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The Top Gear car review:BMW 3 Series Touring
For:Bigger than EVER, derived from the current saloon we know is great
Against:More lifestyle than load-lugger, if max volumes matter
320d Sport 5dr Step Auto
Good-sized wagon that’s huge fun to drive. If we used half-points, it’d lose one for the missing straight-six noises.
We’ve driven the new Three Touring, which is Important News. Can it retain its crown as the best car in the world?
What we say:
The 3-Series Saloon leads in its sector. Guess what? So does the Estate - bigger and better than ever
What is it?
For those who think the current 3-Series is as good as it gets, hold steady: here’s one with more space, more practicality yet, it seems, no less of the magic that makes the four-door such a stormer. It also answers a rare gripe that some have about the saloon – that its rear end looks too similar to before. Not so with the Touring, whose revised tail dials back some of the old one’s rakishness for a more upmarket and upstanding profile. It’s now every inch the junior 5-Series.
BMW has just facelifted it, further enhancing a range stretching from 318i to 340i. There are xDrive all-wheel drive versions of the key engine variants too, for all-weather grip and a huge amount of year-round practicality: it’s a drivetrain and body combination that many may find near-perfect. There really are few better premium all-rounders.
Bigger it may be, but it doesn’t feel it on the road. Like the saloon, this is a superb driver’s car, with roll-free and engaging handling that encourages exploitation of the engine’s oft-prodigious power. The 3-Series has become fun again. Shame not all motors bring the aural fizz of old: the four-cylinder 330i (don’t let the badge fool you into thinking it’s a straight-six) is swift, but sounds uninspiring. Still, there’s always the 335d six-pot, which is even faster and greener… or maybe the new 326bhp 340i if you want to trade traction for speed.
As with the saloon, ride quality shows welcome advances over the old car too. It’s still taut, yes, but the stiffness and occasional crash-bang have thankfully gone.
On the inside
The cabin is identical to the saloon: the story, you guessed it, is the rear. The boot has grown for starters, by a full 35 litres to an impressive 495 litres with the seats up (a vital five litres more than an A4 Avant, a crucial 10 litres more than a Mercedes C-Class…). 1,500 litres are revealed when the 40-20-40 split seats are folded.
All models get an electric bootlid, the tailgate glass can be lifted independently of the boot itself and the conundrum of where to dump the parcel shelf with the seats down is solved by a stowage slot beneath the boot floor. Options include a ‘kick-open’ boot release for when your hands are full, and a reversible boot floor for when your shoes are muddy.
As with the 3-Series saloon, there’s more space for heads and knees in the rear too, while up front, the four-door’s model-of-clarity dashboard is carried over. The C-Class is probably a bit flashier and more interesting, but this still pleases.
Our heart is with the 53.3mpg, 258bhp 330d but our head says go for the four-cylinder models: most of the volume variants average over 60mpg. The best all-rounder is the 68.9mpg, 163bhp 320d ED Plus. As for prices, they’re around £1,400 more than the saloon. Not bad for a car that has the makings of a corker. The 5-Series’ title of Best in Class may be under threat…
The fastest335d xDrive M Sport 5dr Step Auto
The cheapest316i ES 5dr
The greenest320d EfficientDynamics Plus 5dr Step Auto