Practical 3-series estate loses some of the saloon’s edge, but engine and transmission impress with controlled pace and economy

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.

The single twin-scroll turbocharger minimises lag well, offering impressive throttle response, unobtrusively marshalled by the smooth eight-speed gearbox that is more comfortable here than in the 328i. Likewise, variable weighting (standard) and variable ratio (optional) embellishments don’t taint the faithful and commendably feelsome electric steering.

In damp conditions, full-bore starts interrupted traction, but on the move on twisty B-roads grip was strong. Despite the Touring’s sturdier rear suspension setup, more pronounced lateral body movement with the £750 adaptive dampers in either normal or sport mode means it can’t recreate the nimbleness of the 185kg-lighter 320d saloon, but primary ride is excellent, and sharp bumps merely disturb rather than upset. It feels the bigger, heavier car it is, the paucity of lag perhaps adding to its more mature nature, but agility is still excellent for its class.

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Should I buy one?

The 3-series Touring retains the talent that led the saloon to score a full five star rating when we tested it earlier this year. The Touring adds a useful amount of extra space, but is still great to drive.

The 330d isn't perfect though. Two causes for disappointment were the tight rear legroom for one 6ft 2in occupant behind another, and a very ordinary reported average of 36.9mpg between west London and Paris, despite mostly motorway miles.

BMW 330d Touring Luxury

Price £37,200; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 5.6sec; Economy 55.4mpg (combined); CO2 135g/km; Kerb weight 1680kg; Engine 6 cyls, 2993cc, turbodiesel; Power 254bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 413lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

Join the debate

Add a comment…
danielcoote 5 October 2012

There must.... a lot of people on here who are loaded. Seriously- 50K with the options (and let's be honest, you will need them given it's a BM). 

Would rather have a more practical Focus ST estate or VX Astra BiTurbo and spend the other approx 20k on....well.....lots of other lovely things lolz

Sorry, just don't get the love for it...

toptidy 3 October 2012

330d Touring

jer, I agree nearly £50K for a 3 Series sounds absurd, but for that sort of money I would want a straight 6 petrol - 335i now that there is no longer a 330i.

Then again now that BMW are offering a 16bhp factory upgrade for the 320d I am not convinced that the 330d offers enough more to be worth the extra cost, especially as the idea of any manufacturer 
(particularly a supposedly sporting one) trying to compel me to have an auto really p****s me off!

jer 1 October 2012


Nearly a 50 grand for a 3 series and it sounds humdrum.

I thought the review was clear about the engine - a typical modern diesel. The engine has little lag and delivers excellent performance but shakes the chassis at start up produces a basy noise at low revs smoothing out to be quiet at a cruise.

The choice engine imo is the 328i. But overall I still think the new 3 lacks something that the Saloon Coupe version might address.