REVIEW DATE: 27 Aug 2009
BMW is pushing the EfficientDynamics boat out further with the 320d EfficientDynamics. Steve Walker reports.
EfficientDynamics has been quite a success story for BMW. Rather than just informing motorists that the fun is over and everyone's going to have to drive a tiny car with a tiny engine, the German marque set out to prove that its cars could be made super efficient and even more dynamically adept. Presented with this win, win scenario, the public took to EfficientDynamics like Polar bears to a non-melting ice berg. That prompted BMW to flex its EfficientDynamics muscles further with the 320d EfficientDynamics, the greenest 3 Series yet.
Ardent BMW watchers will know that the majority of cars in the manufacturer's range feature some aspect of EfficientDynamics technology. Even models that, on the face of it, look about as environmentally friendly as a greyhound is rabbit-friendly benefit from EfficientDynamics innovations, rendering them slightly less costly to run. The 320d EfficientDynamics is the first BMW to actually carry the 'EfficientDynamics' name and it appropriately benefits from the full package of efficiency modifications and then some.
At the heart of the 320d EfficientDynamics is the latest version of BMW's 2.0-litre diesel engine and 2.0-litre diesel engines don't get any better than this. Despite its declared focus on efficiency, the unit still produces 163bhp which is a handy amount and can propel a 3 Series saloon to 62mph in 9.1s.
That peak power is available between 3,500 and 4,200rpm but more tellingly, the 360Nm maximum torque is available from 1,750rpm all the way through to 3,000rpm. It promises excellent flexibility demonstrated by a fifth gear 50mph to 75mph time of 9.6s. You can almost hear the company car users who will constitute a large part of BMW's customer base for this model licking their lips and there aren't many 60mpg cars that can have that effect on the average Area Sales Manager.
"The fleet market will be highly whelmed by its 109g/km CO2 emissions."
The technology behind the engine is state-of-the-art. It's a third generation common-rail diesel unit with a single turbocharger and an all-aluminium crank case to save weight. So that refinement levels can live up to its efficiency, the unit has a dual mass flywheel and Centrifugal Pendulum Absorbers to reduce vibrations within the engine. In combination with a longer transmission ratio, it all helps the engine operate more smoothly at lower revs, potentially encouraging the driver to select a higher gear earlier, further improving economy.
The 320d EfficientDynamics runs on specially designed alloy wheels shod with Michelin EnergySaver tyres and rides 20mm lower on its springs than a standard 3 Series to enhance its aerodynamics. These features apart, there's little to differentiate it visually.
The 3 Series does a good job of accommodating adult passengers in its rear seats. There will be plenty of leg room even for six-footers but the headroom may be an issue. The boot is also of a decent size with 460-litres available in the saloon. Build quality in general is very solid in the 3 but the cabin lacks much of the fine detailing and upmarket materials you find in some rival products.
The specification of the 320d EfficientDynamics is equivalent to that of the standard 320d SE except for the smaller 16" alloy wheels. That means two-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, a multi-function leather steering wheel, extra interior lighting and parking sensors.
BMW is looking to put one over on its usual rivals with the 320d EfficientDynamics. The car will go head to head with the most efficient versions of the C-Class from Mercedes and the Audi A4. Of the three, BMW continues to hold a key advantage with its 3 Series on grounds of handling and dynamic performance. Now the competition with have its work cut out matching this car's economy too.
You have to remember that the 3 Series is a substantial compact executive saloon when reading its economy and emissions figures. They read more like those of a citycar. What's actually achievable in the real world is a different matter but on the official combined cycle, the 320d EfficientDynamics comes within a whisker of 69mpg. The fleet market will also be highly whelmed by its 109g/km CO2 emissions.
As well as the engine technology and modifications we've touched upon, this 320d features the EfficientDynamics staples of Auto Start Stop which cuts the engine when the car is stationary and Brake Energy Regeneration which uses kinetic energy usually lost when braking or coasting to recharge the battery. There's an electric power steering system too which helps take more strain off the engine.
More remarkable that the 69mpg economy and 109g/km CO2 emissions of the BMW 320d is the fact that it delivers them without significantly reducing the performance of BMW's compact executive saloon. That's EfficientDynamics for you though and while the German manufacturer continues to press home its advantage with this no-lose offering, rivals brands are going to have their work cut out keeping pace.
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