A Euro wagon with an impressive powerplant, ability and finish
It's a bit of an oddity, this BMW 3 Series 320d diesel. It's a sensible Euro wagon, our test example in black, with a set of very handsome wheels that add more than 10% to the price.
That's right, spend $79,900 on this Bimmer, and pay an extra $9983 for these admittedly handsome wheels. Would you do it? Some do - that's why the wheels are on the press car.
The result drew admiration, universally leavened by the comment that this all-black package would look better with painted callipers.
You can get them if you buy the performance braking system, which will cut weight to reduce unsprung mass, delivers cross-drilled and slotted rotors to diminish the risk of damp discs compromising braking performance, improves thermal stability - and boosts looks. Performance braking is yours, a snip at just over $5000.
Trouble is, nice though this wagon is - not to mention blessed with abundant torque - it's not a car that's likely to need performance braking.
But there is another way, and clearly there are people who take it as a BMW dealer was able to supply a price. Want this wagon in black, with the sharp-looking black wheels, and need a spot of colour? For $450 your dealer can arrange to paint those callipers the glossy hue of your choice. You'll get no increase in performance, but then again, BMW's brakes are decent enough as standard.
Actually, this is an impressive car all round. It was easy to get comfy in, unobtrusive during real-world errands, and handled well enough to be thrown around a bit.
Like most BMW powerplants this engine's a goody. Forget the 130kW, the 350Nm torque peak delivered by this 2.0-litre in-line four come on strongly and is well matched to the six-speed auto transmission. Want to haul out of corners and you can, but a lead-footed approach barely dented our overall fuel economy, the 6.5l/100km figure impressively close to the 6.1 claim, despite the fact our largely hilly and city drive avoided highway cruising.
This Bimmer is sure-footed and the suspension proved compliant enough over the bigger bumps, though a tad firm over the smaller hits - no doubt in part thanks to the skinny run-flat rubber wrapping those 19-inch wheels.
If that doesn't bother you you'll find this car easy to live with. There are auto high beam headlights, cruise control, climate air, and auto wipers; plus a multi-function trip that's also available on the radio's screen (and will show BMW's 0800 number if you want to double-check that calliper paint quote).
The nicely-finished boot includes a ski sleeve and a deep underfloor well, the fold-out cupholders are among the neatest in the business, the car gets ABS, stability control, six airbags and park distance control, plus Bluetooth for the phone and and anti-dazzle mirrors; it's all there.
Of course you pay for it, and for the effortless ability with which it's delivered.
It's easy to like a $91,478 car - the price tag including those wheels, the USB interface and burred walnut trim.
But to be honest, the 320d wagon would be just as good without the extras, and better able to justify its $79,900 base price.