You’ve got to be pretty determined not to have an SUV to choose a mid-sized estate these days, but there are plenty of reasons to choose the sixth generation ‘G20’-series version of BMW’s 3 Series Touring. It doesn’t offer much more space than the alternative saloon variant – just 20-litres extra – but there’s more of a lifestyle feel and no dilution of the many 3 Series driving virtues.
Since 1987, BMW has offered a Touring estate version of its 3 Series and hasn’t been dissuaded from doing so by the success of its comparably priced X1 and X3 crossover models. Unlike those designs – and unlike close competitors like Audi’s A4 Avant and the Mercedes C-Class estate – this 3 Series Touring sits on a rear-driven platform, which means a much more immersive driving experience than any competitor can offer. It’s certainly more involving than any compact or mid-sized SUV.
If you haven’t tried the current generation 3 Series, then you’ll find a big improvement up-front, with next-generation voice-activated infotainment and a very sophisticated screen layout. In the back, you don’t get the kind of sliding or reclining seats you might find in an SUV or MPV. But the 41mm increase in wheelbase length provides improved legroom.
The 500-litre boot, accessed by a powered tailgate, is very practical, being 112mm wider than the previous generation design and offering a loading aperture that’s 30mm higher and up to 125mm wider in its upper section. It’s easier to get stuff in and out now than it was before as well, because the loading sill height (616mm) is slightly lower and the step between it and the cargo floor has been reduced from 35mm to 8mm. That really helps when you’re carting bulky stuff in and out. Fold the rear seats flat and up to 1500-litres of space is available.
Vanarama customers get a choice of four core 3 Series Touring trim levels – ‘SE’, ‘Sport’, ‘M Sport’ and ‘M Sport Pro Edition’.
Things kick off with the four cylinder 2.0-litre petrol-powered 320i, which has 184hp. The same engine also features in the 292hp 330e plug-in hybrid model, this electrified tech offered in the 3 Series Touring model for the first time. That 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine also features in 258hp form in the 330i. If you want six cylinders in your petrol 3 Series Touring, you’ll need the potent 374hp 3.0-litre engine in the M340i.
There are three main diesel options, the 150hp 318d and the 190hp 320d, which is the variant that most leasing customers choose. There’s also the 265hp 330d. And at the top of the diesel line-up is the 340hp M340d.
In the last quarter of a century, more than 1.7 million 3 Series Touring models have been sold, so this has been an important car for BMW. Its primary virtues aren’t really space or practicality, though this sixth generation model improves in both of these areas. This car’s key appeal lies more in its rear-driven handling prowess and lifestyle vibe. And always will.