BMW 3 Series long-term test: report 5

Our Executive Car of the Year, the BMW 3 Series, faces its toughest assignment yet: everyday life. Will it prove to be a corporate titan or quickly lose its shine? We have six months to find out...

BMW 3 Series 320d and 330d

The car BMW 3 Series 320d xDrive M Sport Run by Darren Moss, deputy editor

Why it’s here Having clinched the title of Executive Car of the Year at the 2019 What Car? Awards, the all-new 3 Series must now prove itself a champion in daily life

Needs to Be comfortable for long journeys and the weekday commute, offer exceptional fuel economy and function as a mobile office when needed

Mileage 6871 List price £39,825 Price as tested £48,185 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 45.5mpg

29 July 2019 – Which diesel 3 Series is better?

Yes, in the picture below you are seeing double. However, the car parked next to my own BMW 3 Series is not just another 320d. No, that is the 330d, powered by a more potent diesel engine. Think of it as the extra chillies on the 320d’s Jalfrezi – with two extra cylinders to call on, the 3.0-litre engine in the 330d puts out 74bhp more than the four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine in my car. But the biggest difference is in the torque, with a whopping 133lb ft extra to call on. And for reference, that means the 330d has more pulling power than an Audi R8 sports car.

The rub though, is in the pricing, because the 330d costs some £3000 more than my car. So, is it worth it? Well, with the Goodwood Festival of Speed weekend looming, and thus a long countryside drive to West Sussex beckoning, I decided to find out.

BMW 3 Series driving

As you might expect, the 330d feels substantially quicker than my car, especially when you’re pulling away from traffic lights or overtaking on the motorway. It’s also delightfully smooth, settling down to a barely perceptible thrum when you’re cruising along. And despite having those vast reserves of power to call on, my trip to Goodwood and back returned 42.3mpg, so not too far behind the 45.5mpg I’m getting from my lesser 320d.

So surely recommending the meatier 3 Series is a done deal? Well, go for the 330d and you’ll enjoy power surges which, when coupled with Kenny Loggins’ classic 'Danger Zone' on the A286 outside Cocking, are nothing short of intoxicating. But let’s also keep a sleeve of our sensible suit on, and remember that no version of the 330d is less than £40,000, so you’ll automatically pay an extra £320 in annual premium car tax that you won’t on my car without options.

And, with CO2 emissions that are 13g/km higher than those in my 3 Series, the 330d is also two company car tax bands higher (32% versus 34%). Given that, I think my 320d will be the better option for private and company car buyers alike. And besides, given the right road, the right soundtrack and the right traffic conditions, the 320d is plenty hot enough for me.

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