BMW 3 SERIES TOURING REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door medium wagon
Price (basic): $62,900
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.4l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 5.9l/100km
A long weekend, a long journey across two states and a tank of diesel to do it in – both time and kilometres pass quickly in the BMW 320D Touring oiler.
Sipping just 5.9 l/100km at an average speed of 71km/h, the ‘Touring’ lives up to its name – but, like any car, it has its compromises.
Quality: Even in base ‘lifestyle’ trim, the only available configuration for the wagon body-style, the spec is quite high and there is a pervading feel of quality and class.
Double-stitching, grained leather, appealing textures and clean interior lines and shapes all mesh together well. The solid ‘thunk’ of the doors and tight shutlines (both inside and out) speak volumes for German build-quality and attention to detail.
Comfort: Seats are well-bolstered and with good under-thigh support. The sliding reach-adjustment is manually operated, while height and recline are power-adjustable. The steering wheel has excellent rake and reach.
Comfort extends to the rear; second-row seats are lush, supportive and firm, without sitting you upright like a kid in a classroom.
Equipment: The 320d Touring comes with standard 17-inch alloys, fog lights and integrated roof rails. The interior sports the usual fare of climate-control air-con, leather trim, and multi-function centre console including i-Drive.
The excellent six-speaker stereo has a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity but no iPod dock. The multi-function steering wheel carries audio and phone; cruise control and trip computer sit on separate controls.
Options are heady and huge – our test car had the $8700 M Pack with sat-nav, 6.5” colour monitor, anthracite headliner, M door-sills, M light-alloy double-spoke wheels with run-flat tyres, M aerodynamic package, moonroof (another $3080), park distance control ($700), metallic paint ($1840) and a host of other goodies.
All this, of course, pushes the price into the seventies quite easily.
Storage: The boot of the Touring is a real treat. The remote-opening rear hatch provides unimpeded access to a flat floor with 60:40 folding seats, a privacy screen, and cargo hooks and nets.
Up front, cupholders which can grip a Red Bull can as well as a takeaway coffee cup, flick out from above the glove box.
That’s about it for drink holders however – the door pockets are hard to squeeze big objects into and the Germanic centre console cannot fit much in the way of knick-knacks.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Rear-wheel drive and accessible torque: it’s an Australian love affair. Put that into a car that runs a refined diesel with mounds of low-down grunt (380Nm), wrap it in lovely leather and steel, and you the elite and refined feel of BMW’s 320d.
The rear-wheel-drive offers the purest of driving experiences with an accurate front end and communicative handling. At low speeds though, the electronically-assisted steering is annoyingly lacking in feel.
However, while BMW’s run-flat tyres are improving, and the concept of a tyre that allows limited travel with a puncture is a solid one, they come with a compromise.
That compromise is ride. The unforgiving stiff sidewalls jarr over potholes, crash over corrugations and have the back-end bucking over mid-corner bumps.
Of course, you can option normal tyres at the expense of a bit of boot-space for a space-saver spare, so it isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Also, on better city and freeway roads, you would be hard-pressed to notice the run-flats, and this is where a car like this will spend 99 percent of its time.
One other criticism was the headlights – the bi-Xenons have a minimal low reach on standard beam, with an obvious oncoming traffic deflection that cuts a big square out of the light field. On roads without many street lights, they were simply inadequate.
Refinement: Such is the engine’s refinement, that only in one spot on the dial (about 2000rpm and 100km/h) are you made aware that a small capacity diesel is in front of the firewall. With the exception of those tyres, the 320d has refinement in spades.
Suspension: The suspension itself is a delight, it is razor sharp at the front end, and, front and back, settling on the springs through corners with minimal roll or pitch.
Decent ground clearance allows for a bit of adventure on unsealed roads, as we experienced, and paired with the communicative steering at road speeds, it’s a brilliant drive.
Braking: The pedal is a tad overboosted, but braking is smooth in application and rock-solid in emergency braking. Excellent.
ANCAP rating: stars
Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags, front load limiter/pretensioner seatbelts, rear pretensioner seatbelts, front active headrests, Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Corner Braking Control, reverse parking sensors with interactive screen
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3yr with roadside assist
Service costs: Service costs and intervals vary with vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi A4 Avant 2.0TD ($54,900) – Audi’s base diesel wagon undercuts the Beemer by a massive eight grand, and has an eight-speed automatic gearbox. However, this does not make its fuel consumption lower (6.0l/100km); it’s also less powerful with 105kW and 320Nm through the front wheels, and the cabin is more spartan. ?(see A4 reviews)
Mercedes-Benz C200 CDI Blue Efficiency Wagon ($64,900) – The closest match to the Beemer, it has one more gear (seven) and just 0.1 l/100km more claimed fuel use.
But, like the Audi, it has less power and torque with 100kW and 330Nm. However, it too is rear-drive. ?(see C-Class reviews)
Volkswagen Passat TDI Wagon ($54,990) – The Passat TDI runs a lovely 125kW/350Nm turbodiesel through a dual-clutch semi-automatic (DSG), albeit through the front wheels only.
Options are cheaper than the others as well. ?(see Passat reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 3 Series Touring in diesel format is simply stunning. A tax exemption for coming under 6.0 l/100km (though, strangely, only a 3.5 star green rating?) makes the diesel wagon the easy buy over its petrol siblings in the single-spec Touring range.
The torque of the diesel is delicious and addictive. Adjust the Xenons, put normal tyres on it, don’t go too deeply into the options list, and this superior wagon is hard to pass up.