BMW 3-Series Touring first UK drive

BMW 3-Series Touring With their duties as the automotive supplier to the London Olympics and Paralympics now over, its back to the day job of moving premium metal for BMW UK.

With 35 per cent of the UK population having watched the Olympic Torch Relay, 25 million people viewed the opening and closing ceremonies for the event and 85,000 visitors to the Olympic Village visited the BMW pavilion, the German brand’s profile could not be much higher.

Their UK sales are looking good as well at 97,692 year to date being an 8 per cent increase over the same period last year so the brand is well on its way to at least equalling last year’s total of 116,642 new car registrations.  And even BMW’s used car sales look good with around 100,000 of those finding new owners via BMW UK dealerships.

So with the Olympics over and the September new registration 62 plate month out of the way it is time to move on to launching new or revised models and additional engines to the range.

At this week’s press briefing for some of their new or revised 2013 models, BMW wheeled out the all-new 560hp M6 Coupe the most powerful, together with the recently driven M6 Convertible, production road car BMW has ever built. It also the fastest accelerating production BMW ever with a zero to 62mph time of 4.2 seconds. Price £93,820.

Also wheeled out were the all-new 3-Series Touring estates currently starting at £29,380. Also new is the 335i petrol/electric, 139g/km CO2, Active Hybrid 3-Series Saloon with SE, Modern, Luxury and M Sport trim level options. This model uses hybrid electric power to reduce CO2 emissions from a high performance petrol engine. Top speed is limited to 155mph with zero to 62mph taking just 5.3 seconds.  An eight-speed automatic transmission is fitted as standard and the starter price SE version weighs in at £43,225. This is the first time BMW has ever offered hybrid technology in a compact executive car although there is a hybrid version of the 5-series saloon. 

Also new are the revised and refreshed BMW X1 two and four wheel drive SUVs priced from £24,660 and the 1-Series 3-Door Sports Hatch range which includes the cheapest current new BMW the 114i petrol with its British built engine and priced at £17,300.  The M135i, 320hp hot hatch  priced at £29,995 also received an airing  as did the new entry level 5-Series Gran Turismo five door in the form of the 520d GT costing £35,705.

BMW 3-Series Touring First UK Drive
Now from that array of new or additional models what becomes the feature model for a first drive road test to appeal to most potential new car buyers?  Practically it has to be the new 3-Series Touring estate.

BMW 3-Series Touring The 3-Series Touring traditionally has sales of around 8,000 units a year in the UK, well down on those of the Saloon which has around 24,000 annual sales. The Coupe/Convertible versions account for the remainder of the 3-Series 42,500 annual UK sales.  Last year the 3-Series finished in eighth position in the UK’s top ten sales chart, the only premium brand model to feature in the top ten sellers. 3-Series UK sales are usually a 50/50 split between retail and business/fleet customers.

Initially the 3-Series Touring is available with the choice of three engines but more will soon be added so the range which will mirror that of the 3-Series Saloon in engine and specification levels. Currently the Touring is available with the 328i petrol engine and priced at £30,400. For diesel customers there is the best selling 320d at £29,380 and the six-pot 330d at £34,700.  Shortly to be added will be the 320i petrol and the diesel 318d and 316d versions with prices yet to be announced but the Touring carries a price tag £1,300 more than the corresponding Saloon.  Specification levels are ES, SE, Modern, Sport, Luxury and M Sport.  Like the Saloon, the Touring offers a new generation of turbocharged petrol engines and more automatic transmission options for diesel powered models.

From the tip of the nose to the B-pillar, the 3 Series Touring is exactly the same as its Saloon stablemate so there is an expressive front end, boosted by the 37mm wider track over the previous generation model. The frontal styling has twin headlamps with LED accent lights combined with the gently forward sloping BMW kidney grille to generate a purposeful face, further highlighted by the additional outer air intakes below the headlamps and the sweeping lines of the bonnet that converge on the grille.

BMW 3-Series Touring From the side, the new 3-Series Touring is defined by the sweeping silhouette with its smoothly sloping roofline and large glass areas that extend to the rear of the vehicle. The new car is 97mm longer overall and 50mm longer in the wheelbase than the previous generation.

At the rear the roof spoiler accentuates the long roofline, together with the horizontal lines and L-shaped lights set far out to the edges and combine with the 48mm wider track to plant the design on the road.

The front interior design of the new BMW 3 Series Touring is identical to that of the recently introduced 3-Series Saloon. It’s a cockpit with a traditional BMW driver focus creating a sporty interior ambience.

