2012 BMW 3 Series 320d Review Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Mar, 07 2012 | 15 Comments

2012 BMW 320d REVIEW

Price: $60,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo-charged DOHC diesel
Power and Torque: [email protected], [email protected]
Transmission: Eight-speed sports automatic
Fuel consumption (claimed): 4.5 l/100km
Fuel consumption (on test): 6.2 l/100km



BMW's 3 Series: it’s been with us since 1975. Back then it was the size of a Cruze, now its dimensions are a near match for the Commodore.

And back then it was among the first of a new breed of smaller sporting sedans with crisp responsive handling and the quality feel and appointments of a premium saloon.

Successor to the famed 2002, the 3 Series was a car for the emerging young executive classes - both men and women - and, worldwide, it became the symbol for 'success on the rise'.

Fast-forward 37 years and, as a mark of success, few badges outside of Germany have the enduring cachet of the BMW roundel.

And few can capture the sheer driving excellence and agility of the sporting saloons from Bavaria.

Enter the new 3 Series. For 2012 there's edgier styling, and a longer wheelbase, and only one petrol six across the whole range (in the 335i, producing 225kW and 400Nm from its twin-turbo six).

But there's no shortage of power and performance anywhere with BMW's incredibly potent petrol and diesel fours.

We put the 320d through its paces and arrived at one inescapable conclusion: mid-size saloons don't get much better.

For performance, for engineering, and for that elusive X-factor: the satisfying feel of a superbly balanced sporting machine, BMW is in a class of its own.



Quality: Who can fault a BMW interior? It might lack a little passion, but fit, finish, and the quality feel to the leathers, plastics and tactile surfaces is simply first class.

The all-over beige of our tester was a bit, well, beige - it's not a colour I would choose - and the pterodactyl-skin trimmings (or whatever it is) to the arm-rests, console and dash is kind of wierd. But everything fits like a glove, and all switchgear and controls are perfectly placed and satisfying to the touch.

We love the '60s Astor radio' look to the dials, and love the look even more when lit up at night.

Comfort: The seats are simply super; firmly padded but nicely scalloped and with 'just right' under-thigh support. For effortless time at the wheel, at a $60k price, perhaps only the Lexus IS range comes close (but back seat passengers are cramped in the Lexus).

The ride is also - quite surprisingly - comfortable and certainly more compliant than the last two generations of 3 Series, which we thought were buttoned down a bit tight and jarred over Australian second-rate road surfaces.

Equipment: As a mid-spec model, the 320d is reasonably well-appointed. There's (naturally) an options list as long as the dingo fence, but BMW is loading in a lot more standard features than you would formerly expect to find.

Standard features include leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, intelligent cruise control, power-adjustable front seats with memory functions, automatic lights and wipers, and park distance control.

Our tester came with the 8.8-inch colour display - clear and easily navigated via the i-controller - and USB audio connectivity, Bluetooth, and a crisp six-speaker sound system with superb audio imaging is standard throughout.

Storage: The longer wheelbase of the new model - now 50mm longer, and with an overall increase of 93mm bumper to bumper - results in a bigger boot of 480 litres (as well as more interior legroom).

The clever 'elbow-jointed' boot hinges of the previous model have gone though, replaced with a more conventional hinged hanging arm that intrudes into the boot, but contained in its own cavity.

Besides an ample glovebox, cavities and nooks abound in the cabin - in the centre armrest, doors, console and centre-stack.


On The Road I

Driveability: Few cars deliver such satisfaction at the wheel.

That remarkable EfficientDynamics turbodiesel 2.0 litre DOHC four in the new 320d produces a lusty 135kW and 380Nm of torque. (It's essentially the same engine as in the 318d but in a higher state of tune.)

Throttle response is near instantaneous. Bury the shoe and there is a momentary pause, then it pulls like a train under a rising and irresistible swell of torque. Though a diesel, it is as smooth as a turbine and effortless on road.

It messes with the head that a diesel of such small internal dimensions can so easily propel a car of this size and 1430kg weight. Whether bolting from the line, pulling out of a corner or overtaking, it has winged heels when a turn of speed is called for.

