A quick look on the spec sheet revealed that our test car had so many toys for us to play with: eight forward gears, an adaptive steering, as well as an adaptive chassis, so when we got our hands on its key, we were dying to take it on the open road.
The 3-Series has always been about the performance and this new generation is just stunning. Just think about it - We’ve got a two-liter diesel engine on a car that weighs as much as a hot hatch with two or three people on board and yet its 0 to 62 mph time falls just half a second (actually it’s 0.6 seconds for the automatic) behind the 7-second benchmark of the aforementioned hot hatch segment.
OK, BMW is believed to declare smaller outputs than its engines actually offer in order to offer impressive acceleration times, but who cares? All we know is that we were driving a sedan with an 184 hp diesel that not only accelerates quick when using a standing start, but also performs well above 124 mph (200 km/h) and can hit a top speed of 146 mph (235 km/h).
And it’s not just the numbers - the way in which the vehicle feels when you’re driving it fast almost make you forget that you’re burning oil. The engine is more than happy to devour the rev counter and goes over 5,000 rpm.
And the eight-speed torque converter automatic is great too. In the auto mode, it offers smooth shifts that make the car an ideal long trip partner and if you want to drive the vehicle hard it will follow you orders and even anticipate some of them.
However, using a single turbo to squeeze 184 hp out of a two-liter diesel engine and a torque converter to change gears does bring certain limitations in the form of lag. If you drive the car in any way from one to seven tenths, you won’t feel this, but when you want more, you’ll have to deal with a certain delay.
Fortunately, there is a way to tackle this on the open road. We drove the car through some delicious canyons and uses the manual mode of the auto ‘box to keep the engine above 2,500 revs. This way, the power was always there when we needed it.
So, if you want to drive the 320d hard, forget about the kick-down function, use the manual to keep the engine in the correct rev area.
On the center console, next to the gear shifter, you find a button that changes the entire car. This offers four modes (Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport +), which control the engine, gearbox, suspension and steering.
Keeping it in Comfort, we managed to cover all sorts of roads in a pleasant manner, with the driving surface imperfections being filtered well and the body being kept under control. Thus, the 320d is perfectly suitable for comfortable long distance travel and we can tell you that we didn’t feel tired at all after spending many hours in the car - the only complain we had was due to the non-perforated leather.
While using the Sport + mode through the corners, the vehicle showed willingness to follow orders and the perfect 50:50 (the actual value is very close to this) weight distribution helped a lot. We only felt a slightly unpleasant body roll at the limit, but this was due to the beefy side walls of the winter tires our test car was fitted with.
We started this article by stating the obvious: the 3-Series is an excellent dynamic performer. Well, there’s also another important side of this car, aside from the aforementioned comfort
, which is just as obvious - it’s excellent efficiency. BMW promises a highway efficiency of 3.9 liters per 100 km (60 US mpg) and we achieved an overall open road figure of 6.5 liters per 100 km (36 US mpg).
Before you point out that the difference between the two is a pretty hefty one, we have to explain that our test included parts such as full-throttle overtaking maneuvers, cornering abuse, and even a bit of drifting (yes, the F30 320d is also suitable for hooning), so we were far from using an economical driving style.Continue reading
Hold on, Mary would like to say something...
You know I have a sweet spot for Bimmers and since this one is red I can tell you I love it. It looks just like a BMW should - mean. One look into its headlight and you just know that you don’t want to mess with it. However, it’s got a pretty strange tech side: why in the world would you need eight gears - aren’t six enough? And why does that system that stops the engine at the traffic lights have to use “on” as a default setting?
Read the full opinion and flame the editor →