Road Test for Vehicle: BMW 320D M Sport

Client: Business to Business

I’m day dreaming which is not good, as I am about to climb into a BMW 320D M Sport! The keys have been presented to me by Jill Martin, the Corporate Sales Manager at Wayside BMW Milton Keynes. Where have my thoughts wandered off to? The Nurburgring Racing circuit in Germany. Why? I have just returned from my annual “bus mans” holiday there. Not the modern Formula 1 circuit, but the twisty and tortuous Nordschleife. Built in 1926 it wends its way up and down through the Eiffel Mountains wrapping itself around its modern counterpart like a coiled snake.

The circuit remains open for racing and to the public on tourist days – for us to sharpen our skills on the most challenging 14 miles you could ever drive. During the week it is a motor industry test track and proving ground and used by all of the major motor manufacturers for the testing and development of their products. It has the reputation for the toughest test for any vehicle. For that reason, it is no surprise to find that BMW develop and hone all of their product range on the “Ring”. The car park is always adorned with all variations of BMWs – sportier models and M badges are in abundance.

I have just landed with a bump back in Milton Keynes. Jill has hit me with a volley of facts and figures far removed from the high speed world of test and development on the Nurburgring – or is it? BMW Efficient Dynamics is a range of related technologies that reduce fuel consumption and emissions, while still offering an improvement in performance. Efficient Dynamics and M Sport badges? Sounds like a compromise to me let’s find out!

The M specification offers firmer suspension, lower ride height and 18 inch wheels giving the 320D a sporting stance. On the road this translates to a firm responsive ride. There is enough compliance to iron out the bumps and yet the handling remains sporty and engaging. I set the fuel computer as I left the dealership. I am not breaking the speed limits but I am driving to them when it is safe to do so. After a spirited drive through the rural roads of Northamptonshire, the trip computer is telling me the 2lt 4 cylinder diesel engine is returning 53.6 MPG. The efficient dynamics are working – wow!!

The 3 series boasts an impressive inventory of energy saving technological advancements: Auto Stop Start; Intelligent Alternator Control; Brake Energy Regeneration …. the list goes on. The electric power steering is superb: engaging and perfectly weighted, communicating the road to the driver with conviction. Suspension and steering are true partners, offering exceptional dynamic harmony. I’m being seduced by the M Badge, thoughts of a compromise are evaporating away and quickly.

The manual gearbox offers six speeds, the ratios well matched to the engines power and torque delivery. A useful tool, the optimum shift indicator provides guidance for the most fuel efficient gear to be in for any driving situation. One little niggle, I found the gears sometimes a little difficult to find when block changing, for example from 5th down to 3rd.

The brakes are as expected: efficient and confidence inspiring. The 3 series stops as well as it goes. Super quiet inside, the cabin isolation adds to the positive driving experience. I have completed my test route with a short stint on the motorway. The fuel computer is now reading 58.5 MPG and I think I would improve on that figure once away from the road test induced throttle openings.

Ok. I’m ready to buy into the concept that it is possible to have both performance and economy. Compared to the direct competition I can also reduce my tax exposure and vehicle excise duty. In fact BMW has the lowest average emissions of any premium manufacturer on sale in the UK. So – I can drive to the Nurburgring on a tank of fuel, enjoy the M additions when I get there and all with a clearer conscience. Jill where do I sign?

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