BMW M3 Touring Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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What is it like to drive?

We could be rude here and simply leave the page blank, save for a link to our M3 saloon review. Because that’s how sorted the Touring is. Yes, it’s 85kg heavier than the equivalent four-door. Yes, it needs 25kg of bracing out back to maintain some body stiffness. And what with the extra glass and the roof being made of metal rather than the saloon’s carbon fibre, the centre of gravity’s been upset.

You’d never know. The Touring has all the poise, aggression and pace we’re used to from the existing M3. So you quickly forget it’s a wagon and get absorbed in the business of driving it. Could be bad news for the dog, that.

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What does it do well?

Steering, for a start. The M3 goes against the groove for light, hyper-fast steering. It’s weighty, deliberate and sensibly geared. You feel like you’re moving big lumps of rubber and metal, not operating an Xbox, but it doesn’t fall into the trap some M cars have of being too overwrought and hefty.

The body control and damping is superb. BMW’s had to add extra support to the Touring’s rear suspension because of its intended role as a load-lugger, but it remains brilliantly keyed into the road. Firm, sure. It’s taut even in the Comfort setting. Sport is tolerable on smooth roads, but Sport Plus is a track-only zone. But even on the standard staggered wheels (19-inch rims up front, 20s at the back) it’s a great set-up. We’ve only tested the car with lighter ceramic brakes (a massive £7,995 option) so beware the heavier steel discs harming the ride.

BMW’s xDrive AWD set-up is so well-suited to a fast estate car, you curse the company for not creating it earlier. Being a heavily rear-biased set-up that only sends a maximum of 50 per cent of power to the front in the most extreme circumstances, you get the balance and sensation of a rear-wheel drive car, with a safety net of improved traction. That means exploiting 503bhp and 479lb ft is a much less fraught affair than it was in the spiky old M3, which arguably wouldn’t have suited life as a Touring.

You can of course delve into the set-up screen and disconnect the M3’s front driveshafts, allowing it to be rear-drive only with ten stages of stability control guardian angel. It’s a helluva party trick, but we suspect 99 per cent of people will revel in the factory 4WD setting 99 per cent of the time.

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Special mention should go to the ceramic brakes. A ludicrously pricey option, and the gold calipers are horribly gauche, but the feel and progression you get from the pedal is top-class and the stopping power feels like it could peel the tyres from the rims. It’s details like this that an Audi RS4 is absolutely nowhere near, as a drive.

What’s it not so good at?

The M3’s drivetrain is a means to an end, but not an all-time great. You’ll never want for torque and the throttle response is freakishly good, but the M3’s engine does lack some charisma and there's a sense its overdubbed engine note is trying very hard to shout over any criticism. Does that matter so much now the AMG equivalent has lost its V8 for an electrified four-pot, and the ageing Audi RS4 might as well have a vacuum cleaner under the bonnet? Arguably not. In a decade or less having an engine at all will be a novelty, remember…

It's connected to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which does its absolute best to fill the void left by the old seven-speed DCT. Occasionally, on a full-bore upshift, it’s flawless. Most of the time, it’s fine. But sometimes it’ll baulk at a downchange and the throttle blip will leave the revs hanging, and no matter what setting you move the lever or shift speed rocker into, it’s just not quite as satisfying as one of Porsche or AMG’s twin-clutch gearboxes. The upshot is that when left to its own devices in town, or when parking, it is indeed more polite about its manners than a DCT.

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