2013 BMW 3 SERIES TOURING REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Premium mid-size wagon
Price: $62,600 (plus on-roads) $74,013 (as tested, plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol/eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy listed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km
BMW’s 3 Series has an enviable reputation among buyers for sharp dynamics, quality finish and an involving drive. With any BMW, those qualities are both 'known' and 'expected'.
But, until now, the 3 Series range released into this market mid-last-year has toiled on without a wagon option.
That's now corrected with the release of a three-model 3 Series Touring range: the 318d diesel, the 320i petrol and the more powerful 328i petrol - the latter expected in BMW showrooms from May.
Starting at $58,900, the 318d Touring carries a $2500 premium over its sedan counterpart, while the $62,600 320i tested here is priced $5000 above the 320i sedan.
No question that the wagon back is a boost to practicality. But what's it done to that world-famous BMW drive experience? Read on.
Quality: The Touring doesn’t deviate from the 3 Series norm. That means familiar BMW switchgear and durable, swooping soft-touch plastics. It’s not quite 5 Series-good (obviously) but there’s not much wrong with how it’s put together.
The $308 brushed silver/gloss-black lines option is a box worth ticking, as its mix of textures and colours help to liven the interior. The small red accents which come courtesy of the Sport Line pack also lift the ambience.
Comfort: The seating position is excellent, as is seat comfort. When optioned as Sport Line, it comes with sports seats (natch) with an impressive range of adjustment. The padding is a little firm, but will more likely stand the test of time, unlike softer, collapsible foams.
The leather is of a slightly coarser grain, but again, is less prone to scratching and more durable (thus better suiting the role of family load lugger).
There’s a decent amount of legroom, although fitting three adults across the back seat will be a bit squishy.
Equipment: The standard list is quite impressive. A remote-operated electric tailgate is included, as is cruise-control with brake function, electric front seats, dual-zone climate, Bluetooth, USB input, 6.5-inch colour monitor with iDrive, self-dimming rear-view mirror and rear-view camera.
There are paddle-shifters on the wheel, four driving modes, and parking sensors.
Our test car came with the Sport Line package, which for $3152 includes a new wheel design, changeable interior lighting, sports seats, Dakota leather upholstery, gloss-black trims, red steering-wheel stitching, “Sport” badges and aluminium sill plates.
Storage: Up front there’s covered cupholders, a small lidded container for coins adjacent to a 12V outlet, a shallow tray under the armrest – which could be liberated further by doing away with the phone connector – good sized door pockets moulded to accept water bottles, and the obligatory glovebox.
In the back, door pockets are shorter and there are two more cupholders.
But being a wagon, the main storage area is the boot. At 495 litres, it’s not overly big, however the back seats flip forward liberating 1500 litres, both figures eclipsing the Audi A4’s capacity.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Using a direct-injection 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, the 320i puts out a somewhat modest 135kW and 270Nm.
The torque, however, is laid on nice and thick from 1250rpm onwards which means it’s very tractable, and practically lag-free. Couple that with a very accomplished eight-speed auto and the drivetrain package presents itself very favourably.
There are four driving modes to choose from: EcoPro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. The progression from fuel-miser to 'sports' settings is evenly spaced, with each successive mode sharpening up throttle response, while the gearbox hangs onto the ratios for longer with more eager downshifts.
The only exception is Sport+ which does the same as Sport, just with reduced traction- and stability-control intervention.
Drive it in EcoPro mode and you’ll perhaps find things a tad leisurely and not really that enticing.
Lock it into Sport+, however and the steering gets heavier, the adaptive M suspension firmer and it takes on more of the 3 Series dynamics we’re all familiar with.
That said, the extra weight (65kg) of the wagon back end being high up does make it feel a bit 'bum heavy' in enthusiastic cornering.
While the steering has fabulous weight, its electric assistance has dulled the torrents of feedback that we’d become accustomed to from BMW.
