Some machines have a reputation to create destinations in the minds of gearheads even before they’ve managed to wrap their palms around its wheel. The brilliance and accomplishments of these cars are talked about so much, you’ve already driven one before you actually have. The BMW 3 Series 320d in its current avatar is one such car for me.
Before writing this review, I’ll be honest, I never bothered myself to figure the differences between E this or F that models of the 3 Series that I’d hear my colleagues talk about. So I took the pain to read about all of them and found out that the one I’ve driven on many occasions and which my brother wouldn’t stop kissing is his 2011 pre LCI E90, while the one that I was about to drive and write about is an F30 LCI (Life Cycle Impulse).
Where the E90 was more partial towards the driver with its harsh ride and cramped back seat, the current gen F30 is now more of an all-rounder. With this mid-cycle upgrade, it has been buffed further and we spent some time to figure out why it still remains the car to buy in its segment. Read on…
It looks the same, what has changed?
The one we had on test is the range topping ‘M’ sport edition that gets fast looking visual bits in the form of sporty looking bumpers at both ends, side skirts, ‘M’ badging on the sides, full LED illumination at the front and rear (across variants) and tastefully finished alloy wheels. The horseshoe patterned DRLs are now replaced by two semicircular units, the one on the inside almost looking like a deep pan with a handle.
Regular variants of the 320d get a re-designed front bumper too, which gets new aprons with differently positioned air intakes to accentuate the feeling of width. The long bonnet, short overhangs, low slung 3-box silhouette and fast even at standstill look remains, which still makes the 3-Series the most exciting looking premium executive sedan in our books.
On the inside, M Sport, Luxury and Sport line variants get a Moonroof and an 8.7 inch display for the iDrive system. Since they never forget to do something for the driver, paddle shifters can now be found behind the sporty looking wheel.
Cup holders can now stay hidden under a sliding cover while there are additional chrome highlights for the controls, air vents and around the central control panel. Ambient lighting can be switched between warm orange or satin white
Reserved only for the M Sport variant is an HUD and sports seats at the front. There is some additional luxe perceived by the senses when you touch and feel the new materials used inside the cabin, which is great, but things are still shy of the C-Class, at least visually.
The 2016 BMW 320d also gets a new gen B47 2.0-liter diesel motor which now pumps out 187 bhp at 4000 rpm and 400 NM between 1750 – 2500 clicks, an increase of 6 bhp and 20 NM over the previous gen N47 engine it replaces. The new engine has lost some of the clatter at idle in comparison to the one it replaces (as we decided after a team discussion) and only a trickle of that joyous thrum finds its way into the cabin when pushed hard.
The engine is married to an 8-speed steptronic gearbox, which can intelligently shift on its own, or let you take control through the paddles behind the wheel or the gear shifter.
What is it like to drive?
So you bend over and get inside the low set driver’s seat, from where all the controls, the sportscar like windscreen and everything else makes you feel like you’re driving something special. Rolling off in comfort mode, caressing the right foot over the pedal through moving traffic, everything feels at ease.
And then you find an open stretch, peppered with some fast flowing bends which makes you skip Sport and step up to Sport+ mode. It dials down the DTC, injects the electric steering and the gearbox with more life and firms up everything. It is then that you understand BMW’s obsession with a rather simple word called ‘Joy’, they litter their advertisements with.
The inherently well balanced chassis keeps things rock solid in a straight line, and when you show the car some bends, the fun quotient only amplifies several notches as the 320d’s dynamic brilliance shines bright. Although electrically assisted, the steering weighs up beautifully and remains precise, which along with fantastic weight distribution eggs you on to push the car harder and get playful. When you do, the Bimmer turns in with poise and even at the limit, things remain graceful.
A lot of science must’ve gone behind getting the suspension setup right, as it never turns the ride too firm to upset occupants, or goes too plush to spoil the party. When certain undulations are thrown in its way, it just comfortably wafts through with the occasional thud.
The engine isn’t an out-n-out stonker, but makes its power merrily throughout the rev range and there’s a really wide powerband to keep you happy. It will even rev clean till 5000 clicks when you’re manually shifting, making the HUD swell with triple digit numbers which come up pretty quick.
In auto mode, the smooth shifting gearbox is a little lazy to kick down when you mash the pedal and lets you know that its still playing catch up with those lightning quick DSGs, but then you always have the liberty to take things in your own hands. Brakes on this particular car didn’t impress much as the hardware lacked any amount of sharpness and we had to really push the pedal to get the progressive system to work.
Those 18″ wheels look smashing, but cost a bomb!
Sports seats on the M edition offer amazing support and width
You’d never step into the unknown
A lil bit of GTR in my life
That’s our two faced colleague posing with a multifaceted car
Tell me more!
The new B47 engine bolted on the 320d is perplexingly efficient even when you’re making it work hard to push the car at express speeds. On an entire Sunday driving it in mixed conditions in and out of town, mostly with a heavy right foot, it managed to return a stellar figure of 14 kpl. So now we know that all that efficient dynamics talk isn’t just fancy words.
I spent quite some time in the back seat too, and for someone who’s six feet tall and fairly wide, I felt comfortable, with ample support all around. Compared to the E90, the back seat in the F30 is world’s apart and the comfiest space in the segment now. The air-conditioner took a lot of time to cool the cabin on a hot Summer day. Even when set to the lowest mark, with two rear AC vents and window blinds up, it took almost 20 minutes to cool things down. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt by the cooling system in our long term Tata Bolt. We still twist our neck to look around even when a car is equipped with a rear camera, so the fact that the 2016 320d only gets sensors didn’t bother us much.
What is arguable and didn’t really lure us was watering down the ‘M’ badge. It sort of killed the practicality too in favor of flash, as that low set front bumper leaves very little clearance. Although it never did scrape anything, we had to be extra cautious all day. For us then, we’d still stick to the Sportline, because if something has to cost less and still be an ‘M’, it’d rather be a 1M. Trouble is, it’s not here yet.
Until then, if you wish to ferry your suited clients, friends or all the fancy women in your life in premium comfort all week, the BMW 320d isn’t the only car you should be looking at. But then if you do all that and also appreciate some ‘Me’ time when the clock permits, if you know about a road where you can drive fast and come back with a giggle, the BMW 320d is the only car in its segment you should be looking at. It really is an accomplished machine on all counts and definitely a lot of Joy.
Price as Tested: Rs 44.5 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine Tech Specs
Capacity : 1,995
Stroke/bore in mm: 90.0/84.0
Max. output in (hp): (190)/4,000
Max. torque in NmL: 400/1,750–2,500
2016 BMW 320d image gallery