BMW 320d xDrive M Sport Touring Review
SUVs seem to be the go-to vehicles for practicality these days, but the BMW 3 Series Touring car is an estate that offers all the carrying ability of an SUV along with true BMW driving dynamics.
- Estate car with legendary 3 Series handling
- Improved practicality and extra interior space
- Latest generation engines and new chassis technology for improved dynamics
- Smartphone connectivity is over-complicated
- Watch out for the optional extras as the costs will stack up
- Some rivals offer larger boot space
Since its launch back in 1987, more than 1.7 million 3 Series Touring models have hit the roads with the latest model’s predecessor accounting for 500,000 of these.
But the new 3 Series Touring car boasts a sleeker design, more interior space, improved practicality, along with BMW’s latest-generation powertrains. New chassis enhancements result in better handling and performance and the five-door car is kitted out with all the latest on-board infotainment and connectivity systems.
It’s practical, stylish, very easy on the eye and a lot more fun to drive than high-sided SUVs.
On the Road
BMW’s new 3 Series Touring model has grown by 76mm in length to 4,709mm, by 16mm in width to 1,827mm and by 11mm in height to 1,440mm. The wheelbase has also been extended.
But despite the growth spurt, the car is instantly recognisable as a BMW. It features the traditional kidney grille with headlight units that stretch all the way up to the grille. There is a long bonnet and extended roofline, a larger rear window, plus smart alloy wheels to complete the look.
Customers can select from a wide range of petrol and diesel powertrains with a plug-in hybrid version being introduced in the summer of 2020.
Trim levels are called SE, Sport and M Sport, although a range-topping M Sport Plus is available for the UK-only market. We opted for a 2.0-litre diesel-powered version delivering 190hp and 400Nm of torque. This model, in xDrive M Sport guise, can complete the 0-62mph dash in 7.4 seconds and maxes out at 140mph.
The acceleration through the latest generation eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox is ultra-smooth and there is a constant stream of power on tap to make light work of short bursts of pace or overtaking. There are also steering wheel-mounted paddles if you fancy taking extra control.
The driver can shift through drive modes called Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport with the latter really sharpening up the responses.
For the last four decades, the BMW 3 Series has often been viewed as ‘the’ car to beat when it comes to handling and the Touring model certainly lives up to all the hype too.
Despite its size and load-lugging ability, it is beautifully balanced with exceptionally good road holding. Body sway is non-existent and when driven in the Sport mode it feels as exhilarating to drive as the outstanding saloon model.
BMW has introduced new chassis technology, which along with weight minimisation, a low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution, results in a beautifully poised and balanced vehicle even when driven hard into long sweeping bends.
The variable sport steering on the M Sport model delivers direct responses and this results in precise cornering at pace, yet at the same time the wheel angles required for parking manoeuvres are achieved with just a few turns of the wheel. It’s clever stuff.
Another feature that’s fitted as standard is Performance Control which heightens the agility of the car by distributing power to the rear wheels as the situation demands. To maximise stability under heavy braking on surfaces with varying grip levels, a steering impulse is applied to help the driver correct the car’s line.
When it comes to refinement, the BMW 3 Series Touring excels on all accounts. The interior is quality through and through with a perfect blend of upmarket leather upholstery, elegant trim fittings, soft-touch surfaces and clear, precise information screens.
There are newly designed seats for the driver and front passenger, while the sports seats on the test car offer a far greater range of adjustment. Shoulder room up front has been increased and back seat passengers benefit from extra legroom in the new car. All occupants have extra headroom and there is actually room in the back for a trio of child seats to be fitted.
The car is well insulated against the road surface, engine and wind noise although all these sounds become slightly more elevated when the car is being driven hard. Special mention to the highly efficient suspension system though that does a very worthy job of smoothing out creases in the road surfaces. That said; the slightly stiffer suspension set-up on the M Sport model can make the ride feel a little hard after a few hours driving.
In the car
Finding a perfect driving position in the BMW 3 Series Touring model is a quick and simple process with seats that are power-adjustable and plenty of steering wheel movement too. Then the settings can be saved in the memory just in case someone comes along and changes things around.
There are creature comforts galore such as heated seats with three settings, plus a heated steering wheel to fend off the winter chill. The infotainment system has been well thought out and most functions can be accessed via a rotary dial (with quick access keys) or the touchscreen which is nicely responsive.
I particularly liked the climate control set-up which is easily accessed via buttons beneath the touchscreen so there is no need to enter a complicated computer menu to alter the temperature.
