Think of the new 320i xDrive as an all-season BMW 3 Series. Whereas most versions of the car are driven by only their rear wheels, the new xDrive version has four-wheel drive for extra security in slippery conditions.
Initially, the only engine available is a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol, with a standard manual gearbox or an optional (1525) automatic. However, if the car is popular enough with UK buyers, the 4x4 setup will also be available in 320d diesel form.
We wouldn't be at all surprised if six-cylinder and Touring (estate) versions get the xDrive treatment eventually, too.
There aren't many four-wheel-drive small executive cars about, but the new 3 Series xDrive gives BMW a direct rival to the popular Audi A4 quattro and certain versions of the Infiniti G37 and Volvo S60.
What's the 2013 BMW 320i xDrive like to drive?
Virtually identical to any other 3 Series, which is mostly a good thing.
You have to be a little more careful with your clutch and throttle inputs to keep things smooth, but otherwise the xDrive just feels like a regular 3 Series only with much better traction.
Our test car had a manual gearbox and optional adaptive M Sport suspension. The 'box is rather notchy, but the suspension is superb. Leave it in 'Comfort' mode and you won't be bothered by low-speed bumps, while selecting 'Sport' tightens body control to make the car more agile when you're in the mood for some fun.
The petrol engine is a bit of a mixed bag. It delivers brisk performance and is smooth, but it's not the sweetest-sounding engine you'll ever hear.
High-speed refinement could be better, too. There's a fair amount of road noise on coarse surfaces and too much wind noise on the motorway.
What's the 2013 BMW 320i xDrive like inside?
Almost everything you can see and touch is suitably classy, and there's plenty of room in both the front and rear for tall adults.
The boot is a good size and a decent shape, although you'll need to pay extra for split-folding rear seats essential for carrying longer items.
It's a shame the pedals are offset to the right and that the standard seat-adjustment levers are fiddly, but the latter isn't a huge issue.
Equipment levels are pretty good. The cheapest xDrive model comes in SE trim and this gets you dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, USB connection and alloys.
Should I buy one?
If you need four-wheel drive, or simply want the reassurance that it offers, the 3 Series xDrive makes a lot of sense.
It's £1535 more than the equivalent rear-wheel-drive model, which is a lot for private buyers, but will add just £30 to the monthly company car tax bill of a higher-rate taxpayer. It's almost as economical and tax efficient, too.
It's an all-weather 3 Series without any serious drawbacks, then. Of course, a diesel version would be even better. A 320d xDrive that's fast and secure in any conditions, yet will still probably do 50mpg in the real world is the one we really want.
What Car? says
BMW 320i xDrive
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
Price from £27,400
Torque 199lb ft
Top speed 144mph
Fuel economy 41.5mpg (official)