BMW 3 Series

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BMW 330d SE

Road Test

BMW 3 Series 330d SE

Driven September 2008

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Few things in life are constant, but I’d like to add German car face-lifts to the ‘death and taxes’ cliché. Never mind a month, a week doesn’t go by without someone announcing another one. Audi, Mercedes, BMW – they’re all as bad as one another with the minor surgery. The ‘new’ 3-Series is no different.

And this is a problem from an enivronmental point of view. BMW is pushing this agenda harder than most, but then imagine the waste and energy required for re-tooling all these minor parts. What makes it even worse is when the end result looks pretty much the same as the original. Only the headlights, bonnet and the rear lights have been altered. Still, it hasn’t made it more ugly (even if it would be by an infintesimal margin) so that’s good.

The interior’s a bigger deal, if you specify the satnav. That’s because you then get iDrive, and this has been quite heavily reworked. Gone is the single rotating knob and two buttons, replaced instead with a knob and seven buttons. This means you can now navigate between the radio or the navigation without the hassle of going back to the menu screen the whole time. And BMW has finally fitted a ‘Back’ button.

This makes the whole thing far easier to work. All the nav is now worked off an internal hard drive as well, which means it runs quicker. If you’re worried about updates, your dealer simply plugs the car in, and you can get a new map.

The other area that BMW is future-proofing is the engine. Most of the motors in this face-lift remain the same, but the 330d gets some tweaks that make it 13bhp more powerful yet seven per cent more efficient (49.6mpg). This diesel is still a cracking engine – it’s as responsiveas a petrol and so smooth that revving it doesn’t get painful for those with mechanical sympathies. It’s not quite as quiet as some, but the diesel rattle here is hardly raucous.

But the efficiencies it gains are even more impressive. BMW is trying its damnedest to pre-empt any eco regulation that might pop up on the statute book in the next 10 years. It means that in the States you can specify ‘BluePerformance’ technology, which is all to do with conforming to NOx regulations. Given this isn’t presently an issue for our political masters, we don’t get that option.

Other car makers and governments should be taking note of how seriously BMW is taking all this green stuff. BMW’s marketing men should as well – re-engineering for these minor beauty tweaks is hardly eco-friendly.

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