The BMW 330d xdrive M Sport Touring is the four-wheel drive option for those seeking a bit more winter security. Few cars at any price promise to combine quality, versatility, economy, performance, entertainment and any-season useability.
Engine, performance and 0-60 time
For a shade under £40,000 this BMW combines 253bhp, 413lb ft, 0-62mph in 5.4sec, 52.3mpg and a four-wheel-drive system that has a nicely rear-biased 40/60 torque split but can apportion as much as 100 per cent of torque to either axle in 0.1 seconds.
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The xDrive system itself consists of an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch behind the gearbox, from where a separate driveshaft runs forwards to power the front wheels. The system uses wheel speed data from the DSC sensors and steering angle information to constantly alter the torque split for optimum traction. The weight penalty is 65kg and a 330d xDrive will cost you £1515 more than a standard rear-drive version.
What’s it like to drive?
First impressions of the 330d xDrive are much like those for any other 3-series Touring. It really is a quality item and despite its ever-ballooning size this is still a car that suits our crowded island, feeling relatively compact and instantly putting you at ease. The 3-litre turbocharged diesel engine punches hard and smooth, producing peak torque from as little as 1500rpm, while the superb eight-speed automatic gearbox (there is no manual offered) is adept at exploiting the delivery. The 330d feels genuinely fast and ever-ready to translate your commands into serious action.
However, while the innate rightness of the 3-series formula still shines through, there’s no question that the F30-generation cars have lost some of the tension and response that’s always been so central to the model’s personality. The ride is much improved over the old car’s but the sharpness in direction changes is gone and the body control can actually feel slightly ponderous, belying its hefty 1675kg. Toggle the Drive Performance Control up to Sport or Sport+ and some of the agility is restored, but the slightly lazy feel remains. As a result, in everyday driving the 330d xDrive feels more ‘luxury’ than ‘sports’ and less distinctive for it. It should be said that our test car’s winter tyres no doubt add to this less precise feel and it would be improved with regular rubber. Even so, it’s disappointing that the 3-series feels well rounded almost to the point of anonymity.
And what of xDrive? Well, it’s actually very good indeed. Whereas the rear-drive 3-series is quite a tricky car to really get to flow due to in-built understeer and then inside-wheelspin due to the lack of limited-slip diff, the xDrive car seems better able to find a nice rhythm. There’s still some understeer but – again, on winter tyres at least – that push is quickly contained and then the rear axle starts to dictate the car’s balance. For the most part you’ll just feel the car neutralise and get terrific drive, but should you try to find the limits it tends to adopt a mild oversteery balance that is easy to modulate and never runs away into panic-inducing big angles.
It’s nice to drive a powerful 3-series that can really deploy its power without getting ragged and one that feels comfortable being driven at its maximum potential. Is that worth £1515 over a rear-drive 330d? We’d say so.
If you want all wheel drive in this market, the choice is surprisingly limited. There is of course the well-trodden Audi A4 Quattro, but if you’re looking for dynamic drive, the Audi will leave you cold. Mercedes also offers a 4Matic system on the outgoing C-class, but unfortunately this has never been available in the UK. The next generation C-class will be the first model to offer this in right-hand drive form.
Price and release date
The BMW 330d xDrive is available now for £39,915.
|Engine||In-line 6-cyl, 2993cc, turbodiesel|
|Max power||254bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Max torque||413lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm|
|Top speed||155mph (limited)|