BMW 320d EfficientDynamics review
by David Finlay (13 August 2012)
The wonder of the clumsily-named 320d EfficientDynamics is that it's a medium-sized family car with a powerful diesel engine and more than acceptable straightline performance which, despite all that, has official combined fuel economy of 68.9mpg and such a low CO2 rating (109g/km, or better than that of the cheapest Ford Fiesta) that it will cost you just £20 in Vehicle Excise Duty from year two onwards.
For business users, it's also eligible for the 100% First Year Allowance, though if you want to take advantage of that you'll have to be quick, since this will no longer be the case from April 2013.
Despite that piece of legislative goalpost-shifting, the 320d ED is still a thing to be marvelled at, not least because that notional 68.9mpg figure seems to be a lot more achievable than these things usually are. This was too short a test for me to be able to take meaningful measurements, but the trip computer assured me that, on free-flowing A-roads at least, I was getting well over 60mpg without really trying to be economical.
And if you're not convinced by that, you might want to bear in mind that earlier this year I averaged 54mpg over more than 1500 miles in the more powerful 320d Sport (see review) which did not have the ED's fuel-saving features including low-rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamically optimised alloy wheels.
The tyres make quite a difference to the handling, which is noticeably less sharp in the ED than it is in the Sport. But the ED is nevertheless willing to be driven very enthusiastically, and in particular it was beautifully well-balanced when hustled through a particular series of corners whose location I choose not to reveal.
It also had quite a nice gearchange, so different from BMW's normal notchiness in this area that I'm inclined to think it was a fluke specific to this car and not necessarily to be found in an ED you might buy yourself.
The look of the interior was typically disappointing, though, and during this test I found myself wondering if BMW leaves its interiors to design themselves these days. Even the brushed aluminium trim with black high-gloss finisher, a £230 optional extra, didn't help much.
It was by no means the only option on display. An unadorned ED costs £28,080, which seems a little on the high side for a car intended to provide low running costs and not fitted as standard with a front armrest. If you want leather upholstery, that's £1265, DAB digital radio costs £305, and you need to cough up a further £1995 for the admittedly very comprehensive Professional Multimedia system which includes Bluetooth phone preparation, USB unput, voice control, satellite navigation and the BMW Assist system.
The adaptive xenon headlights and heated front seats fitted to the test car are optional too, and along with the items already mentioned and several more I won't trouble you with they brought the total price up to £35,775. The financial benefits of the lower CO2 emissions are therefore hardly worth talking about, at least for private buyers, but the ED's combination of performance, handling and economy remains outstanding.