BMW’s 3 Series Touring has been a perennial best seller in the UK. Last year the Bavarian automaker sold more than 8,400 models, beating chief rivals like the Audi A4 Avant (8,235) and the Mercedes-Benz C Class Estate (7,200) to the top spot despite being the oldest of the three designs.
Drivability is, of course, BMWs strong suit and with this iteration -- the fifth of the 3 Series Touring -- it is clear that the company is keen on maintaining its reign as the ultimate driving machine. But is the new 3 Series estate it as good a load-lugger as it is a road hugger? We hopped headed over to the roads surrounding BMW HQ to find out.
The new 3 Series Touring is longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, though only marginally. The extra dimensions are cloaked in a design that is largely similar to its forbear, and that’s no bad thing. Its slender head- and horizontal taillamp design accentuates the car’s width, while the steeply angled rear window and ground-hugging stance further augments the sporting appeal.
Available in one of three lines – Sport, Modern and Luxury – the 3 Series Touring can be tailored to suit individual tastes. The Luxury model we tested features chrome inserts in the front and rear bumpers and specific, multi-spoke wheels.
Inside, the cabin is a welcoming environment. Communicating a modern lightness with a layering theme, the panel fit, materials and tactile quality of the controls feels every inch the premium car it is. On Luxury models, the chrome exterior theme is also carried over to the interior, with bright surrounds for the radio and air conditioning units.
The 3 Series Touring is inherently practical, but designers and engineers have gone even further to make this generation even more so.
The larger exterior and 50mm longer wheelbase translates into improved interior space, particularly for rear seat occupants – there is 17mm more knee room and 9mm more headroom. The 495-litre rear luggage area is also 35 litres larger than the previous generation model thanks in part to two storage bins beneath the load floor. Its 620mm high loading sill and power-operated tailgate (available with hands free operation) further enhance practicality, as does a segment-unique rear window that opens separately from the tailgate to facilitate loading smaller items.
The seat backs themselves are also worthy of mention: they have a 40:20:40 folding capability so you never have to pick a side in which to load bulkier items, and three passengers can come along on your next snowboarding trip without having to strap the boards to the roof. With the seatbacks folded flat, load space stretches to 1,500 litres.
Performance & Handling
We drove BMW’s 328i, which sources power from a 2.0 litre four-cylinder powerplant with a twin scroll turbocharger (BMW calls this TwinPower technology). Delivering 245bhp at 5,000rpm and 350Nm of torque between 1,250rpm and 4,800rpm, it is responsive and quick, albeit a bit noisy. Runs from 0 to 62 mph can be completed in just a shade under six seconds.
Though the big seller in the UK market will likely be the lower displacement diesel powered 320d when it arrives in September, the 328i allowed us to assess the chassis and suspension setup of the petrol-powered car.
Vehicle dynamicists have worked to enhance the driving feel for this new generation, and what a brilliant set up it is. Poised and agile, its communicative chassis and suspension surfs the ideal wave between stiffness and comfort. The steering weight, suspension stiffness, throttle response and gearing can also be adjusted through the EcoPro, Comfort, Sport and Sport + Driver Performance Control switch on the centre console. These tailor the vehicle’s driving characteristics from economy to performance-oriented according to desire.
The eight speed automatic transmission enables the engine to be used at its most efficient point, shifting when needed to maximise engine power or boost economy, depending on drive mode. And with this many cogs available it makes you question the benefits of a six speed manual gearbox.
Economy & Environment
If efficiency and fuel economy are at the top of your wish list chances are you’ll be holding out for the availability of the diesel models. But EfficientDynamics also features on the 328i, as with other models across BMW’s model range. The system includes an automatic start/stop function, EcoPro mode with brake energy regeneration, electric power steering, an automatic start/stop function, and tyres with reduced rolling resistance.
As a whole the model is fuel efficient, returning 44.5mpg in the combined cycle and 159g/km of CO2 – hence the reason why BMW has opted for turbocharged four-cylinder over the previous 328i’s straight six.
Equipment & Value
Like its saloon counterpart, the 3 Series Touring can be specified in ES, SE and M Sport trim levels. The base SE model comes with 17-inch wheels; automatic air conditioning; a 6.5-inch colour monitor with iDrive; a USB audio interface; keyless start; cruise control; Driver Performance Control; and the 40:20:40 split rear seats. SE models add park distance control front and rear, an automatic dimming mirror, two-zone air conditioning and automatic lights and wipers. The M Sport model, meanwhile, rides on an sportier suspension and 18-inch alloys, has specific aerodynamic styling with high-gloss Shadowline trim, and includes a leather steering wheel and sports seats.
The 328i SE Luxury model we drove came fitted with over £12,000 worth of options, including the eight-speed sport automatic transmission (£1,660); Professional Multimedia package with navigation and Bluetooth (£1,995); leather upholstery (£835); electric front seats (£910); 18-inch Turbine-style wheels (£410); adaptive M Sport suspension (£750); a head-up display (£800); Fineline wood trim (£250); a visibility package with adaptive xenon headlights and high-beam assistant (£925); and an interior comfort package (£525) with access to the Internet (£95).
The 3 Series sedan has been awarded a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP, so it’s fair to assume that the 3 Series Touring will fare just as well. With a range of standard safety equipment – including front and side airbags, side head airbags for both the front and the rear passengers, three-point automatic seat belts, belt force limiters and belt tensioners in the front and Isofix child seat mountings in the rear – the 3 covers all bases.
The 3 Series has consistently retained its spot as one the best cars available in the market, and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It has formidable driving dynamics, and it’s luxurious, refined, practical and versatile. It will put a smile on your face whether you’re carving up twisty sections of B roads or simply trudging along the motorway. And with the Touring’s added practicality, the already impressive car that does everything so well just got even more appealing.
Model tested: BMW 328i Touring Luxury
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Acceleration: 0-62 in 6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Emissions: 159g/km CO2