It’s almost a year since we drove the latest seventh-gen 3 series sedan, and now BMW adds xDrive touring versions, as the AWD wagons are known.
There’s a petrol range topper, the 340i xDrive, and two diesels, a 2.0-litre four and a 3.0 six cylinder variant. It’s the latter we got to check out. This 330d starts out at $97,900. Ours had a few options aboard like frickin’ laser lights, part of a Visibility pack including panoramic sunroof ($4900), Gesture control (twirl your index finger one way or another to change volume), and other bits and pieces that took it out to $110,510.
Unlike Volvo’s V60 T8 plug-in hybrid wagon we’d driven the week before using petrol power, this is a turbodiesel rated EU 6 Temp-ready thanks to its AdBlue catalyser NOx busting system and DPF. It’s economical too, rated at 6.1L/100km overall.
We missed the whispering death silence of the Volvo’s e power, which also takes mean fuel economy to levels below 2.0L/100km but the diesel is hardly a dipsomaniac, and is certainly quick when you shove the shift lever to the left, selecting the sport transmission mode.
This holds a gear longer, upshifting around 3000rpm when you’re not trying hard, just over 4000rpm when that gap seems smaller than you first thought. Just beware when making turns into lines of traffic at T intersections; that’s when turbo lag can sometimes make things interesting.
The 330d doesn’t want for grunt, with 195kW of power, and a burly 580Nm of torque, this from 1750rpm. Down low urge of the inline six is awesome, thanks to its variable geometry turbo. That’s linked to an auto with moonshot gearing, 100km/h equating to 1200rpm in eighth. So you need to nudge the lever left for overtakes, to get the loafing engine back up to speed.
On that, the eight-cog auto transmission is a ripper in Sport, and with launch mode activated the 330d gets to 100km/h in just under 5.5sec. It’s amongst the quickest diesel-powered vehicles we’ve tested – only one we can find has made it under 5sec for this discipline, take a bow SQ7 – and overtakes are dispatched with as much ease, 80-120 done in just under 4sec, or 110m.
It’s quick enough for sure, and in typical diesel fashion, is fast point to point because of its relaxed long-legged nature. Sound proofing is noteworthy; you scarcely hear the engine running, extra acoustic glazing largely responsible.
Compared with the previous generation, and this is the sixth of the Tourer, this bigger offering (76mm longer, 16mm wider) is even more dynamic thanks to broader tracks, a 25 per cent increase in body and suspension mount rigidity, increased spring rates and new ‘lift-related’ dampers – the damping forces vary according to the amount of wheel travel.
Despite being an AWD model, this is like rear-drive 3 Series variants in that you can round it up into a corner under power. Clearly when you hoof it the drive is apportioned mainly to the rear. That would make it unusual amongst AWD cars, at least outside of the world’s cost-no-object exotica. Not that it tends to understeer much anyway, not with a 48:52 weight split front/rear and its asymmetric complement of Turanza rubber.
We found all the drive modes pretty interesting, but most of the time left it in Comfort, its default mode where it both handles and rides beautifully. On long hauls you can save on fuel use by selecting Eco Pro mode, but the engine tends to feel lethargic, as expected.
Sport adds zing but stiffens ride. Adaptive (like the damping) is probably best if you’re in the mood for unravelling a winding section of road, without adding too much in the way of ride chop. In the class there are few that can match this estate for its handling and ride mix. About the only detraction for me is the thick-rimmed wheel. M-Sport brakes are superlative, with stellar bite right from initial application, a 33m stoppie from 100 not unexpected.
And being the top diesel of the 3 Series Touring range this also has some pretty trick hardware to hand. Its smart proximity key automatically locks and unlocks the vehicle on your approach and departure, a clever party trick. The ‘Hey BMW’ assistant works well at times but clearly isn’t a fan of National, the radio station that is. Yet more complex requests were often dealt to without question. Seventh-gen iDrive works well too.
The 330d is loaded with safety items, including head-up display with traffic sign recognition, and autonomous braking for any contingency, while there are cameras for Africa, wireless phone charging, and ConnectedDrive services. It’s all backed up by a five-year/100,000km warranty, with three years of scheduled servicing. The practicality of a 500L luggage compartment, expandable to 1510L and with a handy wide opening glass section, along with a gesture-activated fifth door, are added benefits.
|Model||BMW 330d xDrive Touring M Sport||Price||$97,900|
|Engine||2993cc, IL6, TDI195kW/580Nm||Drivetrain||8-speed auto, AWD|
|Fuel Use||6.1L/100km||C02 Output||161g/km|