We drove the BMW 320d sedan: the icon of four door sportiness remains joyful as ever…

There are cars which are true benchmarks, and when it comes to a dynamic sedan, then the BMW 3 series is the absolute standard to which all others are judged. It embodies all BMW stands for, and it is also their most successful model. Therefore it is carefully honed to perfection by its maker with every new generation they build. The 3 series is now in its seventh generation, introduced at the Paris Salon last year. We can tell you, it is and remains a true joy to drive and own.

We drove the economical and smooth 2 litre Diesel unit, which has with 190 HP enough zest to let the car display its sportiness and handling.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW’s are all just about driving, and this certainly goes for the bestseller. It is laid out decidedly sporty, and this it lets you feel every meter of the way, certainly in the M version we tested. The suspension is taut, and transmits faithfully the road surface, and indeed, keeps you and your passengers well awake. The result is of course impeccable road manners, it just begs to be taken through the “esses” or two consecutive bends, so to say. The steering is also very precise, transmits the irregularities of the road to the palms of your hand, the variable i.e. progressive ratio feels “just right” and makes you a better driver than ever before.

Never mind the rather lively ride, this is a refined long distance traveller. It just begs to be driven at constant high speeds, and then it really comes into its own. This car is built for the fast Autobahnen, and yes you can regret with us that we don’t have these unrestricted speed stretches of tarmac here in our country.

This BMW is refined and reasonably quiet. The engine is virtually inaudible at any speed, wind noise is absent, only road/tire noise is heard, but never obtrusive, although classical music lovers have to turn the volume up a bit, depending on the road surface.

The BMW is of course perfectly stable at any speed, and is completely effortless to drive over (very) long distances. The seats are also reaching perfection with pleasant firmness and excellent lateral support. The new 3 series is also a quite roomy sedan, and adults can comfortably ride along in the back seats.

Just to continue here with some practical aspects, the boot has 480 liter capacity, and so leaves little to be desired.

Marvellous diesel power

BMW has nothing to learn any more when it comes to designing and building state of the art powertrains. This 2 liter diesel developing 140 kW/190 HP is a marvel of an engine. Utterly quiet, also thanks to excellent sound deadening, it boasts BMW TwinPower Turbo technology: it has a multi-stage turbocharging, a turbocharger with variable inlet geometry, common-rail direct injection with solenoid valve injectors (max. injection pressure: 2000 bar).

The result is pulling power of the highest order, with not less than 400 Nm of torque available between 1750 and 2500 rpm. Never ever are you at a loss of available power, and the alert and very smooth eight-speed Steptronic transmission sees to that. It adapts totally to your chosen driving style, and will change up or down immediately in response to how deep you push the throttle.

On top of that there are three driving modes to choose from, “eco-pro”, “comfort” and “sport”. The result is performance when you want it, and it is good to hear or read that 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 6,8 seconds, with a top speed of not less than 240 km/h. Mind you, that is just as fast as the iconic 3,8 litre Jaguar E-type coupé!

An average of 5,3 litres over 459 km, of which we coasted 14 km!

But of course diesels are also built to be efficient, and this the engine proved during our test: we clocked an average consumption of merely 5,3 litre/100 km. Given our smooth but rather fast driving style, this is nothing short of truly astonishing. We have to admit that we drove very quiet in town, and the transmission helped here choosing high ratios wherever possible, keeping the revs between 1000 and 1500 rpm, which resulted in very good consumption figures even in crawling slow urban traffic. So our consumption average was not pushed up too much due to this urban driving.

The engineers also succeeded in smoothening out engine vibrations completely under these urban speed driving conditions, no small feat with a slow running 2 litre diesel under the bonnet. Drivetrain refinement remained top notch in all these circumstances!

Alas we all know that diesel engines are now severely punished tax wise, inspired by environmental policies. Policy makers have to keep in mind however that diesel engines are a very adequate solution when it comes to reduce CO2 emissions…

The emission rating is Euro 6d-TEMP, CO2 emissions being 117-110 g/km.

Avant garde instrumentation and refined interior…

The “M” equipment version we drove not only warranted extra sportiness, it also brought state of the art virtual/digital instrumentation and driving/entertainment info on two digital screens. Intuitive to use, they provide a wealth of information in an avant garde layout which we liked over time.

Concert quality music, wonderfully displayed too…

They look really sharp, and we feel the same about dashboard and console layout and finish. The cabin looks elegant, clean and timeless. It gives the 3 series now a new found sense of luxury, enhanced by the dual tone colour scheme of the interior in our driven “M”equipment version.

The superb driving aids are also top notch. The usuals like lane assist and distance control are a “must” nowadays, and indeed perform very well. The overhead projection on the windscreen shows you also which driving aids are active, which avoids confusion for the sporting driver.

Conclusion

A formidable sporting saloon, which continues as the iconic and important benchmark in its class or segment. BMW has succeeded in taking its 3 series bestseller into another higher level of perfection and inviting sportiness, combining it with excellent workmanship, reliability, quality and style. This time, the sporting character is further enhanced and accentuated, making it a hallmark of the brand once again. Pleasure of driving, yes, the legend remains unbroken…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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