Wednesday 18 April 2012

Road - Exceedingly good

BMW is the automotive Kipling of the cakeworld, it makes exceedingly good cars, but the latest 320d Sport is even better than that, it is quite exceptional. That’s a strong word to use given just how good the modern motor car is these days, but in this case it is richly deserved.

To those who still think the BMW badge is just a bit of driveway bejazzle to impress the neighbours, then this is a game changer. It’s a family saloon for the sporting motorist who is not yet too old to appreciate performance, but is old enough to appreciate a bit of comfort.

For a start the seats are well shaped without being snug, and for the taller driver there is an appreciated under-thigh extending cushion. The steering wheel is near vertical and the driving position superb. A good start. And then you go for a drive.

First impressions are that BMW has fibbed. They claim 184 hp for the 4 cylinder turbo diesel, but it feels more. It has more grunt than a piggery. Being a diesel it runs out of revs quickly, but the six speed ‘box makes the most of what it has. And then you come to the best bit, the ‘Fun’ button.

There is a 4 position switch on the console with an Eco mode, the standard Comfort mode, and then a Sport and Sport Plus modes.

Using the Sport setting firms up the dampers and fiddles with the ECU to provide a sharper under-bonnet response. The result is no fire breather, but by heck it goes, and goes well. And there's a bonus, even during mixed driving I was getting 53.9 mpg!

But the whole package prompts one question. If this 4/5 seater sporting family saloon is so good, why would anyone want anything else? They certainly don’t need it. So the next time you see a 3 series sitting in someone’s drive, they are not show-offs, they just appreciate a very good motor car.

In fact, the only drawback was that BMW wanted it back!

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