2013 BMW 320i TOURING REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium prestige wagon
Engine/Trans: 135kW/270Nm 2.0 litre turbo | 8spd automatic
Price: $62,600 (plus on-roads) | $80,390 (as tested)
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2l/100km | tested: 9.6l/100km
The BMW 3 Series is the German company’s most important car, accounting for a huge number of the marque’s sales and profits.
We all know the 3 Series sedan is good - it's smart, dynamic, beautiful on road - so we’ve taken this opportunity to spend some quality time in the new Touring.
We found there is a bit more to this tailgated version than is at first obvious; it's perhaps more a niche lifestyle model than 'just another' conventional wagon.
So, do you compromise on dynamics and style to choose the wagon over the sedan? We put that idea to the test.
Quality: To these eyes, it's a bit dull inside but there’s no denying that this interior is very well executed. It’s better than the car it succeeds which was no down-market crash-pad.
The leather that comes with the M Sport pack is good quality and the steering wheel in particular looks and feels great.
Comfort: Four people will be very comfortable in the Touring, with a little more headroom in the back over the sedan. A fifth passenger will tolerate short trips, but will need to be smaller to enjoy a longer ride - the transmission tunnel is quite pronounced.
Front seat passengers get the M Sport seats, which are much better at holding you in and more comfortable than the flat-bottomed seats of the standard 320i.
Equipment: Dual-zone climate control, electric tailgate, keyless start, 6.5-inch screen, leather steering wheel with paddle shift, stereo with bluetooth and standard USB, rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, electric front seats with driver’s seat memory.
The M Sport pack ($8300) adds 19-inch M light alloys, leather upholstery (replacing synthetic leather), some trim adjustments, aero package and M steering wheel.
The Xenon headlights package ($2050) comes with headlight washer function. The Business navigation system is an extra $2000 and the panorama two-piece sunroof a further $3000. Metallic paint adds $1840.
Storage: The boot isn’t very big at 495 litres but trebles in size with both sections of the rear seat down.
A clever retractable cover keeps everything under wraps and is easily released when you’re using the opened glass section of the tailgate or the whole thing.
There’s also a net that can be erected behind the front seats, but it’s quite fiddly and cumbersome.
Up front is a pair of cupholders with a removable rubberised cover for your keys and phone to sit on, a decent glove box and door pockets, while the rear has two cupholders in the centre armrest and short door pockets.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Compared to the old 320i, this is a proper sporting wagon. The old petrol Touring was lucky to reach 100 in under ten seconds and always felt underpowered.
The combination of a fast sweet-shifting eight-speed transmission and a torquey, revvy turbo engine makes the new 3 a lot quicker on road and a lot more fun generally.
You really don't need to think too hard when slotting into fast-moving traffic or overtaking.
Unfortunately, the M Sport pack no longer extends to a more sporting chassis. The old 3er’s M Sport pack dropped everything lower and tightened up the chassis to make it a much more sporty drive.
For the same effect, you’ll have to tick yet another option box, the Adaptive Suspension.
The Driving Experience Control switch allows the driver to switch between four modes of driving - Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus.
Comfort is a very pleasing middle ground where the upshifts are silky smooth and the steering just a little weighty.
Sport and Sport Plus are identical, with the exception of the Plus actually being a minus - it switches off the traction control for a little bit of tyre chirping to go with the heavier steering and the much more excitable throttle.
The auto ramps things up a bit with quicker shifts.
Eco Pro makes everything feel like it has been coated in a ball of merino fleece - the steering becomes vague and the throttle so slow it’s quicker to send a telegram to the fuel injection.
The upside is improved fuel economy, with a display on the dash telling you how far you’re extending the range. This display is actually quite useful - you feel like you’re doing something as the blue figures read higher.
Refinement: Just the same as any other 3 Series - excellent. Engine noise is well damped, which is just as well because it’s a bit boring, but the engine happily spins to the redline without ever feeling strained or thrashing.
There’s almost no evidence of the turbo and the transmission, while in Comfort mode at least, is so good you forget it’s there.
Suspension: While the chassis has an inherent sporting character, it rides over almost everything with great aplomb. A deep, sharp dip will elicit a loud bump, but you’ll barely feel it inside.
Even with the huge 19-inch wheels, there’s little noise from beneath the car except on the coarsest of surfaces.
Braking: As with any German car, the brakes are very good.
While the pedal feel takes some time to get used to - it’s a little wooden - the brakes are confidence-inspiring and unlikely to ever fade even with severe provocation. We tried.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: ABS, corner braking control, stability and traction control, 6 airbags, active protection.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: BMW servicing is condition-based, with a display on the dash letting you know the car is due. A section in the iDrive lets you see an estimate of when the next service is due.
BMW offers service plans over three or five years and with two levels of cover, the higher level covering consumable parts (such as brake pads) as well as labour and oil.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Quattro ($67,900) - The A4 (arguably) has the better interior but is slightly smaller in most dimensions.
It’s also not the drive of the century, but it looks good and is reasonably well-equipped. Like the 3, options like the S Line pack quickly push up the price. (see A4 reviews)
Volkswagen Passat ($58,490) - The Passat is quite a bit bigger than the BMW and all-but forgotten. But for quite a bit less you can have an all-wheel drive V6 wagon with plenty of scope for optioning up. (see Passat reviews)
Mercedes Benz C-Class Estate ($69,900) - The C-Class is a terrific car in its own right, but even the AMG equivalent to the M Sport isn’t the fun of the 3 Series.
It also costs a little more overall than either the Audi or the BMW. (see C-Class reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 320i Touring is a hefty step up from the previous model which was a pretty good car to start with.
The interior, engine and handling are all an improvement on the old as well as being more efficient to boot.
You’d probably only buy one because you need a wagon, but its barely-blunted dynamic ability and decent looks mean you won’t really be compromising at all.
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 - $6385 ($8300 inc GST and LCT)
Petrol - 328i
- BMW 328i Touring - $69,990
- Luxury, Modern, Sport Line packs - $1538 each
- M Spot pack - $5000