|BMW 320d xDrive Touring|
|The story: The latest generation of BMW’s 3-Series gets the popular Touring estate model to add to the saloon launched earlier this year.|
|Key rival:||Audi A4 Avant|
The BMW 3-Series is a car that proves that, despite the rise of the SUV, there’s still demand for the right estate cars. The German premium brand expects its new Touring model to account for a significant portion of 3-Series volume, selling at a rate of one to every two-and-a-half saloons to total more than 10,000 a year.
The company says that the growth of SUV popularity is bringing people into the brand rather than eating away at too many Touring sales, and the new model will prove popular in the company car market, with 60% of cars going to corporate customers.
Starting at the back, the boot area grows by five litres to take it to 500, and there are practicality improvements thanks to a squarer space with less wheelarch intrusion and a wider loading aperture. The clever opening tailgate window remains, so smaller loads can be dropped in without having to open the powered hatch, and BMW has also now engineered a space under the boot floor to stash the load cover when not in use. Versus the previous Touring, the new car is 76mm longer, 16mm wider and 11mm taller.
The engine line-up from launch comprises 318d, 320d and 330d diesels, the latter two with the choice of rear- or xDrive four-wheel drive, while the petrols are 320i, 330i and M340i xDrive alternatives. The big seller will be the 190hp 320d, which is the smart fleet choice with emissions starting from less than 120g/km. As experienced on various other models, it’s a great powertrain, especially when mated to the eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s optional on the lower two diesel engines and standard across the rest of the range.
Although the more powerful 330d reinforces its position as all the car one could ever need, thanks to its powertrain, handling, interior quality and load-lugging ability, the 320d does a fine job of justifying itself in a cost-conscious world, and jumps to the top of the class.
The only negatives are those repeated from the saloon; that the infotainment system seems to be reaching the limit of its complexity and doesn’t integrate with a smartphone as easily as most rivals, and that the rear space isn’t brilliant.
But otherwise, the 3-Series Touring looks great, especially in the dominant M Sport trim level, handles better than anything else in class, is efficient, practical and an excellent all-round company choice.