We had one key question for the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Touring – with its 65.7mpg economy and space, was it the perfect support car for the Three Peaks Challenge?
We rate the current BMW 3 Series as one of the best all-round cars you can buy. We’ve tested the 320d EfficientDynamics saloon , and we’ve tested the 330d Touring – for six weeks. But does the new 320d EfficientDynamics Touring provide the best balance between space, driving enjoyment, and economy?
Design & Engineering
The new 3 Series has been around for a while now, but it’s taken until now to bring a 320d EfficientDynamics Touring to market. The design is familiar 3 Series stuff, with the main visual differentiating factor between this car and other Touring models being the smaller ‘EfficientDynamics’ wheels, which don’t give this variant the same purposeful stance as other models.
There’s little to tell the interior apart from most other versions of the 3 Series. That means that the interior is excellent from an ergonomic point of view, although Audi is providing stiff competition in the area of stylish design and quality materials.
Perhaps the best thing about the 3 Series is that it’s rear-wheel drive, with a 50/50 weight distribution, and it has an agile and rewarding chassis. The EfficientDynamics model has a number of features to ensure it has the best possible economy including auto start-stop, ECO PRO mode, brake energy regeneration, optimised aerodynamics, and in the case of our test car, eight-speed automatic transmission.
BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Touring Driving Experience
It’s the driving experience of the 3 Series that really sets it apart from rivals from brands such as Audi and BMW. Rear-wheel drive means that the rear wheels can put the power down while the front wheels can focus on steering, resulting in excellent adjustability through corners.
On twisting Lake District roads, the 3 Series can provide entertaining handling. In isolation, the 320d EfficientDynamics Touring is very capable at cross country dashes through the mountains. Only when viewed against our experience with the 330d does one slight deficiency raise its head. When pushing on through hilly country roads, the automatic box of the 330d was always in the right gear at the right time. The 320d EfficientDynamics, also with an automatic box – which you can change manually – wasn’t quite able to provide the perfect instant responsiveness of the 330d. This is obviously down to the better power and torque characteristics of the 330d.
The 320d ED also doesn’t feel as planted as the 330d, which had lower profile and wider tyres. However the 320d ED does have a very comfortable ride and combined with good levels of refinement it makes an excellent motorway cruiser.
We regularly claim that BMW’s iDrive is the most intuitive system around – and it’s enhanced by the excellent large colour screen – however for the first time with this car we somehow managed to change the satnav split screen display to something that we didn’t want, and couldn’t find a way out of it.
The 320d ED has three driving modes, ECO PRO, Comfort and Sport. You can also reduce the intervention of traction control via a separate button. Despite which mode you finish your drive in, the car always restarts in ECO PRO.
BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Touring Economy and Emissions
This is where the 320d EfficientDynamics Touring really comes into its own, with official combined fuel economy of 65.7 mpg, compared to 58.9 mpg for the standard 320d Touring.
The BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Touring is available with both a six-speed manual gearbox and an eight-speed automatic. Both versions return the same fuel economy on the combined cycle of 65.7mpg. With emissions of just 112g/km CO2 (compared to 125g/km of the 320d), meaning a Benefit in Kind rate of 17%, this is an ideal choice for a company car buyer.
Other comparative performance figures for the 320d Touring v the 320d ED Touring are 143mph v 138mph top speed, and 7.7 seconds v 8.3 seconds 0-62 mph. During our week with the 320d ED we achieved 60mpg on motorway runs, 52.1mpg around town, and 55.6mpg overall, which is excellent for a premium family estate.
The fuel economy of the majority of cars that we test really suffers at motorway speeds, whereas BMW diesels seem to be one of the most economical performers in real life in such conditions – good aerodynamics, a two-litre turbodiesel engine and long gearing are key factors that help with this.
Price, Equipment and Model Range
The 320d EfficientDynamics Touring costs £29,710. However there’s a wide variety of equipment options that can easily take the price well over £30,000. For instance the automatic transmission on our car was a £1,550 option.
The 320d EfficientDynamics is ideal for company car drivers. For private buyers who want greater levels of performance, the 330d would be our pick. So what’s the compromise solution? The good old 320d. It almost matches the 320d EfficientDynamics in terms of economy, but you can specify it with M Sport trim and better looking alloys. Ideally you would specify optional adaptive dampers on a 3 Series to reduce roll in corners but maintain ride quality. We also missed the excellent head-up display and electric seat adjustment from our 330d.
There’s an overwhelming range of BMW 3 Series variants. You can choose between Saloon and Touring body styles, there’s the 3 Series GT ‘hatchback’, and there’s now the 4 Series, previously known as the 3 Series Coupe or Convertible. There are petrol and diesel engines and there’s even a hybrid in the saloon range. Trims throughout the range include ES, SE, Modern, Luxury and M Sport.
So, is the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Touring the perfect choice for a support vehicle for the Three Peaks Challenge? On the plus side, it’s certainly a comfortable, refined and economical way to cover many miles of motorway. When you leave the motorway and hit the roads of the Lake District, it provides near-sports car levels of enjoyment in the handling department. It can’t compete with the 330d for instant response from the engine and automatic transmission whatever situation is thrown at it, but it’s still an impressive performer when compared to its economy figures.
The one area where the 320d Touring suffered as a Three Peaks support car was space. There is a definite limit to how many people and how much of their kit can be comfortably squeezed in a 3 Series Touring for a 24 hour period that involves sleeping, and that limit is four people. A 5 Series Touring with a roof box would be a better solution for a five person Three Peaks team in future. Although there’s a 520d Touring, there’s no 520d EfficientDynamics Touring at the moment.
So the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Touring scores 9 out of 10 for a Three Peaks support vehicle, ultimately let down by its compact dimensions – one of the things that contributes to its agility. However if you want a company car that is also a family estate, which will provide some of the lowest possible fuel bills while travelling up and down the nation’s motorways along with low benefit in kind tax bills, as well as providing one of the best driving experiences in class, then the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Touring is ideal. For this reason it scores a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10 out of 10.