So for years I have driven used, mostly higher powered Japanese cars - they are crazily reliable and between 95-2005 I would say they outdid European cars in most areas, other than style/luxury of course. My first car, a 91 CRX vtec had an all ally engine about a decade before Ford started advertising '16v' as a technical marvel on its 4 pots!
However challenged with finding the fastest, sporty, car that would be both practical, and realistic as a company car proposition, I was somewhat surprised to see that the 330d wasn't just a good choice, but no matter how I worked the maths it was basically the only choice. The only way of not becoming a BMW driver was to order something that used less fuel, and moved more slowly.
I will say that I never had any predjudice against BMW myself, but here in the UK at least it is a fact that many people do. But you know what? That's their problem! I'm very happy with this car.
Certainly a better looker in the flesh than in photos. Odd how some cars just don't look as exciting in photos. Mine is black, so of course it only looks good if very frequently washed... But I have to say that I prefer the tourer to the sedan. Somehow the sedan is a bit stubby looking, the tourer looks more powerful somehow. Either way, I agree with most people that in the flesh the F30/F31 is better than many feared, a lot better. Lastly, the square bonnet shut lines really don't show up as they do in photos, it was something I thought would bother me, I don't even think about it.
In M-Sport with hex trim and blue trim finisher, it looks and feels very businesslike and focused in there. I personally think the contrast red stitching on the straight sport model is perhaps more 'sporty'. But overall the m-sport trim is exactly what most drivers will want and appreciate. Comfort-wise it's pretty close to faultless, the seat adjustment will be more than sufficient for just about anyone and everything else is typically well thought through and sensibly laid out as in other German cars. The general quality of assembly and choice of materials is very high, it's a quality product for sure. My only criticism is that BMW use quite poor leather for standard trims, and unless you want to pay a lot more that's what you're stuck with. Frankly I'd rather they put an extra £500 on the price tag of the m-sport and replaced 'Dakota Leather' for something a little finer. Audi leather seats are considerably better for a comparable price.
Standard gear includes all you would expect and not much that you wouldn't. The chassis however does come with a number of exciting tweaks such as electronic diff, self drying brakes, all the various stability and traction programs and the full range of efficient dynamics systems. There is a lot 'under the hood' so to speak that many won't think about, but it all goes towards making the new 3 series, in my opinion, very good value for money. These things are often forgotten when comparing a 3-series to other cars in the class.
Of particular mention is the 'new iDrive' system. I borrowed an old 5 series with the older system (the first with favorite buttons I think) and it was good. The new infotainment system is outstanding though. 3D maps, wikipedia articles about POIs as you drive past them, very accurate voice control etc etc. I could go on, for a very long time about all the features. Suffice to say that you will probably end up getting more than you expected when the car arrives. The new style screens are also very good and do not suffer glare at all.
The 'Amazing??' Engine
So here we have a 6 cylinder diesel that we're told has no noticeable lag, revs to 5500rpm and as freely as many petrol cars. And we're to believe that is uses considerably less fuel than a 328, is faster and many would say sounds better... For many these claims are hard to believe. Yes it does it on paper, but can it really feel as good, or better even, than it's closest petrol sibling? Have we genuinely reached the point that even a serious and passionate petrol head can consider diesel?
I think that's exactly what BMW have achieved. For a long time now their diesel engines have been the best on many technical levels. But they were still diesels, they were still the choice of someone who wants to save money and sacrifice a little purity. But now, driven back to back, I can say hand on heart that BMW have solved every historic problem with diesel engines. It's not just fast in a straight line and when rolling, it accelerates from standstill with a violence you wouldn't believe any turbo car could pull off. There really is no lag to speak of. Partly this is down to the new turbo technology, lag really isn't a factor anymore for any twinscroll turob BMW, and partly it's because the twist provided off the line by a 6 cylinder is considerably better than a 4 cylinder. Whatever speed you're doing, acceleration is immediate and very smooth.
Talking of smoothness, the new gearbox is also a star and a feather in BMWs cap. For a while many cars had pointless 6th and 7th gear auto boxes and the result was a lot of gear shuffling and a feeling that really things were better back when most autos had 4 or 5. Finally BMW prove that the number of gears can be increased to help efficiency and acceleration, without the box acting like it's still learning to drive. Also I'm happy to report that changes (both up AND down) are very smooth indeed.
