BMW 320d ED Sport Auto review
For the keener saloon car driver who wants to reduce his or her carbon footprint the BMW 3-Series is the place to go. Over six generations the 3-Series has defined the compact executive class. New engines, retuned suspension and new manual and auto transmissions deliver increased efficiency, greater power and better performance. This is a mid-life refresh of the sixth generation of 3-Series as it faces up to growing competition from Audi’s A4, Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class and the new Jaguar XE. Not as exclusive as they used to be.
Review by Russell Bray
BMW’s 2-litre turbo diesels deliver a brilliant blend of performance and fuel economy whether you pick the 114bhp 316d SE, the 148bhp 318d SE, the 161 bhp 320d ED Plus economy champion (when fitted with automatic transmission) or the 161 bhp ED Sport auto as tested here. Despite the badges and power outputs, all the engines are 1995cc. With maximum power at 4,000rpm and maximum torque of 295 lb ft at 1,750rpm acceleration is brisk and the car is sharp off the mark. It's a very smooth engine and doesn't feel economy biased in any way. The auto gear shifts are so smooth you don't feel the change. Acceleration to 62mph takes just 7.8 seconds and the car has a more than adequate top speed for our speed restricted land of 143mph.
BMW has set the handling parameters for the compact exec sector for 40 years and keeps managing to find slight improvements that keep the car ahead of rivals which now include the new Jaguar XE. With its even front to rear weight distribution and rear wheel drive it has confidence inspiring balance and good feedback through the steering wheel. Drive Performance Control lets you choose from comfort, sport and eco pro settings according to roads and driver desire. BMW says the chassis settings have been completely revamped but my advice would still be to tick the adaptive M suspension (£750) on the options list. There’s less crashing over potholes and the car rides better on rougher roads. You almost have two cars at the press of a button. But stay well away from the variable speed steering (£290). BMW claims steering precision has been improved but there seemed to be a dead feeling about the straight ahead; allegedly result of changes because Americans don’t like having to make small steering corrections.
This is a mid-life refresh of the sixth generation of 3-Series. Revised headlights include optional LED units which are even more efficient than xenon headlights. Cars with standard lighting have the headlights joined by two LED daytime driving lights on each side. At the front, broader side air intakes are integrated into the bumpers. At the rear, the new lights are full-LED units so the brake lights respond faster. Exhausts for the 320i and 320d models upwards now come with dual tailpipes. On Sport models, the bumper, air intakes and grille slats are high gloss black. The alloy wheels are also Sport design. Window frames are matt black as are door mirrors; unless body colour. Exhaust pipe finishers are black chrome. The car is slightly bigger so there's now enough head and legroom for rear-seat passengers. Foot room is an issue though for a centre passenger because of the transmission tunnel. Compared to a Ford Mondeo or a Skoda Superb the car feels cramped though and boot space, at 480 litres, is well behind these two. Length 4633mm. Width 1811mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
It's galling to spend £400 extra on sports seats, if you haven't chosen the Sport model, but in my experience that's what BMWs always need if you want to really enjoy the drive, the ride comfort and the handling (on the optional adaptive suspension). The steering felt a bit dead about the straight ahead position and the six-speed manual clutch is slightly notchy (as ever) along with the springy clutch (ditto). BMW maintains there is a bigger difference between the 'comfort' and 'sport' mode settings than before; but frankly this was impossible to verify on the limited drive available. Sport models and above get performance drive control, which allows you to alter the steering weight and accelerator response by pressing a button. If you are considering one of these £30k cars, make sure you spend plenty of time behind the wheel trying the various settings. Sport automatic transmission is an option for £1,690 but we have not had the chance to try it. Wind and road noise are quite low but there are quieter cars for cruising. The three-spoke leather rimmed steering wheel is a quality affair and general cabin quality has been improved. Families though beware, the doors don't open as wide as on many family hatchbacks and split-folding rear seats are an option.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
MW's latest even more fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines are mated with further improved manual and automatic transmissions (especially the eight speed automatic), brake energy regeneration and automatic engine stop-start to save fuel and reduce pollution in traffic. The 320d ED Sport test car returns 70.6 MPG on the official combined cycle but restricted driving did not give sufficient time or distance to establish real world figures. The experience of colleagues suggests 47 MPG to 51 MPG for gentler drivers. The model tested sits in tax band B with no first year road tax and then £20 thereafter. For tax free motoring, you will need the 320d ED Plus. Insurance is group 31. Warranty period is three years.
Headline figures for the new BMW 3-Series saloon are that eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission versions of the 320d ED Plus see CO2 emissions down by 10 g/km – two benefit in kind bands for company car users – to 99 g/km. In comparison Jaguar's 99 g/km XE is manual with the auto producing 104 g/km. Eco Pro mode also helps along with on-demand operation of ancillary units. This includes the coolant pump, the electronically controlled oil pump and electromechanical power steering which uses no electrical power when steering straight ahead. If the air conditioning is not being used, its compressor is automatically disconnected. The latest green touch uses the standard across the range satellite navigation. If the car is fitted with automatic transmission, a proactive 'driving assistant' system is available. This uses navigation data and route to predict the correct gear for the road ahead, to improving efficiency and performance. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 35.
All 3-Series models have satellite navigation, air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB digital radio, a USB connection and a trip computer. SE and Efficient Dynamics (ED) models are pretty well equipped with dual zone air-conditioning and automatic lights and wipers. Sport versions get extra chrome trim, a red panel for the dashboard and sports front seats. The M Sport models add M Sport logos, full leather seats, ambient lighting and a multifunction steering wheel. Luxury trim offers a more traditional executive-car feel, with leather upholstery and more sombre colours. The huge options list includes LED headlights £710, reversing camera £330, instrument head-up display £825, folding electric tow bar £850, electric glass sunroof £895 and split folding rear seats £325. You can also add adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and road-sign recognition.
Model tested: BMW 320d ED Sport Auto
Body-style: Four-door executive saloon
Engine/CO2: 161bhp 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel / 104 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Sport, Luxury, M Sport
On-road price: From £27,435. Price as tested £32,675
Warranty: Three years/unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars