BMW 320i xDrive

28 Dec, 2012 10:30am James Disdale

We get behind the wheel of the four-wheel-drive BMW 3 Series xDrive on UK roads for the first time


With winter in full swing, it’s hard not to see the appeal of the 3 Series xDrive. The hi-tech four-wheel-drive system turns the BMW into a true all-weather family car. Yet when conditions are good, it drives as brilliantly as any other model in the range. The icing on the cake is that it undercuts the Audi A4 quattro. All we need now is a diesel version.

Jaguar isn’t the only premium brand that’s got a new four-wheel-drive saloon on its books, because BMW has just launched its 3 Series xDrive in the UK.

Customers on the Continent have been able buy all-wheel-drive 3 and 5 Series models for decades, but this is the first time they’ve gone on sale here. The xDrive will initially only be available with a 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine.

The electronically controlled transmission normally sends 60 per cent of the drive to the rear and 40 per cent to the front. However, if the system detects any slip, a multi-plate clutch centre differential can send up to 100 per cent of the torque to the axle with the most grip.

In everyday driving, you’d be hard pressed to detect the four-wheel drive working. That means you get the same beautifully balanced, engaging handling that marks out rear-wheel-drive BMWs.

Yet when conditions are slippery, the extra traction is obvious. Where the standard car’s stability control warning light would be flickering wildly, the confidence-inspiring xDrive simply grips hard and powers through the corner.

Elsewhere, it’s standard 3 Series, which means you get the same roomy and beautifully built cabin, useful 480-litre boot and a decent haul of standard equipment, including Bluetooth and dual zone climate control.

Externally, the only clue to the car’s all-wheel-drive underpinnings is a small xDrive badge on the tailgate.

Prices start at £27,400 for the 320i SE xDrive. That’s a £1,535 premium over the standard rear-wheel-drive model, but £3,405 less than the equivalent Audi A4 quattro.

Disqus - noscript

I am the proud owner of a 320i xdrive msport and I absolutely love it. The grip is immense and the whole 3-series feel is way above anything else in that class and for the money. Probably the best car for the 'real world'.

Really think now is the time for BMW to spend some money on making the things look as good as they drive.

This is obviously a good car, but it's close to being over priced at £28k, particularly given it's relatively puny engine. That kind of money (and far less) buys you a lot more performance elsewhere and equal quality. The picture of the dash looks great in these pictures, but when you actually sit in one it seems much cheaper than the photos suggest, particularly with the red inserts. Also, so many times other manufacturers are accused of being to subtle with their styling changes (Eg VW)... well what about the 3 series.. It's virtually identical to the last version, other than they've now just given it an ugly drooping nose. Also there's a real, unavoidable problem with BMW these days - the image - it's a real shame, but it's now been ruined by "any weather sun glass wearing", "arms permanently fixed to the window ledge ", "you must be jealous" idiots, who frankly are more concerned about perceived image than the car itself. That is a real shame. Best car in the real world - no way - that accolade has to go to a hatchback. If I had to have a saloon car, would I consider a 3 series - Yes.

Key specs

  • Price: £28,400
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power/torque: 181bhp/270Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 144mph
  • Economy: 41.5mpg
  • CO2: 159g/km
  • Equipment: Climate control, Bluetooth, stop-start, alloys
  • On sale: Now