19 November 2012 by Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: 330d Touring Luxury
Fuel economy combined: 55.4mpg
This week our BMW 330d Touring provided family transport for a trip to the Lake District – how did it cope in an environment where an SUV is often the preferred mode of conveyance?
The first test was to see if the new 3 Series Touring really is as practical as the BMW marketing department claims. They say that the luggage capacity of the new Touring is larger than that of the last model, and it’s now best in class, beating both the Audi A4 Avant and the Mercedes C-Class – albeit by just 5 litres.
Thankfully, a family’s worth of baggage for a weekend in the Lakes fitted in the car. However the boot was piled high from the floor to the roof. This amount of baggage would not have fitted in a 3 Series saloon, which proves one of the theories that we wanted to test – that the Touring is a far more sensible choice than the Saloon for the typical family.
Test number two was to see how economical the 330d could be when fully laden on a reasonably long journey to the Lake District. The result was that at motorway speeds it averaged 46.5mpg. This is somewhat short of its official average of 55.4mpg, but as we’ve seen, it is possible to extract 60mpg with careful driving. There aren’t many other estates with a 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 155mph that can realistically achieve 50mpg on a long drive.
Test number three was the main challenge. I’ve been motoring around the Lakes for over 25 years, and have driven up the Wrynose Pass probably around 100 times over that period, in more cars than it’s possible to mention. There are two key characteristics that are always evident with cars that are driven up the Wrynose Pass – their torque curve and their gearing. Over the years many cars have almost spluttered to a halt from a complete lack of torque when changing from first to second gear on one of the steep sections. This is equally applicable to cars with a manual or automatic gearbox; whatever the car, most have a point when changing gear coincides with a lack of torque, and this can result in frustrating progress up the pass.
Not so with the 330d. This was the first car that I’ve ever driven up the Wrynose Pass that always seemed to be in the right gear, with sufficient torque available at all times. And it was left in auto for the entire climb. For many years I’ve had a hatred for automatic gearboxes, especially in areas such as the Lake District. They never seem to be in the right gear, either going up or down hills. In recent years I’ve invariably overridden the auto mode with manual shifts, which usually improves the situation, but it’s no match for a manual ‘box. However there was never any need to drive the 330d manually, despite steep ascents and descents, all of which were combined with bends. The car always seemed to be in the right gear at the right time, providing the required levels of response and control.
The road was also damp and cold, with frost in occasional places, and the 330d didn’t have winter tyres fitted. A front-wheel drive car would have had its wheels spinning for most of the climb, resulting in the driver having a continual fight with the steering wheel and with traction. Logic would suggest that a four-wheel drive car would be the transport of choice. However the rear-wheel drive 330d made completely effortless and comfortable progress to the top of the pass. Select Sport+ mode and you can even get the rear end to help steer you round the tight corners.
Did the 330d feel compromised in any way because it was an estate? No. Did it feel out of its comfort zone in the mountains because one of its main design briefs is to be an effective company car? No. The 330d passes another test – the outdoor leisure challenge – with flying colours.
Last week we reported that the 330d’s clock remained an hour ahead of the rest of the country and we couldn’t change it. This week we tried again. Following advice from BMW we pressed the buttons for longer and we were eventually successful in managing to change the time, confirming that, as suspected, the problem was user error.
However our experience in the Lakes did highlight one other issue that we don’t like – and we’ve been through all the menus and we can’t see a way to change it. When you reverse, the passenger side door mirror automatically angles down to the floor. When you’re reversing at reasonable speeds down single car-width country lanes in the Lakes to find a passing place, because the driver coming around the corner towards you is incapable of reversing, you want both mirrors to show you the verge, hedge or wall, and any vehicles that are behind. Showing the tarmac under the rear wheel is no use. Of course it’s not just this 330d or even just BMWs that do this, but we’d prefer it if the mirror stayed in its normal position. The driver can always angle it down manually on the few occasions where this is safer.
Next week we move from the steep and narrow roads of the Lake District to the fast, winding roads of North Wales for a very special back-to-back test… check back in a week’s time
Fuel economy extra urban: 62.8mpg
Fuel economy urban: 44.8mpg
Real-life economy: TBC
CO2 emissions: 135 g/km
Green rating: VED band E – first year £120
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 21%
Insurance group: TBC
Power: 258 bhp
Max speed: 155 mph
0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
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