First DriveNew plug-in hybrid 3-series is claimed to return up to 131mpg with CO2 emissions of 50g/km
First DrivePractical 3-series estate loses some of the saloon’s edge, but engine and transmission impress with controlled pace and economy
What is it?
The 320d ED is part of a refreshed 3-series range, which only sees cosmetic (including new bumpers and lights) changes awarded to the coupe and cabrio.
However, the standard 320d models get a refreshed engine, with a new 1800bar common rail injection system and an extra 7bhp (for a total 182bhp) and an extra 22lb ft of torque, taking it up to a maximum of 280lb ft.
The standard 320d also gets the full compliment of fuel-saving Efficient Dynamics kit, including the ability to selectively ‘switch-off’ the electric power steering, oil pump and air-con compressor. Start-stop is also standard. The upshot is that the standard-issue 320d is good for a Co2 figure of 125g/km.
The 320d ED, however, has a de-tuned version of the 320d engine, with power reduced by 20bhp. Added to this is a package of additional engineering measures including a longer final drive ratio, lowered suspension front and rear and new aerodynamic wheel rims.
The upshot is that the 320d ED has fractionally slippier body (a Cd of 0.26 instead of 0.27) and Co2 emissions that fall to supermini levels of just 109g/km, a remarkable figure for a car of this size.
What’s it like?
We tried the 320d on the country roads around Munich and found it to be as expected of the 3-series: well balanced, wieldy and acceptably swift. However, the new engine is more vocal under acceleration that the best of its rivals.
Another unexpected benefit is that the 320d ED has a notably smoother engine than its sister car. That’s probably thanks to the new dual mass flywheel, which gets a pair of ‘Centrifugal Pendulum Absorbers’ to further damp out engine vibration.
Like all the 2010 3-series, both 320d models are starting to feel their age. The control weights are a little over heavy, the windscreen a little too close to the driver and the chassis, though well balanced, is a touch leaden in its responses.
We shouldn’t forget, however, that this leadenness is relative. The 3-series is rear-drive and has a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution, which gives the car an inherent handling advantage over front-drive rivals.
However, this particular 3-series was prone to both instability in strong side winds and occasional strong wind rustle from around the windscreen pillars. Even so, it’s a satisfying car to steer in nearly all conditions.
Should I buy one?
With the 320d ED costing the same as the standard-issue 320d SE in the UK, why would any buyer not take the more frugal (and slightly more refined) tax-busting model?
Indeed, the UK’s enthusiasm for the BMW 3-series (and the Treasury’s enthusiasm for taxing business drivers) should result in 60 percent of all the 320d EfficientDynamics models made for the European market ending up on UK roads.