| First Drive | Dublin, Ireland | BMW 320d EfficientDynamics |
Model tested: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics saloon
Pricing: £28,080 (identical to 320d SE)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Audi A4, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
CO2 emissions: 109g/km
Combined economy: 68.9mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 8.0 seconds
Power: 163hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,750- to 2,750rpm
In the Metal:
The new BMW 3 Series continues to divide opinion. For what it's worth, we dig the daring, protruding kidney grille design and the 5 Series like rear end. However, it's a shape that is very wheel and colour sensitive, so the 16-inch 'turbine' rims fitted to the EfficientDynamics model look puny. You're stuck with them unless you upgrade to aftermarket items, though they're virtually the only clue to the fact that this is the EfficientDynamics model.
Neither is there anything inside to give the game away. As in the rest of the range, it's a stylish cabin. It is a pity that some of the plastic switchgear doesn't feel as solid as it does in the 5 Series, but it's undoubtedly well put together.
The EfficientDynamics saloon should drive just like the standard BMW 320d really, though there are some differences. First up, the engine is detuned slightly, from 184- to 163bhp. You'll do well to notice though, as there's the same 380Nm of torque available from just 1,750rpm. Indeed, as the final drive ratio has been lengthened, you tend to drive this car in a high gear with low revs.
That's made easier by the 'centrifugal pendulum absorber' fitted to the flywheel. It reduces vibration under acceleration at low speed, eliminating the feeling that you need to change down a gear. Thanks to its inclusion, the Optimum Shift Indicator has been altered, helping you drive more economically more of the time.
To be honest, you'd have to drive this and the regular 320d back-to-back to notice, but it must work, as fuel economy is impressive. Unfortunately, the engine is quite noisy, which makes you thankful for the stop-start system around town.
As you'd hope, the EfficientDynamics edition steers like any other 3 Series, which is to say it is beautifully balanced and agile like none of its rivals. This new generation has comfort on its side too and that's enhanced in the EfficientDynamics car thanks to the deeper tyre sidewalls.
What you get for your Money:
BMW prices the EfficientDynamics saloon identically to the SE model and its spec mimics that car - apart from the smaller alloys. The other differences are all in the name of efficiency, including a 10mm lower ride height. However, buyers of the EfficientDynamics model have less choice from the options list. While they can specify an eight-speed automatic (impressively without denting the economy or emissions), there's no M Sport option and the Touring line-up does not include the EfficientDynamics grade. That's the price of 7.5mpg and 10g/km improvements.
Going by the 2012 Budget changes, the BMW 320d SE attracts 18% BIK, whereas the 320d EfficientDynamics version (comparing manual variants here) is in the 15% bracket. At a purchase price of £28,080 that's a saving for the latter of £842.40 per year, or £70.20 a month. That's before you take fuel economy into consideration.
The EfficientDynamics saloon is the most efficient version, no question, but it will benefit high mileage and company buyers most. If you've already decided that you'd like a new BMW 320d SE in its standard guise then there's no reason not to go for the EfficientDynamics version instead - the drop in power is small. If, however, you want a sportier looking 3 Series you're better off with a 320d Sport or M Sport - they're economical by any measure.