The latest 3 Series is excellent. It’s the best way to spend £30,000 on a car.

LET’S TRY AN experiment: the new BMW 330d on a long, empty stretch of flat road, in sixth gear with a trailing throttle, decelerating from 25mph to the 3.0-litre diesel’s idle speed of about 700rpm.I’m slowing, waiting, expecting it to stall. Only it doesn’t. Instead, the 330d settles to about 18mph and drags along, at idle, in top.Foot hard down: rumble from beneath the bonnet and, very slowly at first, the BMW builds speed. From 1000rpm on there’s meaningful acceleration, and by 1750rpm – where torque enters a 369lb ft plateau and there’s already 120bhp – it’s on the pace.I’d continue the experiment, but by now the 330d’s doing 70mph. Repeated in lower gears, there’s smooth, progressive power from a little over 1000rpm, past the 4000rpm peak of 228bhp (up 24bhp over the previous 330d), to maximum revs at 5000rpm.So the 3.0-litre diesel in the latest 330d is an astonishingly capable engine – and quiet and economical, too. At idle, it has a muted rumble, which at cruising speeds is inaudible, and at high revs not intrusive.Throttle response is almost as linear and quick as the 3.0-litre petrol’s, and while the car’s trip computer read 35mpg the official 43.5mpg is possible on a lengthy motorway run.And the rest of the driving experience? Pure 3 Series. The ride, on 225/45 R17s, is fidgety but acceptable, while the chassis is balanced and exploitable. The six-speed gearbox is smooth, driving controls are weighty and progressive, while minor switchgear is of high quality.Okay, both iDrive and the manual seat adjustment still annoy us, but other than that, this car is superb.

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Berol 26 December 2007

Re: BMW 330d SE

The gearing problem seems to be endemic.

Its much easier to fudge the gear ratios than the power and torque curves to match the vehicle weight and air resistance.

This is how it should be done,and if a vehicle designer wishes to give us the figures that prove me wrong I shall be indebted to them.

Direct drive,which we will call fourth in a five speed box (since five is all that is necessary),is the ratio in which the vehicle reaches its maximum speed at full power RPM.

Fifth is an overdrive ratio 25% higher,it will be unusable except when cruising on motorways.

Third is a 25% reduction on fourth and second 50%.

Bottom,always contentious because designers always think we all want to tow Wendy houses,needs to be no lower than a third of the top ratio,but because of clods who ride clutches I suppose it will be argued that it should be 25%,perpetuating the low geared horrors we now tolerate as normal.

If this is applied most so-called modern cars would become somewhat higher geared and their acceleration figures much less boast worthy,this is because,and I'm going to keep repeating this,they are externally too big and much too heavy.


ig 23 December 2007

Re: BMW 330d SE

I drive the 330d Touring, and agree wholeheartedly with this write-up. It could do with a 7th gear, as when cruising there is so much torque available, it surges past slower traffic without any effort at all in 6th (I often try to change up from 6th without thinking).

Overtaking is superb, 40-60mph in 3rd is just fantastic, and I often miss out 5th altogether as 4th to 6th is fine. The press in the back as it accelerates is breathtaking!

The ride is a bit on the firm side, and you feel just about every bump, but I wouldn't say it was uncomfortable on anything but the most poorly maintained of surfaces.

The engine is very refined, and unless you are outside it when cold, I would challenge anyone to identify it as an oil burner. Once warm it simply hums - and even under hard acceleration it merely growls.

Fuel consumption is averaging about 38mpg (and I do have a fairly heavy right foot), so I can't complain there. On long journeys at legal speeds 45+mpg is achievable, and often I am getting 500miles or more from a tank.

I did have the 318d and 320d in succession, and the jump from the 318d to the 320d was noticable enough, but the 330d is in a different league!

The safety features are impressive, and the hill start anti-rollback is very handy in car parks.

The Touring gives me the practicality of an estate, without looking overly cumbersome, and the opening tailgate window is very handy. I had the saloon both times previously, and whilst the boot is okay in size, loading it through the narrow aperture was a test of my IQ each time.

I think the auto box would probably suit this car well, as all of the action happens at low revs - taking it past 3000rpm in any gear is unnecessary, unless you want to simply show off.

The only aspect of the new 3 series that really needs improving is the seat adjustment that, unless you get electric seats, requires rather undignified shuffling to move (particularly up/down). My Vauxhall Vectra had a far better ratchet system.

Being a company vehicle, I don't get to see the service costs, and the tyres don't come cheap - about £170 each, so whether I would run one privately is debatable, but that aside the dealers are friendly, helpful and mostly reputable.

Overall, I am very impressed with this vehicle. It does everything I want; is as fast as I will ever need, is great to drive, delivers a smile everytime, and so far (12 months) has given me no trouble whatsoever.