- MT Expert
BMW 3 Series Touring review
The BMW 3 Series saloon is a class-leader; the best executive saloon on the road thanks to a formidable mixture of quality, driving dynamics and efficiency.
However, the executive estate segment is an area where BMW does not always have its own way.
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Its main challenge comes from perennial rival Mercedes and the stylish, practical C-Class but Audi is never far away with the impressive Audi A4 Avant whose unique selling point is the availability of four-wheel drive.
All three rivals are closely matched when it comes to specification as they jostle for position but, with BMW leading UK sales charts over its rivals, it could be expected that the 3 Series Touring will be the one buyers turn to in 2013.
We took the 3 Series out for a test drive to see if it can live up to the high bar set by its saloon sibling.
Introducing the BMW 3 Series Touring
The BMW 3 Series looks a lot like the 3 Series saloon from the front, with the kidney-shape grille, LED headlamps and thin, aggressive headlamps standing out.
However, this car is all about practicality; the Touring is nearly 10cm longer than the saloon in order to offer more room for passengers.
And at the back, the BMW 3 Series Touring is significantly more practical. The boot offers 495 litres of boot space with the rear seats up and 1,500 litres with the seats folded flat.
A particularly interesting feature is also offered with the boot for when you have your hands full. Simply wave a foot underneath of the boot and it will automatically open up a passage to the ample load area.
The estate load area is lower and wider for easier loading and the large rear window helps visibility - a problem on larger estates in the past.
BMW 3 Series Touring specification
We drove the BMW 3 Series Touring M Sport, the sportiest specification available on the new estate. Taking its name from the performance M line of BMW cars, the trim and equipment is noticeably racier.
At over £32,000 it is one of the priciest cars in the range and won't be the biggest seller on UK shores. However, equipment is certainly impressive.
There is a choice of 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels with the M Sport range and buyers can even specify a lowered sports chassis.
There are chrome highlights throughout and sports seats inside, with M floor mats, a leather steering wheel and a choice of six different paint finishes.
The M Sport may be a range-topper but even entry-level models alloy wheels, air conditioning, radio, a 6.5-inch colour screen, cruise control and USB connectivity.
The level of equipment available to BMW 3 Series Touring drivers is impressive and the interior is exactly how you would expect.
Build quality is second-to-none and the materials feel durable - everything you would expect from a BMW 3 Series model.
Engines and on-the-road
The BMW 3 Series Touring is available with one petrol and two diesel engine derivatives. The petrol is a 245bhp 328i and the diesels are a 184bhp 320d and a 258bhp 330d. All engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with an eight-speed automatic as an option.
However, it wouldn't be a 3 Series model without eye-catching running costs and, in the shape of the 320d, the Touring is no different.
The diesel model uses BMW's EfficientDynamics technology including stop-start system to reduce CO2 emissions to 122g/km.
The 320d delivers 61.4mpg, making it one of the Touring models in terms of running costs available today.
On the road BMW has successfully transplanted the 3 Series saloon's superb driving characteristics into the larger model.
This includes a comfortable ride - on the motorway the BMW 3 Series Touring is as at home as any car on the UK's major roads - and very little noise intrusion.
As the sportier model, our M Sport was responsive and steering was taut. The car felt stable at higher speeds for such a large car and the excellent engine was gutsy enough for motorway miles.
The BMW 3 Series Touring is evenly matched with its rivals in almost every individual area but as an all-round package, it is the best of the bunch. We highly recommend it.