They’re busy in Germany - as well as driving European economic reform, they’re still driving the world’s prestige compact sedan market. So the arrival of an all-new BMW 3 Series is always watched closely, not just by rivals down the road at Mercedes-Benz, but companies globally with aspirations to sell into this segment.
Why? Well simply the 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class are the benchmarks – always have been and always will be.
There’s never been a bad 3 Series and this model still represents a massive chunk of BMW’s global sales. Just a bit of pressure then for BMW’s stylists and engineers as they developed the new generation model lineup.
BMW 320d Overview
The sixth-generation BMW 3 Series debuts stunning new looks, more interior space and the all-turbocharged petrol lineup brings reduced fuel consumption. Car Showroom has just tested the latest BMW 320d diesel.
Our test car was the ‘Modern Line’ (others are ‘Sport’ and ‘Luxury’). ‘Modern’ brings $3,100 worth of extra goodies to the 320d.
Dimensionally, the latest BMW 3 Series is larger – 93mm longer overall and 50mm longer in the wheelbase – hence the extra interior room. Both front and rear tracks are also wider.
The 320d is stickered at $60,900 – identical to the cent to the Mercedes-Benz C200 CDI.
BMW 320d Engine
BMW 320d’s 2.0-litre ‘TwinPower Turbo’ four-cylinder turbo diesel engine shares the same architecture as the smaller 318d and both are developments of the previous generation’s diesel. BMW’s aims for the latest diesels were complicated – reduced fuel consumption but no reduction in performance.
This has been achieved – the BMW320d delivers 135kW of power at 4000rpmand 380Nm of torque from as low as 1750rpm while returning 16 per-cent better fuel consumption (4.5l/100kms European combined cycle). Auto Start/Stop (a first in this class BMW claims) and Brake Energy Regeneration are standard.
Also helping reduced fuel consumption is the standard eight-speed automatic transmission.
BMW 320d The Interior
All-new 3 Series, all-new interior and this time BMW’s stylists have gone contemporary. Sure there is some familiarity, but the sixth-generation 3 Series is unlike any other and also offers more space (15mm more legroom and 8mm more headroom for those in the rear) plus extra practicality thanks to a 40/20/40 split-fold rear seat – using that versatility it passed our golf club test.
Immediately noticeable, our BMW 320d featured a centre-mounted free-standing 6.5-inch colour screen for the iDrive system (entertainment, navigation etc). The iDrive controller is mounted on the centre console.
Below the screen are the familiar BMW controls for the climate control.
As usual with BMW, the driver is well catered for – instruments and controls are angled towards the driver and the combination of steering wheel and seat adjustment affords a nice, sporty driving position.
BMW 320d Exterior & Styling
Stylish good looks no doubt, but also a focus on reduced fuel consumption with many aerodynamic enhancements for the all-new BMW 3 Series. The drag coefficient is down to 0.26 thanks to changes like a forward-slant for the hallmark BMW kidney grille and some vents under the headlights.
The latest BMW 3 Series adopts a wider, lower stance (highlighted by the narrow grille and raked headlights) and adds some muscle with bold character lines on the side. At the rear, the distinctive new look is accentuated by stylish new tail-lights (in the usual ‘L’-shape of course).
Our 320d test car ran stylish 18-inch alloy wheels which combined with the overall low stance for a nice high-performance look.
BMW 320d On The Road
BMW’s reputation amongst enthusiast drivers is enhanced with the latest 3 Series. Our 320d was a delight over our high-speed mountain roads test route, exuding even better steering response, ride and handling than the previous fifth-generation 3 Series.
Flicking the centre console ‘Driving Experience’ switch to the ‘Sport’ mode brought noticeably sharper engine/transmission/steering response (plus revised Dynamic Stability Control limits) and the 320d got down to business just as you expect from a BMW. It’s the details which count – self-shifting the eight-speeder as you decelerate into a turn, the positive initial steering response and mid-corner balance…well it’s a BMW, need we say more?
A special mention for the updated 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. Yes, there’s 16 per-cent better fuel consumption than the previous generation but still 135kW/380Nm on-tap. It sounds different – a purposeful growl – and really delivers some urge when pressed hard.
And of course, refinement is top-shelf. In fact some passengers were surprised when told we were driving a diesel.
Around town the BMW 320d – like its Audi and ‘Benz rivals – delivered the usual German tautness.
BMW 320d Challenges
A few times in crawling peak-hour traffic the combination of turbo four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic was caught-out and throttle response wasn’t instantaneous.
BMW 320d The Competition
Premium European sedans are a classy bunch and the BMW 320d squares-off against some credentialed rivals.
Mercedes-Benz C200 CDI is priced identical to the BMW 320d and there’s little to separate them under the bonnet (135kW/270Nm for the 320d and 100kW/330Nm for the ‘Benz). The latest C-Class is much improved in on-road dynamics and matches the BMW 320d in that department - so as always it comes down to a detailed check of models/inclusions and specifications (our BMW 320d was the ‘Modern’ grade).
Audi A4 2.0 TDI must be on your shopping list. At 105kW/320Nm, Audi’s 2.0-litre turbo diesel is in the mix for performance, the $55,400 price tag is appealing and the A4 is actually in front of both 320d and C200 CDI for interior space.
BMW 320d Verdict
Priced from $60,900, the BMW 320d presents a tantalizing treat for buyers in this league. Rival styling departments should note carefully how BMW continues to evolve the basic 3 Series DNA while providing outstanding new looks.
And it’s the same inside – some familiar BMW cues but an altogether contemporary look which oozes class.
And there’s ‘smarts’ too - the latest 3 Series, highlights BMW’s brilliant engineering. Much lighter than the previous model, the latest 3 Series all-turbo engine lineup provides a sportier response sure to be appreciated by enthusiast drivers.