New BMW 3 still top

driver's exec

BMW 320d x-Drive 2019 front threequarters
BMW 320d x-Drive 2019 side
BMW 320d x-Drive 2019 head on
BMW 320d x-Drive 2019 rear
BMW 320d x-Drive 2019 front seats

WHILE the other 'junior' executive cars are getting closer all the time, the BMW 3 Series has long been known as the finest to drive in the class.

And of course, while the competition struggles to match it, BMW also renews its offerings on a regular basis making the 3 better and better.

The latest model was introduced earlier this year and I recently managed to get a drive in one of the range topping xDrive M Sport 4x4 diesels.

Few drivers would want for more.

With 187bhp now available from the venerable 2.0-litre engine, plus a massive amount of low speed torque, acceleration is superb.

And with top quality sound proofing and improved engine design, many would not even realize they were driving with a diesel engine up front because it's so quiet.

Yet driven carefully, this is a car capable of over 50 miles per gallon in real driving conditions, which has to be fantastic.

Acceleration is excellent from any speed, helped by the standard switchable eight-speed automatic gearbox.

This has paddles behind the wheel to make manual changes, but it also has a Sport setting. In this mode the car has such fantastic response that I would very rarely need the paddles. The gearbox does it better.

It is always in the right gear and on song, giving maximum shove in the back whenever it's needed.

This car is a complete joy to drive in almost every way with wonderful steering and a superb feel through the corners with fantastic grip.

It seemed almost impossible to unstick when I threw it around a short circuit, taking bend after bend with amazing ease.

The four wheel drive system helps here, allowing the driver to power out of a corner in huge safety and the whole package is incredibly involving.

M Sport spec adds four selectable driving modes - Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Individual and there's also an Adaptive option on cars fitted with adaptive suspension.

Eco Pro and Comfort are largely self-explanatory, while putting the car in Sport gives a sharper accelerator response, makes the suspension stiffer on cars with adaptive suspension and adds weight to the steering.

I found this setting over the top, because the steering became far too heavy and for that reason I don't think I would ever use it.

The best option for more response from the engine therefore, is to use the Individual settings.

Despite the huge amount of fun and built in safety, there is one downside that spoils this model as against the lower order 3 Series.

The suspension is too hard, and gives a fidgety and occasionally uncomfortable ride over poor surfaces, which is a great shame.

One of the greatest attributes of lower order cars is that they handle perfectly while at the same time giving a supple and very comfortable ride.

This model comes with BMW's Active Guard Plus range of electronic devices, including lane-departure warning, speed limit assist, front collision warning with brake intervention and pedestrian detection and of course it has airbags throughout and traction control.

The spacious interior is high quality - if a little unrelieved black in the car I drove - and comes with loads of technology.

There are parking sensors all-round and a reversing camera, plus cruise control, electric heated leather sports seats, alarm, Bluetooth and a good sounding stereo.

The rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 per cent pattern for longer loads, and it also has alloy wheels and plenty of seat and steering column adjustment.

FAST FACTS

Price: £39,820

Mechanical: 187bhp, 1,995cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 144mph

0-62mph: 6.9 seconds

Combined MPG:61

Insurance Group: 31

C02 emissions: 121g/km

Bik rating: 32%

Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited miles

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