It’s an impressive car, but does it need to be four-wheel drive?
Andrew Frankel Autocar
30 November 2016

The BMW i8 I usually report on in this space has been temporarily snaffled by my office-based colleagues, as well it should be: when something that brave, innovative and different comes to stay, it’s important that as many of us as possible have the chance to understand what it can and can’t do.

Which means the 320d of deputy ed Mark Tisshaw has been holidaying at my place in the Welsh borders these past few weeks. I am a huge fan of the oil-burning 3 Series and have been since the mid-1990s, when a 325tds was first to prove that the words ‘fun’ and ‘diesel’ no longer need sit as strangers in the same sentence. And for the breadth of their performance and fuel consumption envelopes, successive generations of 320d have been the best of the lot. Even now, I’d say the 320d remains the most capable real-world small saloon out there.

But not once in all those years have I thought one might be improved still further by the fitment of four-wheel drive. And after a few weeks in this xDrive-equipped 320d, I still don’t. Maybe I’d be grateful for it come the winter, but less so than I’d be for a set of tyres appropriate to the conditions. Indeed, the most obvious day-today effects of the four-wheel drive system are that it uses 10% more fuel and nudges it into a higher tax band.

I’ve never bought in to four-wheel drive as a safety system, because while cars so equipped are far better at gaining speed in poor conditions, they are no better at all at losing it. Just out of professional curiosity, I did throw it through some tight turns and was impressed by the way it kept its nose into the apex under power, but that hardly justifies the additional outlay and running costs.

So although I continue to live in a slight state of awe at just what a package the common or garden 320d continues to represent, it would be the cheaper, lighter, more frugal and tax-efficient standard rear-wheeldrive car I’d choose every time. 

BMW 320D XDRIVE M SPORT

Price £32,910 Price as tested £42,270 Economy 45.1mpg Faults None Expenses None Last seen 21.9.16

Read our first report here

Our Verdict

BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series' outstanding performance and handling makes it a complete and consummate all-rounder but then the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Guilia arrived

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Comments
10

30 November 2016
Very useful if you tow across fields from time to time or live in more remote parts of Britain throughout winter.
Day to day usage in summer less useful.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

30 November 2016
xxxx wrote:

Very useful if you tow across fields from time to time or live in more remote parts of Britain throughout winter.
Day to day usage in summer less useful.

Useful if like us, you live in country like the UK but regularly travel to places where all wheel drive is really useful, if not an absolute necessity. We've always had at least one of our cars equipped with all wheel drive. Even when we travel to the French Alps in the middle of summer you can sometimes find snow (and a lot of it) on the high peaks. In the winter it's usually metres deep.

30 November 2016
So it has better traction and handling than the RWD version, but because the braking is not improved (well, duh), this reinforces the writer's prejudice against AWD systems...

30 November 2016
So it has better traction and handling than the RWD version, but because the braking is not improved (well, duh), this reinforces the writer's prejudice against AWD systems...

30 November 2016
Munich is close to the Alps. There are plenty of rich, BMW-buying areas where AWD is expected due to frequent snow.

I agree that AWD isn't universally useful and that good winter tyres offer a better support, however in many of these key markets winter tyres will already by either a legal requirement or widely used. Winter tyres + AWD is what these markets demand.

What might surprise you is how good EVs are in the snow. My i3 (on winters) isn't that far off the Forester (on winters) unless the snow is so deep it starts to build up under the front. We'll be interested in how the i8 is in the snow.

30 November 2016
...will know that 4WD is the difference between getting home and putting your feet up, or getting out the car, removing the spade from the boot, chipping away around the rear wheels and hoping somebody with thick gloves on and a good back will give you a push.

30 November 2016
I tend to agree with the sentiment of the Writer re RWD, but would the negative aspect have been included in the Article Headline if the Car had been a Quattro?
Somehow I don't think so.

1 December 2016
What does this mean ..

" Price £32,910 Price as tested £42,270 .."

has it really lost that much in a few months

14 March 2017
[quote=mpls]What does this mean .. " Price £32,910 Price as tested £42,270 .." has it really lost that much in a few months[/quote] I take it that the base car is 32K but Autocar have chosen 10K of extras - including the 19" wheels they complain about...

1 December 2016
as 4WD has greater drivetrain drag :)

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