What is it?
BMW’s diesel-powered 3-series has long been the acceptable face of oil-burning for enthusiasts. This new F30-generation 330d M Sport is no exception. Prices start at £36,610 for the saloon, the Touring costlier at £38,035.
With a 3-litre single-turbo straight-six developing 254bhp and 413lb ft, it’s a seriously muscular machine. Limited to 155mph and capable of hitting 62mph in 5.6sec, it promises to combine E46 M3 performance with 58mpg economy. Is it too good to be true?
What’s it like to drive?
First impressions are wholly encouraging. This new 3-series is a big car, but the benefit of this relentless upsizing is a spacious interior and a gargantuan boot. A Touring version would surely be the perfect family wagon. Thankfully it disguises its bulk well with taut damping, direct steering and a satisfying sense of agility.
The 330d M Sport only comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission, which you can leave to do its own thing or bat up and down through its gears via a pair of paddle-shifters. As we found in the excellent M135i, it’s a livewire of a transmission and it brings the 330d to life when set in one of its more aggressive modes. But that’s not to say it won’t mooch along effortlessly in ‘D’: with all that torque it has plenty of shove from minimal revs.
Chassis-wise there’s much to like too. The ride is firm enough to feel like it deserves the M Sport badge, but remains supple enough to be a pleasure on less-than-smooth roads. It turns in keenly and enjoys rapid direction changes. The brakes have a firm pedal, smooth response and plenty of stopping power.
The steering (or rather its artificial weighting and general lack of feel) is worthy of a gripe. You can ramp up or calm down its rate of response via the choice of driving dynamics modes from Eco Plus to Sport Plus, but the steering itself feels as if all the feedback is being filtered out.
How does it compare?
Close rivals are the 241bhp, £37,490 Audi A4 3.0 TDI S-line Quattro and 261bhp, £36,735 Mercedes C350 CDI AMG Sport, while the 197bhp, £28,255 Ford Mondeo 2.2 TDCI Titanium X Sport is a less premium but dynamically able alternative. The BMW trumps them all for fun and feel-good factor.
Anything else I need to know?
Like most modern cars, the fuel consumption figures are optimistic. BMW claims a combined 58mpg and a range of 722 miles from the 57-litre tank, but if our real-world experience is anything to go by, you can expect mid-40s and a practical range of 500 miles. But given the performance, refinement and character on offer, it’s hardly a disappointment.