, and the rear lenses were dark smoked, following the general theme. However the grille at the front was a bit rattly when prodded with a finger, and some of the interior plastics don’t have the quality feel that they once did.
The inside is well equipped and topped off in this case with an excellent Harman Kardon sound system. The car also featured BMW’s gesture control, so if you like waving your digits or fists at things, then this is the car for you. To be honest, it seemed to work when it felt like it, and I found it much quicker to press the buttons on the steering wheel to adjust the volume or change radio station.
I loved the head-up display, which allows you to control the radio, telephone and sat nav without having to take your eyes off the road ahead, and the camera systems give impressively clear views of the car’s surroundings. I also liked the sunroof fitted to this example, something of a rarity these days. Another plus point was the Enhanced Bluetooth and wireless charging system, which allows you to just put your phone on a pad in the centre console to charge it without having to connect any wires.
On the road, the eight-speed gearbox is as smooth as they come, and there is a choice of several driving modes to suit your mood, including one which can be personalised to your preferences. The car drives very well, is comfortable and very competent – it’s still every bit a driver’s car.
Under the bonnet lies BMW’s famed two-litre diesel engine which offers an agreeable balance between enjoyable performance and respectable economy, achieving around 44mpg over my 600-mile week at the wheel.
There’s good torque and mid-range grunt, especially if you select the most appropriate driving mode – there is a noticeable difference when the sport mode is engaged, for example.
The new BMW 3 Series, is still an excellent all-rounder. It isn’t a cheap car, especially if you get carried away ticking the options boxes on the order form, but then it never was. But it is still one of the best to drive, especially with the X-Drive system which provides impressive levels of grip which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: BMW 320d xDrive M Sport Saloon
ENGINE: 1995cc, 190bhp four-cylinder diesel engine, driving four wheels through 8-speed automatic gearbox.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 142mph. 0-62mph in 7.4 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 47.9mpg.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 120g/km.
FUEL TANK: 57 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 33
PRICE: £39,380 (£47,855 as tested)
WARRANTY: 3 years/100,000 miles
• All data correct at time of publication.