THE biggest compliment I can summon for the BMW 330d Touring is that I could see myself living with one for a very long time, and remaining genuinely satisfied with it, for a very long time.

When part of your job is test driving cars — believe it or not most of my time is now taken up writing about the business of selling them — cars come and cars go and the main focus is to try and identify the strengths and weaknesses of each.

But just as the Fiesta has rightfully been the biggest-selling mainstream Bsegment hatchback for decades, and the same goes for the Volkswagen Golf, the 3 Series still sets the benchmark in the premium saloon sector.

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And in the 330d xdrive M Sport Touring (from £44,565) guise tested here it’s a veritable Swiss Army knife of a machine.

Regardless of the facts about the eco friendliness of diesel motoring, the 330d is one of the best machines in which to experience the pinnacle of what now feels like a dying breed.

With 265PS and 580Nm of torque emitting by its complex, meaty-sounding three-litre six-cylinder powerplant, the Touring will accelerate to 62mph in as little as 5.4 seconds and will top out at an electronically-limited 155mph.

An eight speed Steptronic automatic gearbox is one of the very best self shifters out there in my book and goes without the low speed hesitancy of many dual-clutch alternatives, which can shuffle clunkily and indecisively between gears.

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BMW makes more powerful cars, but this still feels like the sweet spot at this part of the market.

In a car that is likely to cover big distances regularly, the smooth but swift gearbox is matched beautifully with the torque-rich power delivery of the big turbodiesel motor to deliver deep-chested in-gear acceleration for overtaking or relaxed, frugal cruising depending on your mood.

The drivetrain can be switched through Eco, Comfort and Sport modes and while the latter firmed up the 10mm lowered adaptive M Sport suspension of my test car in quite dramatic style, the car felt happy to change its mood on the command of my right foot at any given time.

As touched upon in last week’s review of the new front-wheel-drive 1 Series 118i, the German brand might have only shifted its sights away from a wholly rearwheel-drive car range in fairly recent times, but the all-wheel-drive xdrive setup tested here also reacts in engaging style to driver inputs.

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Far from moving away from its trademark rear-wheel-drive feel with the addition of driven front wheels, the 3

Series still assumes a slightly over-steering attitude when the throttle is fedin in and through a corner.

It’s such a pleasing feeling, one that maintains the fluidity of the BMW driving experience and retains the 3 Series reputation for an engaging drive.

As I said, though, this is a car of many faces.

The fact that it still achieves — and can deliver — fuel economy of 51.4 to 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of between 144 and 135g/km do most to demonstrate the appeal of diesel.

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Such performance in a similarly well-endowed petrol car would be unheard of…

All the while the new 3 Series Touring has grown by 76 millimetres (to 4,709mm) in length, by 16 mm (to 1,827mm) in width and features a wheelbase which is some 41mm longer than its predecessor at 2,851 mm.

The result is improved stability and ride comfort at motorway speeds and greater interior space.

The 3 Series Touring’sboot space is now 500-litres and its load space is accessible in a narrow space via an opening glass hatch — rather than requiring the whole (powered) boot lid to be opened.

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As mentioned in last week’s review, BMW’s interiors still tend to feel a little staid and, perhaps, gloomy compared to the exuberant offerings of Mercedes- Benz’s latest generation of cars.

However, the quality is right up there with the very best.

Soft-touch plastics, brushed aluminium, neatly stitched leather and a beautiful — if ridiculously chubby to grip — steering wheel are all of a high order.

The optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional features a fully-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.25-inch Control Display, which can be used in combination with the new head-up instrument display projected onto the inside of the windscreen.

BMW has introduced its new “Hey BMW” take on Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri voice activated systems, to allow voice commanded controls for those with the patience to fathom the spoken phrases it responds to while on-the-move.

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Me? I stuck to the excellent iDrive controller located in the centre console.

Also among the 3 Series Touring’s standard arsenal of technology is full LED exterior lighting, a live speed limit information feed, lane departure warning and a collision and pedestrian warning with automated emergency braking.

As modern estate cars go, the 330d is a class leader.

But it’s not the car’s technology that I was sold on.

It was the fusion of a powerful yet clean modern diesel engine, an eight-speed gearbox and four-wheel-drive into something that could summon performance and precise control when the mood takes… or deliver impressive economy at a refined cruise.

Praise EVs by any means, ponder a shift to petrol power, but the BMW 330d still demonstrates that the best a diesel-powered car has to offer is still hard to beat everyday.

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