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 Last seen 9.11.16
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