2015 BMW 3 Series Touring 320d ED Plus auto review
A UK drive in the new BMW 320d ED Plus Touring auto shows that this is the best compact executive diesel estate for company car buyers. For now, at least...
It doesn't look dramatically different, but – as with the saloon - the BMW 320d Touring has been overhauled for 2015 with a new engine, slicker gearbox and a revised suspension.
This is our first UK drive in the 320d Efficient Dynamics version of the Touring, which gets active aerodynamics, smaller 16in alloy wheels and - at 161bhp - a bit less power than the normal 320d, in the name of improving economy and emissions.
The resulting 104g/km and 70.6mpg you get from this eight-speed automatic model is seriously impressive, and brings company car tax bills of just £200 per month for 40% tax payers.
What's the 2015 BMW 320d ED Plus Touring like to drive?
As well resolved as you'd expect. The 320d ED defaults to fuel-saving Eco Pro mode, in which state the steering feels quite light and a little disconnected, if accurate enough to suit awkward town driving.
Most of the time we favour Sport mode, when the steering weights up and - in part thanks to the optional £750 adaptive dampers fitted to our car - handling feels keen as you turn in to a corner, and generally poised and confident.
Regardless of it being an estate, you can really enjoy yourself in this car, without it ever feeling intimidating, despite the rear-wheel drive layout (four-wheel drive is available on other diesel 3 Series models, but not this ED version).
The adaptive dampers do tighten up body control substantially in sportier models, yet, in combination with standard 16in wheels, they also provide a comfortable ride. High-speed undulations have it bobbing up and down in stiffer settings, but it's never harsh and Comfort mode feels soft and relaxed even over broken surfaces.
The now slicker-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox still sets the standard in this class; it does exactly what you want it to, when you want it to, while the engine feels potent enough for satisfying progress in everyday driving.
In conjunction with that gearbox, you've always got a healthy reserve of acceleration on hand, so overtaking on country roads is no problem. In Eco Pro, you also get an absence of engine braking, so you can ‘coast’ for long periods. It’s a bit disconcerting at first, but it doesn’t take long to get used to, and it all adds up to less time and money at the fuel pump.
The only area the 320d ED does slightly disappoint is in refinement. You only need to be using moderate acceleration for guttural engine noise to creep into the cabin, while road and wind noise are quite noticeable on the motorway, too. That's not to say that refinement is likely to be a deal breaker – it isn’t - but some passengers may notice a bit more general din in the 3 Series Touring than you might expect of a plush executive wagon.
What's the 2015 BMW 320d ED Plus Touring like inside?
Nothing changes between the saloon and estate 3 Series models in terms of the driving position, meaning that you get a supportive seat - albeit one with awkward manual adjustment, that's worth adding optional lumbar adjustment to.
The simple dash is great, with a colour screen and sat-nav, controlled by the excellent iDrive system. Bluetooth, DAB, USB input, climate control, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, and leather upholstery completes the impressive roster of standard kit on the cheapest ED model – dubbed ED Plus. ED Sport adds mostly style changes and costs more, so is best avoided.
Two tall adults will be fine in the back of the 3 Series Touring, and while the boot is not the biggest in this class (it remains unchanged in size and shape for this update) it's a good shape, with a low load lip and various practical touches including a powered boot lid. The rear seats split 40/20/40, and fold flat easily. A rear window that lifts to allow easy access to the boot when you mightn't have enough space to open the tailgate is another nice touch.
Visibility is good, even to the rear three-quarters, although the standard rear parking sensors will still come in handy.
Should I buy one?
Sure, it's a great option, particularly for company car buyers. Retail buyers might like to look to the slightly faster and cheaper standard 320d SE, although that model doesn’t get standard leather upholstery. Whichever of the 320d versions a private buyer might choose, they’ll enjoy healthy resale values and low running costs.
However, before making the decision, you should wait a month or two until we've tried the new Audi A4 Avant in the UK. With no estate version of the Jaguar XE (yet) and with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class trailing the BMW in a few key areas, the Audi looks set to be the 3 Series Touring's real nemesis, and it's worth holding your order until we know which is best.
What Car? says...
BMW 320d ED Plus Touring auto
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £33,335
Torque 295lb ft
0-62mph 8.1 seconds
Top speed 138mph
Fuel economy 70.6mpg