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109 PS/litre, in a diesel. Want more?

Driven: BMW 325d (2013)

05/04/2014 09:09 |  Comments: 


As typical of a long-serving automotive journalist he worked at nearly all of the major printed automotive magazines in Hungary before ending up on the internet. More of the new cartester type, he’s also an automotive engineer by profession. Although he’s the editor in chief
of the mother magazine,, he loves doubling as a photographer – we sometimes
think he made a mistake when choosing titles. Has a wife and a small daughter.

The 325tds used to be the almighty god of diesel cars. Later, three-litre engines eclipsed the powerplant, turning the --25 denomination into something vaguely uninteresting. Uninteresting, yes, but still a six-pack. Today, all you have left is power. Immense power, more than any former six-cylinder BMW3 could ever dream of.

Is that something you should weep over? I don't know. Probably yes, because four cylinders are never going to sing like six can. And in all honesty, this two-litre BMW four-pot is not a Voice winner, not when accelerated flat out or driven so slowly that wind noise cannot overpower it. Travel below 60 kph and noise comfort in this 2.0-litre BMW 3 will be worse than in mass market cars. Amazingly, the car becomes relatively silent at higher speeds.

The riddle of the BMW diesel continues on the engine cover. You see, all their engines are now marked ‘Twin Power Turbo'. Think about it and you realise this is absolutely rubbish, a perfect example of marketing gaining an upper hand over reason. For one, it makes you think all engines have twin turbo. But also, it contains the catchphrase Power which automatically alludes to BMW M Power, somethingdecidedly ironical when driving the 116d or the 114i.

The reason I am saying this is because with all this twin power nonsense you tend to forget that the 325d has in fact two turbochargers. BMW uses the exact same engine block in four of its models - the 316d, the 318d, the 320d and the 325d. The feeblest of these has 116 PS on tap, followed by 143, 184 and finally 218 PS. As concerns this latter: it amounts to a specific power of 109 PS/litre. The difference is even more staggering in terms of torque – 260 Nm for the 316d, and almost twice as much, 450 Nm for the 325d. This either means that the latter has an altogether different lubrication system and oversized bearings, or the 316d is an engine built for eternity, possibly a bit beyond.

Specifically, the 325d has a two stage turbocharger. At lower revs it is charged by a small diameter turbo, and a larger one at higher engine speeds. This gives you immense peak power yet keeps the engine from feeling feeble at low rpms. With the eight-speed automatic gearbox you don't really need this reassurance but there are people who actually buy this engine with a manual gearbox. Pity the fools!

For one thing, BMW's current manual gearboxes are a far cry from what they used to be at the dawn of the 3-series. But more importantly, the 325d A/T will consume less and also out-perform the manual version in terms of acceleration. Slightly, but still: it can do 6.6 secs to 100 kph, while skilled drivers can pull 6.8 seconds from a manual. This eight-speed automatic gearbox is swift and smooth, it works like a charm.

The start-stop system is pretty sophisticated, although, with the kill switch located near the ignition button, you are tempted to switch it off right away. I ended up leaving it on for the most because restarts were smooth, with the engine back up running as soon as I lifted off the brake pedal.

The funny thing is that the M3 from the E36 family was only marginally faster (at least before the engine was tuned to 321 PS) and it was considered a hard core sports car. And here you have a cuddly sports sedan with an automatic gearbox going just as fast, while the driver is scribbling down the address for the sat nav. Yes, scribbling: the iDrive controller now doubles as a touch sensitive surface with hand writing recognition feature. This is something you can absolutely live without but for me it worked all the time. The technology supplier responsible for this must have a great lobbyist in Germany, as the feature first appeared in Audis, and now in BMW's.

I give credit to BMW for translating each and every page within the infotainment system menu to our local language, given that we are just an insignificant speck on the sales map for BMW. What's more, it has been done with great precision and linguistic sophistication – not every carmaker takes the trouble to do that. Mind you, in a car that costs €40K I absolutely expect menu messages to be as flawless as everything else, regardless of how many of these BMW are going to sell.

There are two unexpected features that come with this 2.0-litre diesel. One is the coarse and unpleasant engine tone, the other, the impossibly favourable fuel consumption. Without resorting to the Eco Pro setting it could do around 6 l/100km in urban traffic; 5.5 if I got lucky – coming from an A/T diesel weighing in at 1.5 tons that leaves you gasping for air. Drive it faster and it still remains composed and modest, with my peak value registering around seven litres. Of course I didn't drive the car at 200kph but my guess is for the fuel consumption to reach 8-10 l/100km you have to go so fast the police no longer bothers giving you a ticket, they just shoot you on the spot.

I couldn't tell you the raison d'être for the 325d. Honestly, if you want a 3-series you will probably just buy a 320d, perhaps a 318d because simply that's all the car you need. If you have cash to burn you can buy optional extras or go for the xDrive AWD version.

On the other hand, if you want flat-out luxury you would opt for the 330d or, better yet, the 335xd. The 325d may start at around €39K but this is a purely hypothetical value, as it would cost around €50,000 to make it a proper premium car, with automatic gearbox, nice wheels, pretty interior, metallic paint, the upgraded iDrive system, and satnav (itself a €2400 option). And my guess is if you can spend $50K on a car you could just as well spend $60K, right?

The 325d is not intended for the Hungarian market. For the Germans who use a 30-page catalogue of extra features to hand-pick their car to match their needs and means it is an important option because you do need the 218 PS engine to fill in the void between 184 PS and 258 PS, don't you? While middle-of-the-road solutions are not the Hungarian way of doing things I found the 325d a rather good car. It is sufficiently spacious, it has a brilliant running gear and an economy that keeps me bugging. Or rather, I'd like to know why other cars equipped with similar eco technologies consume more fuel than this BWM.

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