20.8.2012 BMW 320d EfficientDynamics [MY2012] review
BMW is top when it comes to engines that deliver power without large doses of carbon dioxide and the 320d EfficientDynamics model is the leader in its class. That said private buyers might prefer the identically priced and slightly quicker 320dSE if they are not desperate to go green and save every last gram of CO2/taxation penalty.
Cabin space in the rear has been welcomingly increased in this slightly longer car and ride comfort much improved providing you specify the variable damper control system. Reducing weight and using more lightweight components has made the 3-Series even more responsive for the keen driver. Prices of 3-Series models start at £24,880 for the 316d SE.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
For its EfficientDynamics Blue Performance 3-Series models BMW has detuned slightly the 184bhp 1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine you find in other versions to 163bhp. But as the same 280 lbs ft of torque is still available (from just 1,750rpm) you would need to jump from one to the other to detect any difference. A longer final drive ratio makes it easy to drive the car in a high gear at low engine revs. Acceleration to 62 mph takes 8.0 seconds (half a second slower) and top speed is down from 146 mph to 'only' 143 mph. Superb long distance transport.
Unless you are on snow or a slippery road the rear-wheel drive BMW 3-Series is a more alert and agile car to drive than Audi's equivalent A4 or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. There's a delightful balance and a sense of enjoyment as you unwind the steering after a corner's apex and squeeze on the power. Deeper tyre sidewalls have improved comfort, while an all-new chassis with a wider track (37mm front, 47mm rear) and a longer (50mm) wheelbase has increased stability too. Under normal conditions you would need to stamp on the power and turn off the electronic stability systems to make the back of the car slide.
Beauty is in the eye etc, but most people seem to find the looks of the latest generation 3-Series right up to the minute as well as attractive. It's easy to pick out on a crowded car park. 'Connecting' the headlights with the BMW grille makes the car look wider, though it's actually slightly narrower. It is longer (93mm) and surprisingly, slightly taller. There's a needed increase in rear seat legroom and luggage capacity has also been increased to 480 litres, both of which are good news for company car users forced to downsize from the 5-Series. In total, the cars is 4,624 mm in length and 1,811 mm wide.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
A car's comfort and how it goes increasingly depends on what vehicle modes the driver selects. With this model there is a choice of comfort, sport and eco pro which alters settings including suspension, accelerator and vehicle stability systems. You can order the car with an eight-speed automatic transmission in place of the six-speed manual with no increase in CO2 emissions.
The car rides less jumpily than before, partly a result of a change of tyres, but it seems to be a bit down to luck whether the shape of the driver’s seat suits you and backrest adjustment is not very precise. On a 180-mile journey I would have appreciated more lumbar support.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
A 180-mile each way trip to Devon showed the fuel efficiency of 320d EfficientDynamics with 60.2 mpg on the way there and 63.6 mpg in lighter traffic on return. Average speed rose slightly too, from 64 mph to 65.1 mph. The official combined fuel figure is 68.9 mpg with 55.4 mpg on the urban cycle. Carbon dioxide emissions of 109g/km slot the car into band B. First year road tax is nil, followed by £20 annually. Benefit in kind is just 15% for company car users, meaning a saving of £70.20 a month in tax compared to the identically priced 320d SE. Warranty period is three years with unlimited mileage.
BMW's 320d is economical by anyone's standards, but the EfficientDynamics model makes your fuel go even further. It uses longer gear ratios, reduced friction engine components and revised electronics to drop consumption to 68.9 mpg and just 109 g/km CO2. This means businesses which outright purchase can write off 100% of the car's cost against tax in the first year. Aerodynamic drag at cruising speeds has been cut to an impressive Cd of 0.26, and overall weight has been reduced by about 50 kg. Select EcoPro on the driver performance control when driving in urban conditions and the engine throttle 'mapping' changes. More pressure is then needed on the accelerator pedal to gain speed. The system also alters the manual gearshift points advised by the shift indicator on the instrument panel, adjusts the power used by the air conditioning and heated mirrors. On models with the eight-speed automatic transmission (£1,605 extra) the gearshift points are also adjusted in favour of economy. The EfficientDynamics version has a Next Green Car Rating of 31.
Standard equipment includes 16 inch diameter alloy wheels, central locking, cruise control, front and rear ventilated disc brakes with low brake pad warning, anti-lock brakes, cornering brake control, incorrect fuelling protection, heated windscreen washer jets, two zone air conditioning, electric windows and door mirrors, iDrive controller with eight favourite buttons, start-stop button with Comfort Go keyless engine start and auto start-stop deactivation button, steering column with manual reach and rake adjustment, multi-function three-spoke leather-rimmed steering wheel, radio with single CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, USB connection, Possible options include leather upholstery for an extra £1,265, metallic paint £610 and electric sunroof £870.
Model tested: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics
Body-style: Compact executive saloon
Engine/CO2: 163bhp 1995cc 4-cylinder turbo diesel / 109 g/km
Trim grades: EfficientDynamics, ES, SE, M Sport, Sport, Modern, Luxury
On-road price: Range from £24,080 Test car £28,080
Warranty: Three years/ unlimited miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 5.0 STARS
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