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2006 BMW 320dSE

Oct 2009 - Final Report (54,000 miles)

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2006 BMW 320dSE 2006 BMW 320dSE 2006 BMW 320dSE

Well, it may have been a short love affair (7 months and 16,000 miles) but it was a passionate one. And like all the best passionate affairs there was incredible joy and shocking misery in equal measure.

First, the misery. Well, she’s not exactly a looker is she! BMW have had some inspired moments in the past (507, M1, 850, Z8) but with this 3 their inspiration ran dry. There are weird angles and shapes all over the place (look at the front) and for me it just doesn’t’s boring. Add to that the 16"rims on this SE and you end up with something I like to call "Small Wheel Syndrome". Tart her up a bit with an M-series body kit and some chunky 18s and she’d look a bit more respectable. Still, she’s not going to win any beauty pageants.

Under normal driving conditions it’s a real chore getting her to do your bidding. The gear change on this six-speed manual is clunky. The steering is heavy, really heavy. So heavy in fact that I thought the power assistance had gone AWOL until I spoke to some other owners. That, apparently, is normal. As is the complete lack of feedback – you have to be a mind reader. The best way to control her is by brute force and aggression. Not something I always want in a relationship.

Show her anything less than a smooth road and she’ll beat you up too. The suspension is so stiff and lacking in compliance that every bump, ridge and pothole is transmitted directly through to your spine. For me the seats are really uncomfortable with insufficient lumbar and lateral support. Chuck in to the mix the poor nature of some of South Yorkshire’s A and B roads that feature in my daily commute and it’s fair to say I’ve suffered more backache during this affair than any other.

And it’s no better for your passengers who share the ride. Rear space is cramped and the design of the seat means that three-abreast is a no-no – the centre section is raised and very firm and the outer edges feel like there’s a millimetre of padding on top of solid metal. Add to this "more than you’d expect" road noise and it makes for a tiring journey.

So, she’s visually challenging, noisy, difficult to control, has a small rear and makes me feel really uncomfortable – Amy Winehouse perhaps?

But all that misery is accompanied by moments of pure joy. When you’re in the mood and the road is suitably twisty and empty, Amy Winehouse turns into Jessica Ennis. Small, light, nimble, quick, accurate and stunningly good at the job. World class, in fact. The steering is so precise and direct that you barely have to think about the corner and you’re there, tracking the perfect line. That rock solid suspension means no body roll so changes of direction are true and instant. The gearchange, despite it’s clunkiness, is short and accurate when shown a firm hand. The engine is gutsy, willing and revvy with negligible turbo lag. At moments like these she can really thrill you. Think of her as a 4 door sports car and you’re on the right track.

So, the 320d SE is really two cars in one. It’s just a shame that one of them is really quite bad. If your usual driving style is maximum-attack and the roads are suitable, you’ll get Jessica Ennis and, probably, the ride of your life. The rest of you? You’ll get Amy Winehouse. Could you live with that?


Mar 09 - First Report (45,000 miles)...PART ONE...More

Mar 09 - First Report (45,000 miles)...PART TWO...More

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