Does the world need another 3-series variant? There must be millions of them by now. And what’s so special about this one?
This is the 325d and it’s designed to plug the gap between the popular four-pot 320d (163bhp/250lb ft) and six-cylinder 330d (231bhp/368lb ft), itself now supplanted at the top of the diesel tree by the 286bhp/427lb ft 335d. Alpina’s answer to the same question is a hotted up 320d but BMW’s own solution is a detuned 330d. So the 325d gets a six-cylinder engine producing 197bhp and 295lb ft of twist.
How does it drive?
It’s great. Not a horizon-eater like the 335d obviously, but it’s still got that six-cylinder charm that’s missing from the 320d. And enough performance that you’re rarely left feeling shortchanged. The action starts at around 1200rpm and the switch between on- and off-boost is smoother than in the smaller-engined car. It’s pretty pointless to talk standing start figures in diesels which do all their best work in the mid range but against the clock the 325d hits 62mph in 7.4sec, the 320d in 8.3sec and the 330d, 6.7sec. Unsurprisingly, given that it’s essentially the same engine, the 44.1mpg two-five isn’t much less economical than the 330d (43.5mpg), but loses out significantly to the 50mpg 320d. Under hard load at low speeds you’re treated to a rich, bassy rumble but at motorway speeds the only sound is the noise of wind politely rushing past the A-pillars. The rest of the experience is stock 3-series: brilliant steering, good driving position, quick but slightly notchy gearchange and a smart cabin. Just avoid the bigger wheels which can ruin ride comfort.
But how does it compare with a 320d?
That’s the killer question. A four-cylinder 320d ES costs £23,995 but the 325d isn’t available in ES spec which will rule it out from some shoppers’ lists. So if it must be a 325d you’ve got the choice of £27,310 SE or £30,040 M Sport. So it’s not cheap. Assuming identical trim levels that makes the premium for bigger engine roughly £2500. And that sounds like a lot of money for an engine that on-paper doesn’t provide massively more performance and knocks fuel consumption. And the fact that you can have a 320d M sport with the smart alloys, tasty sports seats and chunky wheel for the price of a plain 325SE will swing buyers in the direction of the smaller engine. But consider that you're actually buying what would have been the 330d three years ago and it starts to look better value, although rival Audi's 2.7 TDi A4 is cheaper.
Objectively it’s hard to recommend the 325d over the already excellent 320d which is both swift and incredibly economical. But for drivers who value character and are willing to trade a couple of mpg for an engine with a healthy dollop of personality but can’t quite stretch to a 330d, the 325d isn’t as pointless as it might seem.