A drive in some cold weather allows us to test the real-world capabilities of our xDrive 320D
Mark Tisshaw
27 November 2017

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.

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.

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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Driven this week

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.

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

Join the debate

Comments
21

14 March 2017
This review is so vague and provides so litttle information about this BMW. And this is the standard now for automotive journalism a mere hint of what the car may be like .... "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." but never will there be so much as a comparison with the other BMW mentioned. Instead you keep us in the dark. Silly.

14 March 2017
Yu autocribblers annoy me. You prattle on as if everyone was born with the intention of going hell for leather on two wheels round corners and lurid slides mimiking drifters round a round-about!! Get real please. 99.9% of readers here do not even try to do it. So can we please have serious tests and reporting. Meanwhile of course 4wd is always going to be more safe. Sad about the pollution of all diesels. They should be forced to stop production NOW not when our children are dying

what's life without imagination

14 March 2017
Pitifully inept article; March 14, 'Winter almost here'? I won't be back, you've lost another reader.

marineboy

14 March 2017
This got my goat too. The article was staggeringly vague, not to mention the references to a Discovery Sport that isn't in any way a natural car to compare this with. More often than not, Autocar, readers are left wondering if your Editor does any actual editing. You know, reading journalists' output with a critical eye as to content, language, grammar and general sense.

14 March 2017
It does make you wonder how 'normal' people drive their 'normal' cars manage to drive anywhere ! I have no doubt that 4 wheel drive can be a boon in snow and ice, but most drivers take account of the conditions and do not need to buy something like this.

14 March 2017
It does make you wonder how 'normal' people drive their 'normal' cars manage to drive anywhere ! I have no doubt that 4 wheel drive can be a boon in snow and ice, but most drivers take account of the conditions and do not need to buy something like this.

14 March 2017
Reads like it has been plagiarised from a local rag that was printed in November.

14 March 2017
I have never heard anyone, especially a car journalist, compare an SUV with a saloon before! Totally pointless comparisons...

14 March 2017
Filler…nothing more. Amateur hour is back again...

14 March 2017
This is not good journalism. I live in Norway, and drive for half of the year on low friction surfaces in a front wheel drive low slung car, as does most of the rest of the population of the Nordic countries. We do it with winter tyres, not 4 wheel drives (some exceptions, granted). If Autocar would have the balls to do a winter tyre test, most people would realise that its much safer, much cheaper, and much more effective to spend £400 on winter tyres, than optioning £1500 of 4 wheel drive. But the car manufacturers wouldn't like that would they.... ....oh no.....

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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

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week