A great deal has changed since 1987 when the first Touring came out – BMW’s range then comprised, 3, 5, 6 and 7 Series models, plus the Z1. Today that range is outnumbered by the firm’s SUVs alone. The rise of the SUV – often no more than a high-riding estate car – has hit traditional wagon sales hard, but it ain’t over yet for the classy small estate and with the new 3 Series Touring BMW is showing us how.
This is a comprehensive revamp, based around the new engines and lightweight chassis of the latest seventh generation 3 Series saloon known as the G20. That went on sale – to much acclaim – earlier this year. BMW it seems has spared little in turning what to many critics is a five-star car into the best Touring yet.
It’s longer, a bit roomier inside with a slightly bigger boot and now comes with all the connectivity and driver assistance must-haves, including the “Hey BMW” electronic personal assistant and emergency brake intervention. All the latest BMW design cues make it look fresh, if not perhaps pretty, but definitely premium. All this is by degrees only though; there’s no revolution here, not least until next summer when the first plug-in hybrid variant arrives.
The new Touring also comes, as expected, in a big range. But often with the 3 Series over the decades it has been the entry model that has held special appeal. This time round that’s the 320i SE at £35,505. It comes with eight-speed Steptronic transmission and a turbo four-pot engine delivering 181bhp to the back wheels. It gets from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds (with standard launch control), tops out at 143mph and on official figures can return around 40mpg.
Like all the new Tourings, this entry level version is lighter, more rigid and more aerodynamic than its predecessor, with a low centre of gravity and a 50:50 weight distribution. All of which augurs well for the drive.
And what’s included? The entry 320i comes with adaptive LED headlights, roof rails, 17-inch alloys, a 40-20-40 split back seat (now with room for three child seats), and a 500-litre boot that expands to 1,500 litres with the seats down. There’s a stainless steel load cover, separately opening (by remote control) rear window and automatic opening tailgate. The cabin comes with high gloss black trim and 11 variations of LED ambient cabin lighting. You also get the BMW Live Cockpit Plus system with iDrive operating system, touchscreen and navigation.
That’s all for starters then. After that you can tick boxes to enhance your Touring in all manner of ways, from a four-cylinder diesel and manual gearbox (up to 55mpg) right up to a six-cylinder petrol with 369bhp and 0-62 in 4.5 seconds. xDrive all-wheel-drive is standard on the powerful ones but an option on all.
Options packs comprise comfort (think heated steering wheel etc.), visibility (laserlights), premium (panoramic roof) and technology (464 watts Harman Kardon surround sound). Upgrade from SE and there’s the familiar hierarchy of Sport and M Sport but with a new top version above them just for the UK, called M Sport Plus Edition. Available with a range of powertrains including our entry 320i, it adds M Sport brakes, suspension, wheels, paint options and aluminium fabric trim.
Plenty to choose from then. And with the top performance model, the M340i xDrive Touring, coming in at £50,055 plus options, plenty of scope to spend on your ideal Touring. The classy, great driving small estate to please everyone and the best Touring yet? You never know, it might even attract some people out of their SUVs…