What is it?
Following our overseas drive, this 330d offers our first taste of BMW’s new compact estate on home soil, and also our first chance to sample a six-pot diesel engine in the sixth-gen 3-series.
At launch, there is also a pair of two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged cars available: the 181bhp 320d oil-burner and 242bhp 328i petrol option. Very soon, lesser versions of the same engines will wear 316d, 318d and 320i badges and offer 114bhp, 141bhp and 181bhp respectively, as in the F30 saloon.
What's it like?
Our cosseting 330d Luxury is one notch below top dollar at £37,200, though a staggering options tally adds a third more. We’ve previously established the Touring’s practical credentials – an electric boot with separately opening rear window, 40:20:40-splitting rear seats, and front and rear parking sensors are standard-fit for the moment – but reversing and surround-view cameras, roof rails and added storage nets also comprise a (small) portion of our car’s extras. A £700 electric towbar would add further utility.
Power is up just 12bhp over the last 330d Touring to match the 530d estate’s 254bhp, and still peaks at 4000rpm, but torque jumps 29lb ft and chimes in 250rpm earlier than before at 1500rpm, with maximum twist still available to 3000rpm. The new, compulsory, eight-speed auto gearbox’s two extra cogs may explain why weight drops by just 10kg despite mass-saving tactics elsewhere, but performance and fuel consumption both improve markedly: 0.7sec is knocked off the 0-62mph metric, while the F31’s claimed urban economy matches the E91 auto’s combined figure at 44.8mpg. Overall returns improve by nearly a quarter to 55.4mpg, while emissions drop from 165g/km of CO2 to 135g/km, easily beating the last car’s manual choice into the bargain.
That’s no doubt aided by standard-fit start-stop, but the single chassis wag during shutdown and ensuing vocal start-up shimmies soon wear thin in incremental traffic. Idle is bassy but not intrusively loud, while rising revs produce a purposeful, but still obviously oil-burning thrum, with lots of turbo whistle off-throttle. When cruising, the engine is barely audible, revealing some roar and whine from the 18in runflats. In torrential Autoroute rain, the 330d didn’t miss a beat, maintaining isolated luxury amongst the interior’s wood and leather and excellent stability. Brakes remained reassuringly short in pedal travel and sturdy in response.