4.4.2012 BMW 320d Sport review
Continuous development has kept BMW's 3-Series saloon at the top of the compact executive tree. The latest model is bigger and more spacious than its predecessor, but lighter and more agile with most versions quicker and more fuel-efficient.
Comfort, specifications and quality have been improved and there's a wider choice of trim levels and options. Fuel consumption figures, especially for diesel engine versions, seem magic compared to only a few years ago. Prices will start at £24,080 for the 316d ES, but initially the range begins with the 320d SE and 320d Efficient Dynamics models, both at £28,080. The 320d Sport I drove was £29,080.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
The 1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine delivers accelerative abilities and fuel economy in the cake and eat it category. With 184 bhp at 4,000 rpm and 280 lbs ft of torque from just 1,900 rpm you can reach 62 mph from rest in about 7.5 seconds while top speed is in the more than adequate area of 146 mph. Cane the BMW and it will still better 40 mpg, while less accelerating and braking and more cruising quickly starts the fuel consumption heading towards the official 61.4 mpg on the combined cycle. However, the engine could be more refined at times.
The days of 'tail happy' BMWs have long gone, well unless it's a really powerful model and you turn off the electronic stability system. With the steering uncorrupted by having to transmit engine power the rear-drive 3-Series feels evenly balanced and poised through corners. A stiffer body and an all-new chassis based on a 50mm longer wheelbase and wider tracks make the car feel both more stable and more agile. Still the keen driver’s choice in the compact executive class.
BMW designers have the skilful knack of making new models look more modern, more purposeful and yet as instantly recognisable as their predecessors and have really hit the bull's eye this time. The 3-Series presence is much greater than its actual size Though the car looks wider, it’s slightly narrower, but it is taller and longer and the glass area is bigger. BMW has flared the rear wheel arches more for a more aggressive look while deeper body creases catch the light. From the rear it is chunky and a longer wheelbase has brought a welcome increase in rear seat legroom. Luggage capacity (480 litres) is also more. Overall length is up by 93mm to 4624mm, and it is 1811mm wide in total.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Odd as it may seem front seat comfort could be better if you aren't an exact fit because the seat backrests adjusts in steps and there is no lower back lumbar support fitted as standard. Slimmer drivers might also want to narrow the side bolsters to reduce sliding around in corners.
BMW has simplified its once fearfully complex iDrive control for many of the car's functions and it's now located so that it's as easily usable by the front seat passenger as the driver. Ride comfort has improved over the previous range. Driver performance control is standard, allowing you to swop between four modes, from sport to economy. Suspension, throttle and stability systems are adjusted according to mode.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The true power of modern technology shows with this new 1995cc turbo-diesel engine which delivers official fuel consumption figures of 48.7 mpg round town and 61.4 mpg on the combined cycle. Granted, insurance is group 31 (out of 50) but with carbon dioxide emissions of 120 g/km, road tax is free for the first year and then only £30 a year. Plump for the automatic gearbox with its eight-speeds, and the CO2 reading drops to 118 g/km and fuel consumption improves fractionally to 62.8 mpg. The 3-Series comes with an unlimited mileage three-year warranty.
Weight has been cut by up to 50kg compared with the previous model and the aerodynamic drag (Cd) is down as low as 0.26. Automatic start-stop is fitted to all versions, manual and automatic, to save fuel in traffic queues, along with brake energy regeneration, 'on demand' control of engine ancillary components and tyres with less rolling resistance. Select EcoPro on the driver performance control and throttle mapping changes so a harder push is needed on the accelerator pedal for power. It also alters the manual gearshift points advised by the shift indicator, modifies the gearshift strategy on models with automatic transmission and even adjusts the power consumption of the climate control, heated mirrors and seats. BMW now has eight 3-Series models with CO2 emissions at or below 120g/km, reducing tax for those with company cars. The EfficientDynamics car uses longer gear ratios, reduced friction 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.
In addition to the usual ES, SE and M Sport versions, BMW now offer extra choice with Sport (like the test car), Modern and Luxury versions. Each has different interior and exterior design features and the Sport also has an additional 'Sport+' mode on the driver performance control. This is available on all four-cylinder models except the 328i and 320d EfficientDynamics. All models including ES (only available on 316d), gain increased standard equipment, including 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic air-conditioning, Bluetooth, BMW Professional radio with colour screen and iDrive, keyless starting, USB, multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening. SE (not on the 335i) adds different alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, two-zone air conditioning and a rain sensor with automatic light activation, for a premium of £850. Sport and Modern versions are priced £1,000 above the equivalent SE, while the difference between SE and Luxury is £2,500.
Model tested: BMW 320d Sport
Body-style: Compact executive saloon
Engine/CO2: 184bhp 1995cc four-cylinder turbo diesel / 120 gCO2/km
Trim grades: ES, SE, M Sport, Sport, Modern, Luxury
On-road price: Range from £24,080 Test car £29,080
Warranty: Three years/ unlimited miles
In the showroom: Available now
Review rating: 5.0 STARS
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