Our cars: BMW 3 Series - August
Week ending August 31
Driven this week: 1034 miles
Read the full BMW 3 Series review
It turns out, after 800 miles of driving, that there are few better ways to travel across France than in a BMW 320d. We crossed via the tunnel, drove through the centre of Paris, and wound our way through a mixture of autoroutes and country lanes to the Lot valley, doing an average of 55.5mpg.
The head-up display is an absolute must-have option (£800). We haven't taken a wrong turn in the entire way, mainly thanks to the superb overview it gives you of every junction, even showing you which lane to be in, and all projected onto your view of the road ahead.
One thing that did become apparent is a fair bit of wind noise, which tends to be drowned out by the noise from our appalling road surfaces in the UK, but which revealed itself on the smoother French autoroutes. It makes me wonder whether our 320d would be quieter on different tyres.
By Ed Keohane
Week ending August 24
Driven this week: 700 miles
The past couple of weeks I've been playing with a couple of i-Phone apps, produced by BMW and designed to make ownership of the 320d Sport sweeter.
The apps in question are called BMW Connected and BMW Remote. Thankfully, and unlike some car apps, they're not that gimmicky and have actually come in useful. The function I've used the most is called Remote. It uses a Google maps plug-in so that you can search for something on the map – or an address from your phone contacts and then send it to the car. Get in the car, download the message and then it's already plumbed into the sat-nav. It's really brilliant.
BMW Connected is coming in handy, too. It lets you play internet radio through the car's hi-fi – assuming you have a 3G connection and want to potentially run up large data streaming costs. However, it also logs how you drive and gives fuel-saving tips. Again – another free app and extremely clever.
Week ending August 17
Driven this week 250 miles
I hadn't a chance to drive our BMW 3 Series until yesterday, when I gave it a proper work-out, going around the M25, through London and down to the coast and back, across country.
My verdict, apart from being staggered by its all-round competence, is that this 320d is the best BMW I've ever driven. It's also the best car in its class by some margin. I'm not sure which is the bigger compliment.
Much to my surprise it swallowed up a couple of six-foot passengers and their luggage with ease. One of the biggest tests is how relaxed you are when you get out after a long journey - the S-Class and Range Rover set the benchmark here. I didn't really notice my 150 miles behind the wheel, and my only real criticism was the amount of tyre noise when cruising on the motorway.
Add to that an impressive 49.5mpg for the whole journey, and it feels like it's the car to take to the south of France this summer.
Week ending August 10
Driven this week: 770 miles
The BMW 320d Sport has now notched up 5000 miles. It's racking them up quickly, too, and that's hardly surprising considering what a pleasure it is to drive and the fact that it’s easily capable of 50mpg on long runs.
A trip to the Midlands this week reminded me that it's not perfectly refined at high speeds, however. There's a fair amount of roar from the Pirelli Cinturato tyres and you’re always aware of wind noise from the front pillars and door mirrors.
In fact, our test team recently discovered that it was a noisier cruiser than an Audi A4 and a Citroen DS5.
Then again, maybe these mild irritations are more noticeable because the 2.0-litre diesel is whisper quiet at cruising speeds.
Week ending August 3
Driven this week: 280 miles
The arguments for electronic button-operated handbrakes make sense. They can be integrated into a car's other systems and they save weight over the traditional lever and cable systems. No wonder they are used in many cars.
I don't like them, though. Especially if it's on a manual car, where it gets very fiddly to do hill starts and put it on at junctions etc.
This is why I'm so glad that BMW has kept a traditional lever in the 3 Series. It's far simpler to use and acknowledges that a good chunk of 3 Series sales are going to be for manual models.
Perhaps it's also a nod to the fact that a lot of driving enthusiasts still need a proper handbrake, especially to help in icy conditions.
Admittedly, our 320d is fitted with the optional eight-speed auto box – but every time I push the button and release the handbrake lever, I am glad that BMW kept one bit of the new 3 Series a bit old-fashioned.