Speed wise expect the car to rocket toward 125mph with no let-up at all, in a very smooth and effortless manner. If you want to go faster still acceleration will start to wane a little but that is to be expected in any car without a lot higher bhp output. That said it is very obvious that if you were so inclined hitting the max limited 155mph would not take that much longer. It's a properly fast car.
Worth remembering for anyone thinking of ordering, that the 330d is now very close in day to day driving to the the current M3. In performance terms overall the M3 is still far superior for a number of reasons - but it's worth bearing in mind just how fast the 330d is now. You are buying a car that is substantially faster than most other cars on the road. Even if most wouldn't expect it. It is an amazing engine, well done BMW. It's a proper game changer.
The ride, the drive
One thing I'm surprised reviews haven't picked up on is how much more compliant the m-sport ride is compared to the old models. The 5 series I drove for a while crashed and bounced all over the place when presented with even a small pothole - BMW deserved their 'back-breaker' reputation. Yet here we have a car that handles just as well (although the new steering is not ideal for the purist) but manages a perfectly acceptable ride. In my car, in comfort setting, it actually could be described as comfortable. Impressive consdiering it's still rolling on run-flat tyres.
The adaptable suspension is also very good. It doesn't so much make the car firmer, as more reactive to heavy cornering and general road/traction conditions. It's very subtle, but it works with everything else to make the car feel much more taught in sport/sport+ mode. The best demonstration is to drive round a large empty roundabout in comfort until the car feels a little wallowy, then swap in to sport - immediately you feel the car push itself back level, dig in and ask for a bit more throttle. It's nice to feel technology come together so well like that. I drove the demo car without the adaptive suspension which was also a very good all-rounder, but I would say the extra level of flexibility offered by the adaptive option is well worth it.
Very punchy bass which is what most people ticking the option will see as a mark of quality. I'm a bit of an audiophile and would say that at high volume, the bass soon starts to interfere with the mid-tones, but overall for a £600 option the system is staggering value. And yes, very loud and very punchy! There is no doubt that most boy-racers spend a lot more on after market gear to achieve a lesser overall result.
Perhaps the best reason to go for the HK option though is that the current standard BMW system is actually very weedy. That's probably because most people these days have placed convenience above quality reproduction of music, which is fine. But if you like it loud and strong, you need to tick that box. As a bonus you get very smart looking HK speaker grills all over the car. Nice touch and certainly suits the punchy character of the 330d.
I have of course skipped all the boring practical stuff. Yes it has a big boot blah blah, we can assume it will be as good and generally slightly better than its predecessor or equivalent older models from Audi or Mercedes in just about every practical consideration. And you can be just as sure they will claw back an extra 3mm legroom and 7 litres of boot space when they update. It's safe to say it won't disappoint - but then if you're speccing the 30d model you probably won't be swayed by such things anyway. If you had your sensible hat on you would have chosen the 320 ED.
I'll start with the cost.. As specced my car was a few quid short of £42,500. That's quite a lot for a cart that starts out at £37k. Should BMW just put the £2k pro-nav option in it's cars as standard? I sort of think so, on the basis that not many people will want to spend this sort of money on a car these days and then use a paper roadmap! But I see that niether Audi or Mercedes include nav as standard either, so perhaps they all figure if they can charge they should.
It's also impossible to ignore the fact that if I had wanted xenon headlights, electric seats (should be standard!!) and few other common options that many comparable cars have as standard, the car would have been over £45,000. That's a lot of money for anyone that started out picking up a 3-series brochure seeing prices start at £25,000.
But really my review is overtly positive for good reason: It's a fantastic all rounder, and the focused drive most will expect is still all there - as much as it is in any modern car. I feel good driving it as I know it's capable of more than most would expect, and I personally enjoy the performance very much.
The thing I like most of all though, is that BMW have successfully managed to solve all the lingering issues I had with diesel, and they have proven how good an auto box can be in a sporty car, and they made a sporty car that can also be very comfortable. It's amazing that they have delivered all these things in a single new car - making it probably one of the best new cars money can buy. So long as you have quite a lot of money to spare if you want more than a radio and seat that moves around on ratchets.
Thumbs up - you should all tell your bosses that you work hard and deserve a 330d, not a 320d