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Economy of movement

PUBLISHED: 10:41 28 April 2015 | UPDATED: 16:17 22 July 2015

EXG MAY 15 MOTORING

EXG MAY 15 MOTORING

This image is copyright free for editorial use. (c) BMW AG

BMW's 320d saloon remains the car of choice for the aspirational family guy, but now it can save you money as you drive, explains Carlton Boyce

The BMW 320d saloon is the default car in its class, the standard by which all others are judged: it’s good-looking, quick, handles beautifully and reeks of class. It has earned its place as the aspirational family car many aspire to own.

But the world changes and yesterday’s wish list is being constantly rewritten and re-juggled; what was important yesterday is not necessarily so today. Fuel-efficiency and environmental awareness are the hottest topics right now and every car manufacturer needs to be able to align sporting performance with genuinely green credentials.

The BMW 320 EfficientDynamics is the Bavarian company’s answer, a car engineered by tweaking the ubiquitous 320d in a number of ways to create a car that will still reach 62mph in 8 seconds while simultaneously returning almost 70mpg and emitting just 109 g/km of CO2. This is a remarkable achievement for a two-litre turbocharged diesel-engined car that will seat five in comfort.

BMW’s engineers have done this by being obsessive about even the smallest detail: the shift points for the gearbox have been altered, the engine tuning optimised, the shape massaged in a dozen ways to smooth the flow of air — and the engine stops when you do.

The 320ED also harnesses the energy that is usually wasted when you brake, turning it to electricity to charge the battery, saving fuel by not having to do so using the alternator. Moreover, it gives you eco-driving tips in ECO PRO mode via a dashboard display, something BMW claims can help shave up to 20% off fuel consumption. By giving instant feedback in telling you how much extra range you’ve gained by listening to it, you are motivated to try even harder next time you drive it.

This is clever stuff that quickly adds up; shaving the odd mpg here and there gives a surprisingly large cumulative effect. The ‘standard’ 320 might be half a second quicker to 62mph, but it also uses around 10% more fuel and emits 10% more CO2 than the EfficientDynamics version.

Is it all worth it? In normal use, the engineering changes are scarcely noticeable, giving significant savings in the most unobtrusive way possible. The engine maintains that beautiful mid-range thrust that makes overtaking a joy and the handling is as sublime as ever, although it does feel substantially better with the optional adjustable suspension.

A basic BMW 320 EfficientDynamics is just under £30,000, the same price as the standard car, so the extra engineering is thrown in free to make it a compelling buy. So which should you buy? The standard 320d is a bit quicker and does feel a bit livelier in everyday use than the EfficientDynamics model, but the ED is going to be the cheaper car to run and tax.

So the answer depends on you and your priorities, but if you do choose the BMW 320 EfficientDynamics you’ll never feel like a miser, even if your fuel bills tell a different story. Trust me, worthy has never driven, or felt, better!

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