2016 BMW 320d ED Sport
Diesel has had a hard time catching on in the world. It’s not that it isn’t fantastically efficient, or doesn’t offer stellar performance potential. Ask Gale Banks or Wayne Gerdes (both world record holders in top speed and fuel economy) about diesel’s performance potential. But the simple fact is that frugal isn’t sexy, and sex sells cars. Cars sell on big, loud and stupid awesome as much as anything else — and BMW at least seems to be slowly adapting to that reality.
The 3 Series has long been a Bimmer staple, and diesel models have been favored by those who want BMW chassis dynamics but care more about fuel economy than straight-line performance. The last 320d certainly did provide some of the best of both worlds, but it still wasn’t quite enough to take advantage of the carbon taxation incentives offered in the civilized world. A of couple years ago, BMW upped its efficiency game with the 320 EfficientDynamics package, which used a combination of efficiency refinements to drop the 320d down a tax bracket.
But in spite of saving the average European driver a whopping $87 a month in taxes alone, the 320d ED failed to impress in the sex appeal department. No more, though. As with most of life’s problems, this one proved easy to solve with little more than the addition of a snazzy body kit.
Continue reading for the full story.
2016 BMW 320d ED Sport
Horsepower @ RPM:163
Torque @ RPM:295
0-60 time:7.8 sec.
Top Speed:143 mph
To be certain, the original and quite popular 320d ED isn’t a bad looking car. It’s sleek, modern, and if BMW drops the 320d’s "5 Series wannabe" grille any lower, it will end up the first chipmunk-cooled diesel in history. But while nobody would dispute the fact that playing it low-key has always been the point of a 3 Series, the simple fact is that any number of lesser marques (including Hyundai) now offer plenty more visually exciting forms.
It's sleek, modern, and if BMW drops the 320d's "5 Series wannabe" grille any lower, it will end up the first chipmunk-cooled diesel in history.
Enter the new Sport package, which costs about £500 ($780) more than the ED Plus model, but looks about 500 percent better. The improvements aren’t easy to spot without comparing the Sport model side-by-side with a standard ED; which is, again, part of the point for a 3 Series.
Functionally, what it comes down to is a new body kit that more closely apes the lines of the 2016 BMW M3, without going quite so over-the-top in terms of angularity and aggression. In fact, those of the traditional school of thought in subtle Bimmer styling might actually prefer the ED Sport’s lines to those of a real 2016 BMW M3.
Overall, the car looks a bit lower, meaner and more serious. It kind of brings to mind the Pony Package once offered for V-6 Mustangs — essentially, a Mustang GT body kit on an entry-level car missing two cylinders.
So sure, there’s a little element of poser here. But then again, it’s not as though the 320d ED is anywhere near as boring to drive as an old V-6 Mustang, and it still handles with all the perfection and precision you’d expect of a 3 Series. If this is what a modern pony poser looks like, then maybe the world is a slightly better place than it was 10 years ago.
Note: Regular 2016 BMW 3 Series interior shown.
It’s a BMW, with all the stuff you’d normally associate with BMW interior styling — meaning, it’s basically the nicest martini bar in Mordor. As serious, dour and dark as a Bavarian coal mine, with just enough slick sophistication to keep it from being depressing, the 320d ED’s interior is the kind of place where printer toner salesmen can feel good about their latest contracts, but without getting unduly excited.
That is undoubtedly part of the demographic here, as well. True, BMW does offer its standard slate of leather interiors, nav systems and the like; but they do expect a good number of ED sedans will go out as executive company cars. They have those in Europe. As such, Bimmer keeps the amenities list and interior accouterments to about what you’d expect for efficient middle-management transport: Nice enough to get the job done. No more, but certainly no less.
At this car’s heart lay much the same engine as is found in any other 320d — a new generation, common-rail and direct injected turbodiesel. BMW has put a lot of work into this engine, and it shows. Diesels, while very fuel efficient, haven’t always been clean or especially powerful. This one is all of the above, and then some. Especially with "EfficientDynamics" on top of it.
"Efficient Dynamics" is one of those deliberately vague marketing terms that could mean almost anything.
"EfficientDynamics" is one of those deliberately vague marketing terms that could mean almost anything. In this case, it means anything BMW can add to a car to make it more fuel-efficient. In some applications, that means a full hybrid system. In others, like this one, it could mean something as subtle as air flaps in the grille, start/stop technology, or a sort of half-hybrid brake regen system.
