I’M standing in front of a hotel in the south of England and lined up in front of me are some of the sleekest and finest new BMWs on the market. There’s the glorious M6 Convertible with its howling V10 engine and a host of stylish 3-series Coupes.
So why have I taken the keys to a four-door 3-series that appears little different from any others in the range? Because this car – the new, and largely unheralded, 325d – makes a strong case for itself as being the best choice in the range. Sure, it costs £27,000, but its range of talents make it more than a match in fleet terms for the cheaper, and far more popular, 320d.
While the 320d remains the first rung on the ladder for many young executives, the 325d’s pricing brings it into contact with its lower-powered sibling.
A 320d M Sport has a P11D value of £27,102 – £10 cheaper than a 325d SE. For a 40% taxpayer, the 325d will cost £36 more a month in benefit-in-kind tax, thanks to the 320d’s lower emissions (153g/km versus 171).
And fuel economy will be fairly similar, with the 320d returning 49.6mpg compared to the 325d’s 44.1.
While the 320d has a financial advantage, the 325d’s extra power more than makes up for it, with its smooth six-cylinder engine delivering 34bhp more than the four-cylinder 320d.
And the 325d also competes with its larger-egined 330d cousin, undercutting its P11D price by £2,400 and saving a driver £20 a month in BIK tax, so you are getting the best of both worlds.
The 325d is expected to account for just 13% of diesel 3-series sales. However, I’ll wager it will take a much bigger share once the word gets out.
Behind the wheel
THE 325d uses a detuned version of the smooth 3.0-litre straight-six diesel engine found in the 330d, reduced in power from 227bhp to 197bhp.
However, that 30bhp shortfall isn’t as bad as it sounds because the 325d still has a healthy wedge of torque – nearly 300lb-ft – available from 1,300rpm. This makes for effortless acceleration in all gears from almost any speed.
And as it’s a 3-series, it rides and handles beautifully. In SE spec as tested it blends sporty handling with a comfortable ride in a way the more stiffly-suspended M Sport models can’t.
Factor in a decent level of equipment in SE guise, top-notch build quality and that ultra-desirable badge on the bonnet and the 325d becomes the first choice for middle-ranking executives.
MUCH of the pace and all of the refinement of the 330d, but cheaper to buy and run, and cheaper on benefit-in-kind tax, too. Not much more expensive than a 320d either.
Max power (bhp/rpm): 197/3,750
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 295/1,300
Max speed (mph): 146
0-62mph (secs): 7.4
Fuel consumption (mpg): 44.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 171
On sale: Now Price (OTR): £27,310–£30,040