From £23,085
Oil makes for a smooth cruiser
  • First Drive

    BMW 316d

    Sub-120g/km economy with most of the usual 3-series charm
  • First Drive

    BMW 318d SE auto

    Refined, efficient driver’s car, marred only by run-flat tyres and a high price
22 February 2005

When you give one of the finest-driving coupés available a ‘Custer’ (that is, scalp it) you inevitably add weight and reduce body rigidity. This might make a difficult choice for enthusiastic drivers, were it not for the BMW 3-series Convertible, which in losing its lid lost little of its brilliance. There was only one problem: the lack of a diesel engine, leaving Audi’s A4 Cabrio the only posh soft-top with a TD option.

At present, every third BMW in the UK gets its fill at the black pumps – BMW had to add an oil-burner to the purely petrol 3-series Convertible range. The 320 Cd Convertible is that car.

Thanks, no doubt, to a lengthy five-year gestation, the 320 Cd’s engine doesn’t disappoint. It scoots to 62mph in 9.7sec and does 131mph flat out, claims BMW. Which makes the 320 Cd, with its 1995cc four-pot, swifter than the six-cylinder £28,200 A4 Cabrio 2.5 TDi Sport. 

And it feels it. The usable powerband isn’t as wide as the 5000rpm red line suggests, but by 2000rpm the turbo is spooled and the rush of torque is prodigious. Just don’t expect to accelerate much once the needle hits 4000rpm.

The 320 Cd is frugal as well, with a claimed 44.8mpg combined figure, while Euro4-compliance and a low 167g/km CO2 rating (194g/km for the A4) should make it a popular company car choice.

Not so popular will be the top-down, low-revs diesel clatter. It’s tolerable, but for a topless BMW that majors on style, it runs the risk of undermining the car’s cruising credentials. Oh, and the clutch is fairly heavy if you’re not strong of leg. A shame that, as there’s no auto option, just a six-speed manual.

Diesel clatter apart, the 320 Cd feels upmarket. The frugal, torquey engine isn’t conducive to a flat-out driving style, but it’s just fine for cruising. When it comes to the UK in March, the 320 Cd will be the most desirable topless 3-series – M3 included.

Jack Galusha

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