Fleet News

BMW 320d Sport - 8,413 miles



BACK in 1997 my partner persuaded me, much against my will, to spend £900 on a Miele washing machine.

I had wanted to opt for a good old Hotpoint at £400 but she insisted and I felt obliged to submit (you would too if you knew her!).

Six years down the line I am forced to admit that she was right – that washing machine was worth every penny.

Its German engineering is superb for a start. The door snicks shut as only a Miele door can, all the switches work with a sort of upmarket click and the washing is laundered quietly and efficiently. And what's more, I wouldn't mind betting that it will still be working as efficiently in 20 years' time.

I mention my washing machine here because I was reminded of it when I first climbed aboard our BMW 320d Sport. The two seem to have a lot in common.

Our BMW's doors snick shut beautifully, everything in the cabin works like a superbly engineered dream and while it won't do your washing, the car offers a general driving experience that few others can match – no wonder BMW is the choice of many up-and-coming executive user-choosers.

The monikers 'd' and 'Sport' appearing on the same spec sheet is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until a few years ago, diesel stood for dull and detuned. But BMW's engineers have worked their magic, giving the car a huge amount of mid-range torque, the ability to rev smoothly right up to the 5,000rpm red line and yet fuel economy in the 40s, thanks to the six-speed gearbox. You very rarely need to take the engine up to the red line though because the 320d provides the majority of its power from as little 2,000rpm.

But what really makes it special is the buttoned-down suspension and those glorious 18-inch wheels on low profile tyres. Talk about riding on rails – try as I might, I have so far failed to put this car in a state of discomposure through bends, however hard I push it. Mind you, I've managed to get that traction control light winking a few times.

I have a couple of minor complaints with our Beemer, however. The standard black roof lining in our Sport model gives the cabin a dark and sombre appearance, especially when compared to the lower half, which is clad in an appealing light camel colour.

Also the clutch seems to have been taken straight out of a lorry, such is its stiffness. Crawling to work the other day in heavy traffic, I was left with an aching left leg, such was the ferocity of the mechanism.

Also, the car seems to have a great disinclination to engage reverse gear, a trait I'm told is common to all manual BMWs. It takes a good few seconds of tugging and grunting before it finally pops in.

On the reliability front, all has been 100% as you would expect, but rather annoyingly the car suffered a cracked windscreen while under the guardianship of its last tester. Autoglass proved its worth once again – they were round to Fleet Towers PDQ with their mobile fitting service to install a new one at a cost of £302.64.

A service like that is well worth having for the busy fleet driver as it means he or she doesn't have to pootle off to the nearest stockist and leave the car for an hour or two while the glue in the new screen dries. Regular readers may also remember an annoying squeak from one of the rear wheels which has now miraculously stopped of its own accord.

Company car tax bill 2003/04 (40% tax-payer): £151 per month

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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