BMW’s "brake regen" system consists of a clutch on the alternator. No, seriously...that’s it. Under normal driving, the clutch is released so the engine isn’t driving the alternator. The clutch engages when you’re coasting downhill or when you hit the brakes.
Then the alternator goes into full current-production mode, adding perhaps 20 horsepower of reverse thrust to the engine braking. A little bit of the car’s kinetic energy works up through the six- or eight-speed transmission, and to the alternator through the engine’s crankshaft. So, the alternator does in a roundabout way help to recapture kinetic energy by helping to slow the car down.
It might sound a little gimmicky and Rube Goldberg, but BMW says the system is good for a 3 percent improvement in fuel efficiency. In reality, it can’t recapture anywhere near as much energy as an electric or hybrid setup. Then again, a 3 percent improvement in fuel efficiency isn’t too shabby for what is still effectively just a clutch on the alternator.
|0 to 62mph||7.8 seconds|
|Top speed||143 MPH|
|Fuel Economy||71 mpg average|
|CO2 Output||104 g/km|
|Road Tax in Europe||VED Band B|
About $40,000, depending on trim and options. Don’t worry about it though — you can’t buy one in the United States anyway.
Note: standard 2016 Audi A4 shown here.
As always, the BMW 3 Series diesel’s most direct competitor is the 2016 Audi A4 TDI. Audi and BMW have been duking it out relentlessly for this market for a long time, and both have gone to 2.0-liter common-rail injected engines in recent years.
Audi's narrower focus on increasing mpg yields slightly higher emissions than BMW's full-spectrum approach to energy efficiency.
They’re priced similarly, and offer comparable levels of luxury and refinement, though BMW does offer more options and better handling. It also edges the A4 out in probably the most important aspect: ownership costs. Counterintuitive? Yup. While the A4 TDI is capable of matching the BMW in terms of sheer fuel economy, Audi’s narrower focus on increasing mpg yields slightly higher emissions than BMW’s full-spectrum approach to energy efficiency.
That might not matter much here in the U.S., because we prefer our polar bears toasted golden brown. But on the Audi’s home continent, its higher emissions put it in a pricier road tax bracket. And since the whole point of buying one of these cars is to reduce annual running costs, the BMW maintains a huge edge in this department. Matter of fact, if BMW could shave off just another 5 g/km of carbon, owners wouldn’t pay any taxes at all. That puts BMW at a very distinct advantage over Audi — one made all the greater with this Sport model’s runway fashion looks.
Of course, in this market, it’s always out of the frying pan and into the fire. Having dropped 16 g/km of carbon, BMW is now in the Class B bracket — right next to the 2015 Mercedes C220d diesel. The Merc is the more expensive of the two, has 170 horsepower, and can be equipped with all the latest Mercedes electronic goodies, including adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and lane keeping. Basically, autopilot. On long, straight-ish sections of road anyway. Does BMW offer autopilot? No. Not yet, anyway. And even Mercedes would really you rather not think of its system that way. But still, there’s no denying that the C220 equipped with Merc’s latest electronic "driver’s aids" can more or less make a driver obsolete on long stretches of interstate highway.
Good thing, too — because compared to the BMW, the C220d is about as much fun to drive as a 747 on autopilot. It does what it does, and does it about as cleanly and efficiently as the BMW. But the BMW has excellent throttle response and a stronger pull through the midrange, and handles like a 2016 BMW 3 Series. Compared to the Merc (and indeed almost every other diesel in its class), the Sport model’s sporty body kit isn’t just Pony Package posing. The Bimmer is legitimately a fairly sporty car, for what it is. The C220 — it’s a fairly efficient commuter plane with autopilot. Take it or leave it.
Unless you’re reading this from Europe, this whole review is probably slightly pointless. BMW doesn’t offer the ED here, and hasn’t expressed any plans to do so. You could probably import one yourself if you really felt in desperate need of a 3 Series that got 70 mpg and produced fewer emissions than a cow. (Which is true. Probably.) But in reality, this car was engineered to meet a very specific need in a very specific market, and drop below a very specific carbon tax bracket.
If you happen to live in that market, then the 320d ED may be a sweet option for combining incredible efficiency, super-low running costs, good looks, and a chassis that won’t eat your soul through pure boredom. No, it doesn’t have autopilot (yet), on the basis that BMWs are meant to be driven. But it does offer a lot of goodness to those who live in places where half of elected officials don’t believe gravity is "just a theory."
Guess some things take longer to catch on than others.