When it comes to on-board technology, the 3 Series Touring is brimming over with kit. There is a head-up display, pitch-perfect Harman Kardon sound system, full smartphone connectivity, Bluetooth, a navigation system and wireless charging. There is also gesture control that allows you to use hand movements to adjust the volume on the sound system as well as answer or dismiss phone calls. It takes a little getting used to but is a good function.
The M Sport model features the BMW Live Cockpit Professional set-up which includes a high-resolution 12.3-inch instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a 10.25-inch touchscreen.
The cockpit design is very driver-focused and all the controls are easy to use on the move, although I did find initially setting up my smartphone was a rather long-winded process compared to rival models.
The BMW 3 Series Touring is a practical estate model that is a very attractive alternative to the vast number of SUV vehicles flooding the market right now. The latest car has grown in size with a wheelbase that has increased by 41mm to 2,851. This is good news as it results in additional passenger space and a boot capacity that has been increased to 500 litres (an increase of five litres). The 60:40 split-folding rear seats can be dropped flat at the flick of a switch positioned inside the boot and the capacity is then increased to 1,500 litres.
But it’s not just the storage limits that have been improved as loading is made easier on the new car thanks to a wider boot opening and a slightly lower loading lip.
Inside the car, there are plenty of handy compartments to stash away goodies, including a deep glovebox, practical door bins with a section to hold water bottles, front and rear cupholders, nets in the front seatbacks, a covered central cubby box and a wireless charging pad. There is also an additional small storage area hidden down by the driver’s right knee which is completely out of view from prying eyes.
The 3 Series Touring is a very capable towing vehicle and can pull a trailer or caravan weighing up to 1,600kgs.
BMW competes for sales in the premium sector so it will never be viewed as a cheap, bargain basement manufacturer. However, the 3 Series Touring is competitively priced to compete with rivals from the likes of Mercedes, Audi and Volvo.
The line-up is priced from £35,505 to £43,065 for the standard three trims, although just like all other high-end carmakers, the list of optional extras and ways to personalise the car are seemingly endless. But they do mean quite hefty price hikes in some instances.
Our test model began life costing £40,880, but the likes of a Technology package (£1,900), a Premium package (£1,900), a Comfort package (£890) and a few other features saw the end price increase to £47,005.
When it comes to running costs, our 2.0-litre 190hp diesel-powered car could deliver combined fuel economy of 49.6-51.4mpg (WLTP) with carbon emissions of 124g/km based on NEDC correlated figures. However, models registered from April 2020 will show 149g/km under more stringent WLTP testing.
For anyone looking for improved economy, it may be worth waiting for the plug-in hybrid version which will join the range next summer.
The insurance group rating for our test car is 31.
Although it is too soon to determine just how reliable the latest 2019 BMW 3 Series Touring model will be, the Bavarian manufacturer is working tirelessly to improve its reputation which has taken a knock in recent years. Customer satisfaction surveys haven’t proved the best reading material for BMW bosses, but the new 3 Series models have been performing well.
The Touring model certainly feels sturdy in its build with doors that close with a reassuring thud and a cabin packed with quality materials that look and feel like they have been developed with longevity in mind.
The 3 Series Touring comes with BMW’s three-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
Over the decades BMW has established an excellent reputation for developing cars that deliver on all counts when it comes to performance but help to keep occupants as safe as possible in the process. So it will come as little surprise to learn that the latest 3 Series model was awarded the maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating.
The new 3 Series Touring boasts an impressive range of standard and optional safety and driver assistance systems. Camera images and the data gathered by radar and ultrasonic sensors are used to monitor the car’s surrounding area and either alert the driver to hazards or minimise the risk of an accident by means of corrective braking and steering.
Front collision warning with brake intervention – which is standard on the new BMW 3 Series Touring - detects cyclists and pedestrians up ahead and can bring the vehicle to a halt to either avoid a collision or minimise its severity.
Other standard features include the Speed Limit Info system with No Passing Info display and the Lane Departure Warning system with steering assist, which is operational from 44-130mph.
The optional Driving Assistant Professional, costing £1,250 extra, introduces a Lane Change Warning system, which helps the driver to guide the car back onto the correct line from 12mph to its top speed, by means of steering inputs. This system also features rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning along with Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, which automatically keeps the car a safe distance from vehicles travelling ahead.
And of course, the renowned BMW xDrive system splits drive torque between the front and rear wheels as required for maximum traction in all road and weather conditions.