The clear, circular dials and the flatscreen monitor for the iDrive system integrated into the dashboard structure, define the instrument panel. The iDrive controller is mounted within easy reach of the driver down on the centre console. The cabin of the new 3-Series Touring demonstrates BMW’s usual commitment to quality, both in the range of materials used and the way the vehicle is assembled. This strength in depth is illustrated and personalised by the large range of interior trims and upholstery materials that can be combined in different ways.

The foundation for the new Touring’s class-leading attributes lies with its increased exterior dimensions. From them, the engineers have been able to improve the interior package for rear seat passengers considerably: there is now 17mm extra knee room and 9mm more headroom making access to the rear seats is easier than ever before.  It still isn’t that roomy for rear seat legroom but it is an improvement. There is also more storage space in the front with larger door pockets complemented by two large cup holders on the centre console.

BMW 3-Series Touring With its loading sill just 620mm off the ground (and protected by a stainless steel strip) the rear luggage area is 35-litres greater in capacity than the previous generation model at 495- litres and with the rear 40/20/40 split rear seats folded there is 1,500-litres of load space.
Standard on all models is an electrically operated tailgate, luggage securing lugs, a pair of coat hooks, a luggage net and a deep storage compartment on the left-hand side of the load area. The luggage cover can be stored under the boot floor when removed allowing it to be carried securely on a journey if it is to be required later on. There is also a separate partition net that can be used even when the rear seats are folded flat, although the seats do not fold completely flat so this is an uphill lip in the floor. The rear seats also have a large through-loading hole in the centre that can accommodate a number of skis or snow boards while four occupants are travelling in the car. The rear window in the tailgate can be opened independently of the overall unit. It is particularly convenient when loading small items rather than opening the tailgate itself.

So overall the Touring is a practical and stylish addition to BMW’s core 3-Series range and its extra size and on-the-road premium brand image is bound to attract new customers to BMW. It will also keep existing customers happy and due to the increase in size and quality, plus the savings on price and taxes, no doubt as down-sizing continues existing 5-Series Touring owners might well be taking a closer look at this new model range.

I briefly had a test drive in the 330d diesel version as no 2.0-litre 320d best selling models were available at the event.  My test version was the Luxury specification which costs £36,300 on-the-road.  This version comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.

The 3.0-litre engine is straight-six cylinder unit with twin turbochargers with stop/start function fitted as standard.  Over the previous 330d unit power is up by 12bhp to 254bhp and torque is increased by 29lb ft to 413lb ft available from just 1,500rpm.  With the new eight-speed auto box this power and torque provides strong acceleration right through the power range with top speed limited to 155mph and zero to 62mph taking just 5.6 seconds.  CO2 emissions for this revised engine have dropped from 165g/km to just 135g/km. This is impressive for a 3.0-litre unit and fuel economy is officially 55.4mpg for the Combined Cycle. My drive using Cotswold A/B roads gave a more real-life 47.4mpg, although there was only me in the car and no luggage.  Just as impressive was the minimal noise of the engine transmitted into the car. On the downside this emphasised the road noise intrusion from the 18-inch wheels shod with run-flat tyres.

However the quality of ride comfort was very good and I continue to notice the on-going improvement in this area from the latest generation BMW models of all types. BMW UK say that their latest models have UK specific settings for the suspension to compensate for our poor roads surfaces and that combined with improvements with the supple ride quality performance of run-flat tyres is most welcome.  The 3-Series Touring, because of its extra weight, is not quite as agile as the class-leading handling of the 3-Series Saloon but overall it is an impressive newcomer to this market sector.

MILESTONES. BMW 330d Luxury Touring. Price: £36,300.  Engine/transmission: 3.0-litre, straight-six, twin turbo diesel, 254bhp, 413l;b ft of torque from 1,500rpm, 8-speed automatic, rear wheel drive. Performance: 155mph restricted top speed, 0-62mph 5.6 seconds, 55.4mpg Combined Cycle (47.4mpg on test), CO2 135g/km, VED road tax £120, BIK company car tax 21%. Insurance group: TBA. Boot/load space: 495 to 1,500-litres. For: A much improved in space, specification and quality 3-Series estate,  easy to use versatile load area, more power and performance with better fuel economy and less CO2 emissions so it is more tax efficient, seamless 8-speed automatic transmission, compliant and comfortable ride. Against: Pricey especially if must-have options are added, tall rear seat passengers will still want more legroom, rear seats do not fold down completely flat, quiet engine emphasises tyre noise intrusion.  Miles Better News Agency

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