Currently reading: BMW 320d xDrive long-term test review: handling test
A drive in some cold weather allows us to test the real-world capabilities of our xDrive 320D

One of the key things we wanted to find out with this all-wheel-drive 3 Series was how well it could play the role of everyday winter hack.

The best way to describe the car is sure-footed; BMW has subtly altered the 3 Series formula to take the edge off the handling in favour of a more rounded package. With a smooth, torquey diesel, an automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive,leather seats and a thick-rimmed steering wheel, BMW has created a near-peerless all-round cruiser that’s hard to fault as an everyday proposition – even if the top level of dynamic sparkle is lacking.

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Reader Gavin Hall, a serial 3 Series owner who is currently driving a 320d xDrive Touring, contacted me to describe his car as “safe, efficient and reliable”, but admitted he wouldn’t get out of bed on a Sunday morning just to drive it for pleasure.

He’s right: this isn’t the 3 Series for a Sunday driver, rather one you’re happy to use from Monday to Friday, once the de-icer has done its work.

BMW 320D XDRIVE M SPORT

Price £32,910 Price as tested £42,270 Economy 43.1mpg Faults None Expenses None 

PREVIOUS REPORTS: 

A flaw in the xDrive’s otherwise impressive everyday usability: the turning circle is dire. And it’s something I have to deal with three times a day: twice negotiating our oh-so-tight multi-storey car parkin Twickenham and the other at the end of the cul-de-sac I live down. It’s not just me, either. Reader and 320d xDrive driver Gavin Hall has got in touch with the same observation.

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

A run from London to West Sussex and back via lanes liberally sprinkled with leaves, mud and other low-friction substances provided a timely reminder that there are more benefits to having four-wheel drive on a car like the 3 Series than just extra traction under acceleration.

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Our 320d xDrive felt rock-solid and surefooted, but whether it was more rock-solid and surefooted than a rear-drive 320d would have been is hard to say without a back-to-back comparison. It certainly inspired confidence, which can only be good. The 320d’s xDrive system divides drive 40/60% front to rear under normal conditions but can send 100% of drive to either axle if needed.

Hard acceleration on a slippery surface is interesting; there’s a tiny bit of slip (unlike that of my Land Rover Discovery Sport, for example) before drive is shuffled around and full traction is found, and the driver can feel what’s going on through the steering, just a little. The steering is slightly sticky at times, but that could be to do with the way the electric assistance is calibrated rather than the fact that the car is all-wheel drive.

The BMW may have the traction of an all-paw SUV, but it doesn’t have their ability to soak up potholes. In Sussex, the 320d – on 19in alloys and low-profile tyres – slammed into two unseen craters with a level of violence that I haven’t experienced with the Discovery Sport. No obvious damage was done to alloys or tyres, but the impacts were painful enough that we’ll keep an eye on them.

Clearly there are more suitable cars for coping with British roads than a low-slung, big-wheeled saloon, four-wheel-drive or not.

BMW 320D XDRIVE M SPORT

Price £32,910 Price as tested £42,270 Economy 43.1mpg Faults None Expenses None 

Read our previous reports here

First report

Four-wheel drive issues

Mark Tisshaw

mark-tisshaw-autocar
Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

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From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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NavalReserve 18 December 2017

Tuffty's right

I agree with most of Tuffty's remarks. The power of the 335D is just so accessible and 90% of the time on the road you don't miss the last few per cent of the handling finesse of a 320D sDrive.

However, last week the xDrive managed to get me down my sister's quarter mile private drive when it was covered in 8 to 12 inches of snow which wouldn't have been the case with my 320D

 

xxxx 27 November 2017

Has it's benefits

X drive would save me from pushing my neighbours 1 series off his slightly sloping drive in the morning following the slightest snowfall.

odie_the_dog 7 December 2017

You're more generous than me.

You're more generous than me.

I'd just drive off laughing, knowing that whilst my car doesn't have an aspirational twat image, it's far more capable.

odie_the_dog 27 November 2017

All X-drive does is provide

All X-drive does is provide more amusement for those of us who can actually drive in bad weather as we watch the aspirational little twats who buy BMW's go sliding off the road at a much higher speed than they would have done in a 2wd version (which they would have just been piroutting around the car park) because "it's got 4 wheel drive so it means it won't have a problem wiv snow and ice innit"......

(Un) Fortunately such people don't understand the basic laws of physics. 

Incidentally the best car I ever drove in the snow was my wife's old Honda Jazz - reason? It weighed about the same as a crisp packet, had skinny little tyres, forgiving handling and a far less power than the chassis was capable of handling. It easily showed up far more expensive machinery in such conditions.