Most folks will still buy an SUV, but the knowing few who spend £85k on M’s smallest wagon are getting a sensational all-rounder
The price and the looks (still) take some swallowing, disappointing fuel range, overcomplicated touchscreen
What is it?
The first ever BMW M3 Touring: the really fast version of BMW’s class-leading 3 Series, now with an estate bodyshell. To give it its full name, it’s the BMW M3 Touring Competition xDrive: in English that means the estate is only available with BMW’s superb all-wheel drive system. ‘Competition’ is just a trim level, and all M3s in the UK of any shape are Comps. It means you get over 500bhp and an automatic gearbox as standard.
Why has this car created such a fuss?
There’s a coolness about fast estate cars. Even though they are at heart a bit of an odd concoction: if you’ve got a dog or a lawnmower or bags of garden waste in the big 500-litre boot, you tend not to drive very quickly. And if it’s empty and the road looks inviting, you’re in an estate car, which is naturally heavier and less stiff than a coupe. Like, say, a BMW M4. Hold that thought…
But people who like cars tend to really get off on the idea of a superwagon, because it’s a ready-for-anything, all-season, all-occasion device, and they tend to be a bit more subtle than an out-and-out sports coupe. In an M4, you broadcast an image of thrusting power. In an estate, you’re just taking the kids to school, or off to the hardware store.
And while BMW has delivered two M5 Tourings in years gone by (both recording pretty tragic sales figures dwarfed by their cult appreciation), there’s never been an M3 Touring sold to the public… until now.
How fast is it?
BMW claims it’ll get you from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and go on to a top speed of 174mph, and even that’s limited. We’d wager it’d be quicker still, after an M3 xDrive saloon we timed against the clock managed 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. The Touring’s a bit heavier, but it still feels brutally, ruthlessly quick.
Tell me more key numbers.
Just remember one: five hundred. At the front, the M3’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six delivers just over 500 horsepower to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. At the back, you get a smidge over 500 litres of boot space. That’s it. That’s the recipe. Party at the front and in the rear.
Surely there’s one you’ve forgotten?
Ah yes. Price. It’s not cheap to own more car than anyone could ever possibly want or need. M3 Tourings start at £85,000 and it’s terrifyingly easy to propel that beyond six figures if you lob some carbon fibre-laced option packs at yours. And if you do that, well, you’re hardly likely to be filling it with unsheared sheep or bags of cement.
So is the M3 Touring a pointless endeavour that merely panders to the fantasies of those who have no intention – or means – of buying one? Or is it in fact one of the coolest cars made by BMW today? There is of course the possibility that the M3 Touring is in fact both of those things simultaneously, and still a pretty glorious bit of kit.
What's the verdict?
Folks who’ve yearned for BMW to build an M3 Touring for rears – to be all the car they could ever want – might be dismayed to learn the result isn’t in fact perfect. It’s flawed. The fuel tank is on the small side. The gearbox still has moments in which it behaves like it’s a regular transmission that accidentally stowed away in an M car. And there’s no getting away from the fact that if you can afford to buy one, you are certainly not in the position where you need one car to cover all bases. You probably have a couple of sporty toys for the weekend already, and a more humdrum shopping car.
But don’t get hung up on the semantics. The bottom line is this: the M3 Touring is eye-wateringly, cheek-pufflingly good to drive fast, and because it shares a body with the excellent 3 Series Touring, it’s also an incredibly competent, well-made family car. No, it’s not going to cause an overnight collapse in BMW X3 or Audi Q5 sales. It isn’t supposed to. You get the feeling BMW will be happy with a few steady sales, while basking in the reflected glow of appreciation for having built a small fast estate at last.
It doesn’t dilute the M3 lineage and it does bring something new and fresh to this little niche of the car world. Life for the next Audi RS4 Avant and the hybrid-powered AMG C63 just got a lot trickier.