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Can a six-pot diesel engine and bigger boot make the 3 Series even more appealing?

Contemplating the BMW 330d’s place in the motoring world as we move into a brand-new decade is a fascinating undertaking.

Just over 20 years have now elapsed since the first 30d-badged 3 Series rolled off the production line in Munich, Leipzig and Regensburg, kick-starting a phenomenon in the process. Those particular E46- generation models were by no means the first Threes to use oil-burning six-cylinder engines, but their arrival marked the birth of what could be one of the most multi-talented vehicle genres to date: the performance diesel compact executive car.

I’ve no idea how much longer cars in this class will be available with six-pot diesel motors, but it’ll be a sad day indeed when this one is gone. What a magnificent machine.

A sub-8.0sec 0-62mph time was a headline-grabbing statistic at the time. But of even greater significance was the 330d’s ability to merge that performance so coherently with competitive long-range economy, upmarket quality and BMW’s dynamic driver appeal. For the next two decades, successive iterations continued to build on and improve these highly appealing themes.

Fast forward to early 2020 and the automotive landscape has changed out of sight. Electrification is on the rise, mainstream cars are downsizing and shedding cylinders, and increasingly strict, environmentally driven means of taxation coupled with general consumer uncertainty have eroded the appeal of diesel cars – with the grander, pricier and more performance-oriented models suffering worse than most.

Simultaneously, the smaller capacity variants that might once have been considered the ‘lesser’ offering in the line-up are reaching new heights of competency and appeal, with greater performance, refinement and economy than ever. BMW’s own 320d is a case in point, having won our five-star recommendation last year.

Bearing all this in mind, the 330d needs to stand out as a truly well-rounded, alluring diesel flagship more plainly than ever. Can it? We allowed it to answer that question with the time-honoured joker of an added-practicality, extended-roofline Touring body thrown in.

The BMW 3 Series Touring range at a glance

A fairly expansive line-up, this, and it’s likely to grow further over the next few months. For now, though, the 3 Series Touring range starts at the 320i and progresses right up to the M340i xDrive.

Interestingly, it’s the more powerful 320d – as opposed to the 318d – that represents the entry point for diesel cars, as this is the only model that comes with a manual ’box as standard instead of the pricier eight-speed auto. Trim hierarchy is familiar BMW territory, starting at SE before moving up through Sport, M Sport, M Sport Plus and M Performance.

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Price £48,035 Power 262bhp Torque 428lb ft 0-60mph 5.5sec 30-70mph in fourth 5.8sec Fuel economy 42.0mpg CO2 emissions 142g/km 70-0mph 54.3m

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - BMW 3 Series Touring

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