Our cars: BMW 3 Series - February

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BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series
BMW 320d Sport automatic

Week ending February 22
Mileage 19,100
Driven this week 100 miles


Until recently my favourite BMW 3 Series models were always the manuals. They were always slick, light and incredibly satisfying to drive, and completely in keeping with the BMW saloon's sporty character.

Not any longer though. I've driven a few manual Bee-Ems lately and they've made me glad that our 320d Sport is fitted with an optional eight-speed automatic. Yes it's a pricey option and adds to the company car tax liability, but it's a brilliant 'box. I love the way it slices through gears, always optimising the 2.0-litre diesel's ever-present poke. The more time I've spent in it, the more I use the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts too – that come with the 'sports' auto gearbox – especially to change down on B-roads and going into roundabouts.

Perhaps the best news is that, unlike most auto 'boxes, there isn't a fuel consumption or CO2 penalty. In fact, the automatic sits in a lower company car tax bracket – 17 compared to 18% - and I'm averaging around 50mpg.

By Chas Hallett
Chas.Hallett@whatcar.com


Week ending February 8
Mileage 19,000
Driven this week 200 miles


Okay, so here's a rare moan about our BMW 320d. It's one I've had before but I've been reminded of it this week after driving some other, similar, cars.

It's not refined enough at low speeds. I was reflecting on this after driving a new Mazda 6 diesel, the latest addition to our fleet, and a Citroen DS5. Both of them have a far more cultured diesel engine note around town, highlighting one of the BMW's biggest failings.

Yes the engine is magnificently powerful, possibly more frugal than either of these other cars at high speeds and works brilliantly with the eight-speed optional auto, but from cold starts especially it's too clattery for too long.

By Chas Hallett
Chas.Hallett@whatcar.com


Week ending February 8
Mileage 18,800
Driven this week 350 miles


You may remember I had a bit of bother getting a quote for a price to service our BMW 320d Sport. Some main dealers didn't even ring me back.

In the end the job went to Specialist Cars in Tring, Buckinghamshire. It was quoting £254 for the job, so around £100 cheaper than the dealer closest to the office and also handily close to where our art editor, Steve Hopkins, lives.

Thankfully Specialist Cars resorted our faith in BMW customer service. The whole job was one of their ‘fast track' service and only took 90 minutes.

Steve dropped the car off at 8am and was back on the M25 two hours later, driving back to work in a fully valeted car. Exactly how life should be, in other words.

Chas.Hallett@whatcar.com

Week ending February 1
Current mileage 18,483
Miles driven this week 833

Hmm, this isn't going to go well. That's what I thought as I looked at the BMW 320d I had for the weekend recently.

You see, it was snowing – heavily – as it was due to for the next two days, and the BMW is rear-wheel drive, which is far from ideal when the roads are slippery. Oh, and I had a wedding reception to go to on the Saturday night and a funeral on the Monday, so I couldn't afford to get caught out by the conditions.

I needn't have worried. Admittedly the snow was only a couple of inches thick on unswept roads, but the 3 Series coped very well. It got me to the shops, safely took four of us to the wedding, and was fine on the motorway and A-roads on the Monday.

In fact, only when faced with parking on a kerb did the 320d fail to impress; it merely spun its rear wheels and moved slowly sideways rather than forwards, so I had to park somewhere else.

BMW has now launched four-wheel-drive versions of the 3 Series, which should be superb in the snow, but it's good to know that the rear-wheel-drive ones are pretty decent, too.

Barnaby.Jones@whatcar.com

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