The BMW 330d xDrive Touring is, in our view, the world’s best all-round car – it’s great to drive, it has massive performance, it’s efficient, it’s practical, and, with all-wheel drive, it’s also now an all-weather car.
Back in December 2012 we pronounced the BMW 330d Touring as the world’s best all-round car. However, along with other rear-wheel drive BMWs, many visitors to our site believed that one of the car’s few weaknesses was its (lack of) ability in snow. In reality, all that was needed was a set of winter tyres to ensure progress in all seasons, but BMW has now introduced its xDrive all-wheel drive system, so addressing a main area of perceived weakness of the 330d Touring.
The BMW 330d xDrive Touring shares most of its engineering with the rest of the 3 Series range. It’s based on the regular 6-cylinder, 3-litre diesel model, but in the place of the normal rear-wheel drive is BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system.
Why are we testing a Touring rather than a Saloon? Because many BMW drivers have families, and families need all the space they can get for the kids and their stuff.
The latest 3 Series looks great in both Saloon and Touring body styles. It looks even better in the M Sport spec as tested.
We know the rear-wheel drive 330d is a great car, but we wanted to test the xDrive model. Apart from wanting to find out if there was a fuel economy penalty, and if so, if we could live with it, the other reason was to see if the addition of all-wheel drive spoiled BMW’s rewarding rear-wheel drive handling. Yes, we’ve driven models such as the X1 and X3 with xDrive, but the handling of the 330d, with its much lower centre of gravity, encourages more progressive driving than any X-badged BMW SUV.
After extensive testing on some of the best roads in North Wales, we’re delighted/relieved to announce that the xDrive system certainly doesn’t hinder the enjoyment of the 3 Series’ chassis. In fact even without snow-covered roads to demonstrate its ultimate talents, the 330d xDrive pulls you out of high-speed dry corners with more grip, yet with the same amount of enjoyment, as a regular 330d. Throw in a wet road and the benefits of xDrive become glaringly obvious. There’s now massive confidence in the car’s traction through corners and damp roundabouts.
But the key thing is that there’s still a (60/40) rear-wheel drive bias to the car’s handling, which, when mated to the agility of the chassis, should keep BMW enthusiasts happy. BMW’s frequently quoted 50/50 weight distribution suffers slightly with this diesel powerplant, but it’s still very close to that figure.
The 3-litre, straight-six engine sounds wonderful, it has a whopping 560 Nm torque, together with a 0-62mph time of just 5.4 seconds, and it’s mated to BMW’s excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox. You can change manually using steering-wheel mounted paddles – great for holding the car in gear through corners – but for the typical owner, the gearbox works so well in automatic mode that the manual setting is likely to be used very rarely.
From the driver’s seat, it’s pretty much a standard 3 Series interior, which is a good thing, as the ergonomics are excellent. The dashboard may seem conventional rather than ultra-modern and high-tech, but all controls are perfectly weighted and where you want them. Critically, the iDrive system and the satnav – with its large screen and clear graphics – works extremely well.
What about its manners in the most common habitat for BMWs – motorways? The 330d is comfortable, refined, generally quiet apart from a small amount of road and wind noise, it has a compliant ride and it’s very stable at motorway speeds.
What about its capability in snow? Unfortunately we weren’t able to test that, however based on many years of driving cars on winter tyres, we would predict that fitted with such tyres the 330d would be extremely useable during all seasons in the UK.
If there was one area in which we would improve the 330d Touring, what would that be? Easy – make it lighter. At a substantial 1750kg it does feel a touch on the heavy side when pressing on, especially when braking. Shaving, say, 100kg off the kerb weight would also do wonders for the car’s economy.
The official combined economy figure for the BMW 330d xDrive Touring is 52.3mpg along with 142g/km CO2 emissions. This compares to 55.4mpg for the rear-wheel drive 330d, so you lose around 3mpg for the benefit of all-wheel drive. BMW quotes the same fuel economy and emissions figures for 17, 18 and 19-inch wheels.
Driving from Manchester to the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon at motorway speeds we averaged 47.2mpg. At speeds closer to 60mph rather than 70mph we were able to just achieve 50mpg, which we would be very happy with for a car that also offers this level of performance. After some progressive driving through North Wales – the worst-case scenario for the car’s economy – we returned 36.3mpg. Overall after a week we averaged 42.0mpg. In isolation this isn’t great, but when compared to the performance on offer, it’s highly impressive.
The BMW 330d xDrive Touring costs £39,550 in M Sport spec. Our test car came with options including BMW Professional media package (£1,990), BMW Individual Cashmere Beige Merino Leather (£1,215), M Sport Plus package (£1,190), panoramic glass sunroof (£1,180), electric front seats and driver memory (£945), visibility package (£925) and Moonstone metallic paint (£845). All options came to £8,975, taking the car’s total price to £48,525.
We could live without the Beige Merino Leather and the Moonstone Metallic paint, but one option that our test car didn’t have, that we would definitely spec, is BMW’s excellent head-up display.
Of course there’s a whole range of other 3 Series variants, in an ever-increasing range of body styles, including the 320d. The 320d is also a great car, it’s more economical, it’s less expensive, and it has good performance, but in our view the 330d offers a better performance/economy balance for the keen driver.
The BMW 330d xDrive Touring really does do everything. It’s a driver’s car, with a brilliant engine, great performance and rewarding handling. Relative to its performance, it’s efficient. Being an estate, it’s practical, it also looks good – especially in the M Sport spec as tested – and the interior is ergonomically spot on. And with all-wheel drive, the 330d has genuine all-weather traction – especially if fitted with winter tyres. Best of all, the xDrive system helps, rather than hinders, the day-to-day driving experience. There may be a slight economy penalty compared to the rear-wheel drive 330d, and it may be viewed as expensive, but the 330d xDrive is more capable than cars costing twice its price, and we can’t think of a car at any price that combines all its talents in such a compelling package. The BMW 330d xDrive Touring is awarded a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10 out of 10.