BMW claims a fuel consumption of 4.5 l/100km for the eight-speed auto we tested (complete with paddle shifters); we managed 6.2 l/100km while left mostly in Sport and on a very tight new motor.

The 0-100km/h sprint time can be despatched in a claimed 7.6 seconds. There is a four-mode adjustment to the powertrain, steering, throttle and DSC settings – Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and ECO PRO - we gave each a shot but ending up choosing Sport as the preferred default.

It also features stop-start - it bumps a bit when re-starting - and brake energy regeneration.

Suspension: Typically BMW, the 320d has remarkable agility at speed but is equally at home poking around town or in and out of city car parks.

With all-aluminium double-wishbone suspension up front and five-link rear (trademark BMW), combined with rack and pinion steering, it quite simply provides superior handling and on-road poise.

Refinement: Close the doors and you're in a vault. There is a distant satisfying groan to the diesel engine on the highway, and quite a nice growl when working hard, but of windnoise there is none.

At speed on coarse bitumen a little tyre roar intrudes, but the current generation of run-flat tyres are far quieter than those fitted to previous-gen models.

Braking: Though 'light' underfoot, the 320d's brakes manage to combine good feel and predictable stopping performance with minimum effort and pedal travel.

Whether gliding to a stop, or having to quickly throw out the anchors, braking performance is simply superb.



ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars

Safety features: No compromise on safety in any BMW; the 320d features six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, cornering brake control and traction control.

Each in the range also features BMW's 'active protection system' which automatically activates at speeds above 18km/h.

The system tensions driver and front passenger seat belts, and if it determines a crash is likely, belts are tightened further and windows and sunroof instantly and automatically close.

Optional items in the 'ConnectedDrive' safety range include lane-change warning, lane-departure warning, rear-view camera and surround view.


Warranty and Servicing

Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres

Servicing: BMW does not set servicing intervals for the 3 Series; servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage


How It Compares I Value For Money

Audi A4 2.0TDI Multitronic ($56,200) - A very nice car offering similar levels of performance but with less power and torque, and, in our view, bettered by the robustness, superior dynamics and feel of the BMW. (see A4 reviews)

Lexus IS 250 Prestige ($55,800) - Exquisite build, a premium interior and heavily featured - but there's something woolly and NQR with the IS 250: it simply lacks the BMW's dynamism, engineering and style sense. (see IS reviews)

Mercedes-Benz C 250 CDI Avantgarde ($67,900) - Some think it's car-of-the-year material, we don't, although it is a superb drive and very fleet of foot.

It is more expensive than the 320d but does not have the sporting feel, nor the rakish personality of the BMW. (see C-Class reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.


TMR Verdict I Overall

The new BMW 3 Series 320d is, quite simply, a superb car. Anywhere you look, it is difficult to find fault. Spend an hour or two at the wheel and you will agree.

The interior, though a little soul-less, is exquisite in its quality and feel and the dynamics at the wheel are mesmerising. It is such an enjoyable car to drive it forces you to think about the driving experience and how capably this car performs.

It's not cheap, out of reach of my means, and possibly out of reach of most of middle Australia. And BMW service costs are certainly in the upper percentile - in line with a premium purchase.

But if the price of entry is within reach, this a car we're very comfortable in commending to you. If you're in the market for a premium sporting saloon, the 320d is one to put at the top of your list.



  • BMW 318d - $56,400
  • BMW 320i - $57,600
  • BMW 320d - $60,900
  • BMW 328i - $66,900
  • BMW 335i - $91,900

Trim / Equipment options

BMW 318d – Modern Line - $3900, Sport / Luxury Line - $4900
BMW 320i/d - Modern Line - $3100, Sport / Luxury Line - $4100
BMW 328i / 335i – Modern Line - $1000, Sport / Luxury Line - $2000

Note: Manufacturer’s Recommended List Price is shown and includes GST and Luxury Car Tax (LCT) but excludes dealer charges, stamp duty, statutory charges and on-road charges.

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