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2009 BMW 330d - First Steer
This über-diesel isn't going to lower any expectations
By Matt Brogan
When it comes to building a strong, no-nonsense diesel, BMW has the equation pretty well sorted. Similarly when you think of a popular German mid-size with perfect on-road manners, and a rewarding drive experience, then not too many people would argue that the 3 Series tops that list as well.
So imagine then combining the two, okay that's already been done, but instead of just a frugal attempt at being a part of the Euro oiler brigade try taking hold of the diesel mould as you know it, and smashing it to smithereens; introducing the all-new BMW 330d.
The primary reason for all this excitement is that beneath the unassuming 3 Series skin lies a powerhouse akin to the performance of the much lauded M3 not too many years back - and when all's said and done, the numbers are by today's standard just as impressive in relative terms, and in some instances even more so.
Let's start by taking a quick look at the new 330d when pitted against its direct rivals: the Mercedes-Benz C320 CDI ($97,900*) and Audi A4 3.0 TDI Quattro ($86,056*).
The 330d trumps its sparring partners in terms of power, torque, acceleration, power-to-weight ratio and, believe it or not, C02 emissions and fuel consumption too.
And while the figures may speak for themselves, the on-paper specifications don't always translate in to the real world of driving experience. But as we well know BMW prides itself on offering the 'ultimate driving machine', so it's a pretty safe bet that this über-diesel isn't going to lower any expectations.
From just 1750rpm the full wallop of torque is sent to the rear wheels with a progressive crescendo that could only come from a high-output diesel. Acceleration is linear, yet brutal, with the tacho and speedo rising in almost perfect unison until 3000rpm, battling in a constant duel with the car's Dynamic Traction Control system for black top adhesion.
Thereafter it's all power with a secondary, and even more rapid tide of urgency felt from 3500rpm all the way to redline, real wolf in sheep's clothing type stuff. The six-speed automatic is blisteringly sharp and in sport mode (with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts) makes the drive out of corners feel absolutely predatory.
Grip is astounding given the car's obvious family orientation and couples precise, well weighted steering to offer near-perfect levels of feel and feedback - all of which means placing the 17-inch alloys on apex is a grin enhancing experience one wouldn't normally equate to a car carrying the d moniker.
Braking is equally impressive with distended single pot callipers, as shared with the 330d's petrol sibling the 335i, grabbing huge 348mm discs up front and 336mm discs on the rear.
The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system too is a delight with an extended array of features on 330d making it a workable part of your driving experience rather than simply being that nanny in the background carrying a bad behaviour stick.
Dry braking, start-off assistant, soft-stop and brake fade compensation all made our drive program through the Victorian Alps yesterday pleasurable and safe - quite reassuring given the odd patch of snow.
Should you be overly enthusiastic, and have an extra $4200, the optional M Sport package enhances these traits even further by lowering the ride height and fitting larger diameter rims.
And while the package does indeed sharpen the cars already sensational handling, I couldn't help feel the standard package is perhaps better suited to our rougher roads and lower speed limits.
From the outside the 330d is the perfect disguise for anyone wanting to closet their driving persona within the guise of a family sedan.
For those wanting to be in the know the up-spec diesel is distinguished from its lower capacity sibling (the 320d) by larger diameter alloy wheels, bigger brakes, kidney grilles topped by chrome bars, bi-xenon adaptive headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, larger diameter dual exhausts and chrome highlights around the side glass.
Inside standard Dakota leather upholstery (available in six colours), satellite navigation, 10-speaker stereo, comfort access system, electrically operated memory seats, sports steering wheel, cruise control with brake function, high-beam assist and Bluetooth mobile phone integration enhance the already generous standard feature list.
Five-star safety comes courtesy of six airbags, ESC with Traction Control, ABS with EBA, EBD and CBC.
The all-new BMW 330d is priced from $87,250* and is available now. CarAdvice will offer a full review of the 330d in the coming weeks.
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.