In a world awash with cross-overs and SUVs, it’s highly refreshing to strap yourself back into a no-nonsense sports sedan.
Who better to demonstrate a fine example of the species than BMW, arguably the originators of this segment.
The BMW 320d, resplendent in blue, looks awesome for lack of a better, more mature sounding adjective.
It sits functionally correct: not too low that it loses crucial suspension stroke, avoids destroying that beautifully functional M Sport bodykit, but low enough to know it was built for one thing, and one thing only: carving canyons.
The current BMW 3-Series (codenamed F30) has given way to the future, being powered by turbocharged engines, a new 3-cylinder turbocharged option available in other markets, plus for the first time, electric power steering to reduce drag caused by a hydraulic set-up.
The transmission lever features a space-saving shift-by-wire, sending electronically (rather than mechanically) instructions to the transmission, and freeing up the interior space for more comfort.
The engine is a 2.0-liter twin power turbo diesel with CRDi injection. Output is an incredible 190 hp, and crucially, 400 Newton meters of torque.
A few generations back, the BMW 325i/328i of the E36 generation delivered similar output, but far less torque from a bigger, heavier, and thirstier engine.
Today, the smaller 4-cylinder does more for less. Technology indeed improves the breed.
Top speed is a highly believable 235 km/h, with the sprint to 100 km/h from rest dispatched in a conservatively claimed 7.3 seconds.
In-gear acceleration is manic, thanks to the almost instant tidal wave of torque. You really need to be at your wit’s end to relish the 320d’s amazing thrust.
The massive 255/35R19 tires provide equally massive grip, but thankfully doesn’t tramline on rough surfaces, and still blesses the BMW with amazing steering feel that is responsive and precise, something difficult with ultra-wide tires that offer prodigious grip in exchange for dainty, delicate feel.
The brakes are equally massive items. The front features massive 4-piston M calipers that clamp down on enormous discs.
Single piston rears do an admirable job of balancing out the braking.
The combination of powerful brakes, feelsome steering, a very torque engine, and the firm yet complaint BMW suspension means you’ll be spearing down every available opening without worrying about fuel consumption, thanks to an engine that delivers a claimed 23 kilometers per liter on the highway.
I recorded a more modest 9km/liter in the city with moderate to heavy traffic, and an impressive 17 km/liter on my weekly run down south considering I was risking license and liberty.
Yes, the BMW 320d eggs you, goads you to keep going faster because it is so smooth, so refined, so relaxed, and unfazed at almost anything you throw at it.
On winding roads, it feels great: brake hard on a straight-line, turn in crisply, clip the apex, and feed the power slowly but surely—and the 320d just rockets out of the corners.
You can be a bit more aggressive, trail-brake, and ditch-hook the tires for more drama—and the BMW is game, shrugging off differences in surface coefficient between paved and dirty surfaces with ease.
It is truly a real driver’s car.
The inside is beautiful, too. I still haven’t completely come to grips with BMW’s iDrive, but each iteration is slowly becoming a tad more intuitive to use.
The steering wheel is a handsome 3-spoke design, as seen on BMW’s proper M models, with paddle shifters behind, and auxiliary buttons for the iDrive system.
The interior is covered in soft leather with blue stitching, giving a sporty feel that breaks the black boredom and complements the polished faux aluminum accents on the dash and sidings.
A Harman-Kardon surround sound system is impressive, playing my garbage MP3 files decently through its DSP.
The seats are ultimately impressive because of the manually adjustable thigh support.
For long-legged people like me, the increase in thigh support really improves comfort over very long periods behind the wheel, and strains the knees less.
This means you can keep at the car harder and longer. A late-evening drive up to Baguio to challenge the mountain passes on a single tank of fuel is highly realistic, as you have a theoretical range of over 1,200 kms. in a single tank of gas.
According to a German friend, that’s roughly the distance from the heart of Germany to Northern Italy, which is a favorite holiday driving destination for many Germans.
There’s a new BMW 3-Series coming out soon. The latest 7th generation G20 3-Series was launched last year at the Paris Motor Show, and we expect it to break cover in the Philippines soon while BMW quietly moves the remaining stock.
They’ve given substantial discounts on the remaining units, which just makes the 320d M Sport an even greater bargain, and a highly involving, intoxicating, yet useable and practical option, versus a sea of SUVs and crossovers.
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