What is it?
We live in times, most honest road testers will tell, when it can occasionally feel a touch overwhelming. So much metal, so many niches. Strange cars of weird shapes, weirder sizes, powertrains of unproven efficacy, answers to questions of which few even thought, let alone asked.
Sometimes you wish you could just press reset. If only there were a ‘revert to factory settings’ button, somewhere you could go where, just until your brain fills up with clutter again, everything seems normal. And there is: it’s called the BMW 320d saloon.
For successive generations, the 320d has sat calm at the centre of our universe while ever increasing amounts of madness have swirled around. Or at least it has for people with real needs and real limitations to their lives, be they budgetary, geographical or logistical, who crave a car that works on all levels, none more effectively than its ability to appeal to the enthusiast driver within us. You know where you are with a 320d. Six gears (in the manual), five seats, four doors, three boxes, two driven wheels, one 2.0-litre turbo diesel. Simple.
And yet I felt with the previous, F30-generation model not so much a blurring of the picture as just a slight fuzziness around the edges. Maybe it wasn’t helped by Mercedes-Benz taking such a strong step forward with the now very dynamic C-Class, but I felt the 320d’s default position as the absolute weapon au choix for normal enthusiasts living in the real world threatened as never before.
This new one came into my life shortly after a Dacia Sandero and Lamborghini Aventador SVJ had departed and I was feeling more than usually ready to reset. So I got up early and went for one of those delicious drives without destination, where the 320d would have no choice but to reveal all about itself and its suitability to our roads.