Thursday, October 30, 2014

Eco-Progression: Driving the BMW 320i ED

 photo P1180353_500.jpg So it seems the price of crude oil has been falling steadily for the past few months as US oil outputs hit their highest point in decades. With so much of the black stuff swirling around, you'd sort of imagine that prices of pump gas would be going down to their lowest point in decades too right? Unfortunately while that may be true for some countries, here in sunny Singapore, after a whole mish-mash of number crunching and plenty of fairy-dust, prices for premium unleaded still sit around levels when black was gold and politicians were running around telling everyone planet Earth was almost depleted of vintage dinosaur juice.  photo P1180379_500.jpg If fuel economy (and what was mentioned above) is of concern, than it looks like one of BMW's latest offerings in the 3-Series stable is tailored just for you. It's called the 320i ED and no, this car is not called Edward. ED here stands for Efficient Dynamics, BMW speak for well, efficiency and dynamism. Featuring a selection of little tweaks to give you more go for your dough. The 320i ED sits 10mm lower that standard cars, comes with some "streamline style" wheels that even though look somewhat small, help to move air around better and is shod with reduced rolling resistance (runflat) tires.  photo P1180337_500.jpg Coupling those tweaks with additional engine management optimization means ED starts of each drive in ECO-PRO mode where urgency gives way to frugality. Throttle response is dulled and gear shift points adjusted for maximum efficiency. These changes combined help make the 320i ED the most efficient premium car of its class

BMW claims each liter of fuel will move you 18.5 kilometers and even after we discount 20% off the manufacturer's claims (to 14.8km/liter), it remains a rather impressive number.  photo P1180364_500.jpg Inside the car, all the familiar 3 Series bits are here. Everything is where it should be and with BMW's signature ergonomics in play, getting in, setting up your optimal driving position and moving off becomes second nature. With the keys of ED handed to me for a day, i used it how it would most likely be used by potential owners. Driving from home to work in the mornings and back home thereafter. Mostly because it was a work day and spending an afternoon out hooning the car is frowned upon.

A short disclaimer first, i was given the keys prior to reading any of the press material, which meant i did not know what was under the bonnet. I pretty much assumed it was either a 2.0 or maybe a 1.8 by looking at the badge, initial driving impressions also did not make me think otherwise. So a bit hat tip to the engineers at BMW when i finally read the spec sheets and learned what sat under the bonnet was in fact, a 1.6. Twin-scroll charged to deliver 170hp and 250Nm of torques from just above idle at 1,500rpms through to 4,500rpms. 0-100 comes up in 7.6 seconds.  photo P1180368_500.jpg For a car that is "resolutely oriented towards a highly-consistent reduction in fuel consumption", those are pretty good numbers. Numbers that just one generation ago, required a 2.5 6 cylinder-ed 323i to achieve. Such is progress. Unfortunately the trade of for this engineering excellence is that again, due to our strange local regulations, having a high power output from a small engine means it gets bumped up into a higher taxation bracket.

Through high speed bends at moderately enthusiastic speeds, the car remains balanced, composed and controllable, if a little vague in feel from the still direct steering. The car might have been tuned for comfort and economy but it retains BMW's underlying driver-oriented damping under layers of bump absorbing suspension travel. Selecting Sport mode allows for a slightly sharper throttle and keeps the engine in the power-band, allowing for a nice bit of poke on the exits. You can sense the limits are slightly lower due to the economy-biased tires, they do a overall good job of keeping the car feeling neutral most of the time but i suspect will scrub wide when pushed into territory that owners will probably not venture into.  photo P1180361_500.jpg Discounting our local regulation and taxation bugbears, the release of the 320i ED has shown that one doesn't need to be a heavy drinker to have a little bit of fun.

The new BMW 320i EfficientDynamics is available for viewing at Performance Motors’ showroom.


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