It’s not devoid of feel, but is actually purest in Comfort mode. It turns in well and provides more accurate feedback than the slightly 'wooden' A4 Avant, for example.
BMW lists a 7.5 second run to 100km, which feels about right, and there are wheel-mounted shift paddles if the driver is so inclined. To be honest, the auto does such a good job that manual intervention is rarely called for.
With that ability to run, overtaking, pulling out of a corner briskly or slotting into fast-moving traffic is a breeze.
Refinement: While the driveline is very refined, the main issue the 320i suffers from is road noise.
Two factors seem to contribute to this: the large open wagon back (which, naturally, amplifies any resonance), and the larger wheels optioned on our test car which exacerbate surface roar more than standard wheels.
Around town the 3 Series Touring is fine, however on blue-metal encrusted country roads, the tyre noise can intrude on quiet conversation.
Suspension: While the suspension is certainly sophisticated, it’s difficult to judge an entry-level model when it’s been optioned up with adaptive M suspension and 18-inch wheels. These alone add $2692.
That said, the low-speed ride is brilliant, getting firmer as speed increases, so that at highway speeds, its road-holding is very confident.
With 45 profile tyres, however, hard-edge ridges are both felt and heard, no matter what the speed. If it’s a good ride you’re after, you’re better off sticking with the standard-issue 16-inch wheels.
Braking: Pedal feel on the 3 Series Touring is good, with nice progression through its travel. As you’d expect, it’s vented discs all round, with the fronts and rears using 300mm diameter discs.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and Brake Assist. There are eight airbags (driver, front passenger, side front airbags, and head airbags front and rear) and BMW says it has easily-replaceable deformation elements that absorb impacts at speeds up to 15 km/h.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: BMW offers BSI packages ranging from 3 years / 60,000 km to 5 years / 100,000 km and are available in two levels of coverage. The first includes basic servicing needs, including the annual vehicle check, oil change and labour costs.
The second covers basic servicing needs, plus maintenance items such as brake pads, brake discs and windscreen wiper blades. Contact your local BMW dealer for pricing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Quattro ($67,500) – With an impeccable interior, the A4’s cabin is a fine place to be, though the drive experience in this model falls short of the 3 Series Touring, despite being all-wheel-drive. (See A4 reviews)
Mercedes-Benz C 250 Estate ($69,400) – With rock-solid build and rear-wheel-drive,the C-Class is a worthy competitor. That said, it also is pipped by the 3 Series for involvement. (See C-Class reviews)
Volvo V60 Wagon T5 Teknik ($60,490) – Often forgotten in comparison with the Germans, the V60 has excellent quality, a reasonable drive and good refinement. It is front-wheel-drive, which could be its sticking point, but it’s cheaper. (See V60 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 isn’t going to be a huge mover in Australia, especially with such a choice of far cheaper (and bigger) wagons and SUVs to choose from in this market.
But, like its German competitors, it sits a little apart: it's a car for premium buyers looking for BMW quality and on-road verve as well as the practicality of a wagon.
And while it might be a handy load-lugger, it's BMW through and through - with all the charisma and dynamic qualites that the badge entails.
Perhaps, for those who find the 320i a little down on power (and we’d agree with you), it’d be worth considering moving up the chain.
For an extra $7300, the 328i Touring brings with it 55kW and 80Nm more, as well as a full 1.5 second advantage in the 0-100kmh sprint.
Whichever wagon you go for, just watch the costs on that options list – all the 'little niceties' quickly add up.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
Diesel - 318d
- BMW 318d Touring - $58,900
- Luxury, Modern, Sport Line packs - $3768 each
- M Sport pack - $7000
Petrol - 320i
- BMW 320i Touring - $62,600
- Luxury, Modern, Sport Line packs - $3152 each
- M Sport pack - $6844
Petrol - 328i
- BMW 328i Touring - $69,990
- Luxury, Modern, Sport Line packs - $1538 each
- M Spot pack - $5000