Slipping and sliding in Sussex isn’t on the menu in our all-wheel drive saloon
Having four-wheel drive on a car like the 3 Series doesn’t just give you more grip under power. If you’re driving on roads coated with slimy leaves, farming slurry and other less than optimal organic debris, as we were on a run from London to West Sussex via the back lanes the other day, 4WD gives you a reassuring connection to the road beneath.
In these slippery circumstances our 320d xDrive felt totally solid and sure, and arguably rather more so than a rear-drive 320d would have been on the same roads. Normally, the 320d’s xDrive system splits drive 40/60 front to rear, but it does have the ability to send all the drive to the front or the rear axle. That transmission flexibility inspires a lot of confidence.
If you do give it the beans on a low-grip surface, you’ll feel a momentary slippage before full traction is delivered as the computer works out the best axle-drive power combination. You don’t get that hesitation in, for example, a Land Rover Discovery Sport. The BMW driver can sense what’s happening through the steering, even though it can sometimes be a little notchy-feeling. That could be a consequence of the calibration of the electrical steering assistance rather than a vagary of the all-wheel drive system.
So, our 4WD 3 Series does have the ability to keep you moving in bad conditions, but any car on its 19-inch alloys and low-profile tyres would have struggled with the potholes we encountered on our Sussex outing. The 320d dived into two particularly nasty unseen wheel-swallowers with a dispiriting crunch. Remarkably, given the degree of violence involved, there was no apparent damage, but we’ll be regularly checking the alloys or tyres just to make sure no creeping cracks develop.