BMW 320d EfficientDynamics
Model/Engine size: 320d EfficientDynamics
Fuel economy combined: 68.9 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10
The new BMW 320d EfficientDynamics brings incredibly low emissions to the premium executive car sector, emitting just 109 g/km CO2, equating to 68.9 mpg; these are figures that many superminis struggle to get close to.
However, as impressive as these figures are, this is only part of the story. The 320d EfficientDynamics combines this amazing efficiency with a power output of 163 bhp, torque of 380 Nm, a 0-60 mph time of just 8.0 seconds, and a top speed of 142 mph. This certainly is a class-leading collection of efficiency and performance figures.
Even so, it's all very well quoting lots of statistics, but how does the 320d EfficientDynamics match up to Green-Car-Guide's target of being low emission whilst also being great to drive? Surely there must be some sacrifice in driveability?
We're delighted to report that, although the power output is 21 hp less than a 'normal' BMW 320d on which it's based, and with a longer overall transmission ratio, it's very difficult to tell any difference between the two cars when driving. And of course the 3 Series has the benefit of being rear-wheel drive, allowing the front wheels to do the steering while the rear wheels push the car round corners. How many other rear-wheel drive 109 g/km cars can you think of? The answer is none.
As well as rear-wheel drive, it comes with a chassis that combines enjoyment through the corners with comfort on long runs, and steering that is sharp and that provides good feedback. And of course it has a 50/50 weight distribution and short front and rear overhangs for well-balanced handling.
The only thing that potential owners may not like is the 16-inch 'aero' wheels. The expectation in this market is for cars with large alloy wheels and low profile tyres. The 320d EfficientDynamics may not boast huge wheels, but its new wheels do look good, and because the car has been lowered (by 15mm), the visual effect of the smaller wheels is much reduced. This wheel and the higher profile, low rolling resistance tyre combination does make an important contribution to help with lowering the emissions, helping to reduce the car's drag coefficient to just 0.27 and enhancing the airflow in the wheel arch area, so it's a small price that we would say is worth paying.
The 320d EfficientDynamics has a new 2.0-litre diesel engine, with a single turbo, mated to the now familiar array of EfficientDynamics technologies that are standard on the 3 Series range, including Auto Start Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration and Electric Power Steering that have featured on all four-cylinder BMW 3 Series models since September 2007.
There's one particular new engineering innovation on this car that's worth knowing about. Without getting too technical, it has a special flywheel, which is designed to ensure that the car remains smooth to drive at very, very low revs, when diesels are most efficient, but normally subject to lots of juddering. We tested this claim, and we can confirm that the car can be driven at 1000 rpm without any vibration. The idea is that drivers will keep the car in 6th gear for more of the time, so being more economical.
Although it may sound like the car has a lot of technology, the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics is basically a showcase for how to optimise the efficiency of a conventional internal combustion engine, without resorting to more expensive hybrid technology.
The result of all this engineering is that the 320d EfficientDynamics should be the perfect car for fleets. As well as paying no road tax from April 2010 due to being in VED band B, the 109 g/km CO2 emissions mean very low Benefit in Kind (13%), so minimising the personal taxation liabilities for company car drivers. It's also eligible for a 100% First Year Allowance, meaning that companies benefit from the opportunity to write down 100% of the car's value in the first year, and claim tax relief against profits in the year of purchase, so improving cashflow. And of course the 68.9 combined mpg figure means much reduced fuel bills, something that will be very welcome for fleets.
As if all that wasn't enough, when it comes to the time to sell the car, the residual values are forecast to be excellent. The fleet industry predicts that this should result in contract hire rates being five per cent less over 36 months compared to the standard BMW 320d saloon.
However this does bring us on to one issue that counts against the car; at £27,245, it's not the cheapest of green cars, and it's mainly this cost that prevents the 320d EfficientDynamics from gaining a Green-Car-Guide 10/10 rating. The 9/10 rating that it does get is still excellent, and we can't see any reason why fleets shouldn't want to adopt this car in large numbers. Despite the price, the good residual value helps to make the 320d EfficientDynamics a very attractive proposition from a whole-life point of view.
Although it may not be the most affordable of low emission cars, there is no extra price premium for this model over the similarly-equipped SE version. It comes with two-zone air-conditioning, rear Park Distance Control, BMW Professional radio, multi-function leather steering wheel and Extended lighting. But remember that the SE specification 17-inch alloy wheel is replaced with the 16-inch Aero alloy wheel.
Although the base 320d EfficientDynamics model doesn't come with satnav or Bluetooth phone connection, these essential items of technology for today's business drivers can be specified.
Interestingly, the 320d was chosen as the 'EfficientDynamics' model, rather than the 316d or 318d, as it's the biggest selling derivative. The UK is expected to be the largest market for the 320d EfficientDynamics saloon, accounting for 60 per cent of all models built, and this model is expected to account for 40-45% of all 320d sales in the UK.
Back in 1997 the BMW 325td saloon had 25 per cent more capacity than today's 320d saloon, yet today's standard 320d, not even the 320d EfficientDynamics variant, is 38% quicker to 60 mph, has 58% more power, 71% more torque, 36% lower emissions and consumes 58% less diesel.
The progress that has been made is reflected by the fact that over the last five years, between 2005 and 2010, BMW has decreased the fuel consumption of its cars by 28%.
However the key thing about this progress is that this latest iteration, the first premium executive car with emissions under 110 g/km, has no sacrifices. This is a car that has incredibly low emissions and excellent fuel economy, yet both business drivers and private individuals will enjoy driving it. It's class-leading in terms of emissions and performance, and therefore deserves great success.
How can BMW make things even better? For those who find saloons limiting from a practicality point of view, give us a Touring version!
Fuel economy extra urban: 56.5 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 78.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 109 g/km
Green rating: VED band B - £0
Weight: 1490 Kg
Company car tax liability (2009/10): 13%
Price: £27,245 (From £22,155 to £37,950)
Insurance group: TBC
Power: 163 bhp
Max speed: 142 mph
0-62 mph: 8.0 seconds
Keywords: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics review, BMW 320d EfficientDynamics road test