Skip advert
Advertisement

BMW M3 Touring review

The M3 Touring drives every bit as well as the saloon, which makes it one hell of a high-performance family car

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

  • Capable and engaging handling
  • Superb build quality
  • Big enough to swallow family clobber
  • Expensive to buy
  • Expensive to run
  • Expensive options
Find your BMW 3 Series
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Or are you looking to sell your car?
Customers got an average £1000 more vs part exchange quotes
Advertisement

We waited a long time for BMW M to create an estate version of an M3, but patience paid off because the M3 Touring is finally here, and it’s even better than we could have imagined. Some critics might baulk at the price or the styling, but there’s little doubt that the M3 Competition Touring with xDrive (as it’s formally known) completely nails its brief. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

BMW M has kept the Touring to a single engine, drivetrain and transmission option, finding its basis on the Competition spec with xDrive all-wheel drive. This inflates the asking price to over £85,000, but trust us, it’s worth it. 

It’s reassuring to see BMW M didn’t cut corners by just stuffing the oily bits from its saloon into the estate, as the Touring has undergone its own rigorous development process that’s resulted in the fitment of new chassis and suspension components. It also picks up BMW’s latest interior updates and comes with the same unerring sense of quality that emanates from the current generation G8x BMW M3. 

About the BMW M3 Touring

It could be argued that the M3 is the purest expression of BMW M. Initially developed in 1988 as a homologation special based on the E30 generation 3 Series, it ended up spawning the most successful touring car racer in history, and after that initial success created a dynasty of high performance two- and four-door road cars. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Over the six generations since that original E30 M3, BMW has fitted the moniker to saloons, coupes and convertibles, but never an estate – until this car came along. And what a generation to introduce it with! While the G8x has caused plenty of controversy on account of its high weight, price, four driven wheels and automatic transmission, it’s also gone on to become one of the most brilliant generations, with a driving experience that’s thrilling, exciting and always engaging.

To create the M3 Touring, BMW hasn’t taken shortcuts on the details. Like the saloon, the body shell is totally bespoke to the M3, with wider rear arches and significant strengthening to the underbody, which includes a brace borrowed from the M4 Cabriolet to make up for the Touring’s lack of a solid rear bulkhead. A further brace is also placed just in front of the giant exhaust back-box. The rear dampers are new, as is a fresh calibration for the fronts.

Advertisement - Article continues below

These elements are applied on top of the M3’s general upgrades made to the standard 3 Series including totally unique suspension geometry and substantial bracing both above and below the engine. It also borrows the M4’s front end design with those controversial grilles, sleek headlights and wider front wheel arches. The wheels themselves are also massive, with a staggered set of 19- and 20-inch tyres running a 275-section on the front and 285-section on the rear. 

Engines, performance and drive

A highlight of all M3s, the twin-turbocharged straight-six has relentless urge backed up by class-leading response and motorsport pedigree

Under the M3’s scalloped bonnet sits BMW M’s ‘S58’ twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine. Drawing most of its basic design from BMW’s standard straight-six engines, it might sound a little less specialised than the bespoke V8s and V10s from BMW M’s past, but in practice it is superb. The block itself is distinctly over-engineered. It also forms the basis of the ‘P58’ engine found in the M4 GT3 race car, where it needs to withstand the rigours of 24-hour endurance competition. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Building on the standard BMW block’s construction, the S58 adds its own unique headers that incorporate 3D-printed internals and sophisticated double VANOS and Valvetronic valve control systems. There’s forged internals, plus an extremely strong crank that easily delivers its rated figures of 503bhp and 650Nm of torque. Both are produced extremely low down in the rev-band, making the engine feel especially responsive and even more powerful than those figures suggest. 

Power is sent through a sharp-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission – not a dual-clutch like previous generations of M3 – to all four wheels via BMW M’s own variable xDrive system. Power is mostly sent to the rear wheels, with the torque split with the front dependent on conditions and your selected drive mode. It also comes with the option of decoupling the front axle altogether. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

BMW has also fitted its electronically-controlled M Sport locking rear differential that also facilitates power torque-vectoring between the individual rear wheels. It all sounds incredibly complicated, and it is, but on the road the overwhelming feeling is of control and clarity, creating an amazing transparency to the car’s drivetrain. 

This is backed up by the M3 Touring’s overwhelming sense of stiffness in the chassis. The ride is firm, but the damping is brilliant at keeping the wheels in contact with the road, even when the surface is extremely challenging. Turn into a corner and the steering is rich with precision and accuracy, if not ultimate feel. The car always feels like it’s on your side, scything through corners with total control. Body-roll is almost non-existent, and despite its considerable weight the M3 Touring never feels big or cumbersome. When you push just that little bit harder the sweet chassis balance reveals itself, with an underlying safety net made up of feelsome, powerful brakes and superbly calibrated traction and stability control systems that can cater for drivers of all experience levels. 

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

Thanks to a potent mix of low-end torque, all-wheel drive and a fast-shifting automatic transmission, the BMW M3 Touring will reach 62mph in 3.6 seconds – 0.3 of a second faster than Audi’s new RS4 Competition. Yet while the two are closely matched on initial acceleration, the BMW’s additional power quickly shows as its mid-range grunt is fully-realised. This doesn’t come at the cost of top-end response either, revving enthusiastically right up to the redline. 

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Its top speed is limited to 155mph as standard, but this can be raised to 184mph by equipping the M Driver’s Pack. This pack includes a BMW M Driver training course, and is automatically bundled with the carbon ceramic brake option if selected. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs

You don’t buy an £85k high performance estate car for its economy ratings, and running costs will also be high thanks to the big tyres and brakes

BMW quotes a combined MPG of between 27.2 and 27.7mpg, figures that in our experience are just about achievable if you’re extremely light on the throttle. The corresponding CO2 figures sit at 234-230g/km – not deal breaking if you’re in the market for a high performance car like this. 

Overall running costs will probably be high, though. The standard-fit Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres are brilliant, but have a relatively high wear rating, meaning that high-speed running or the occasional track day will quickly reduce the life of the tyre. It’s also worth noting that the M3’s aggressive suspension setup will also see the tyres wear unevenly across their faces, accelerating degradation even further. 

Servicing will be expensive, and other wear items like brake pads and eventually discs also come with a high price tag.

Insurance groups

The M3 sits in a relatively high insurance group of 43, but it is lower than some rivals from AMG and Audi Sport. 

Depreciation

Being a brand new model, it’s difficult to ascertain the M3 Touring’s resale performance, especially as any that are hitting the second-hand market usually carry a premium over list price due to their relatively low production and high desirability. 

Interior, design and technology

Cutting edge, beautifully built, spacious and endlessly customisable – the cabin’s another highlight of the package

The M3 Touring’s interior was updated to BMW’s latest dashboard design alongside its debut last year. The changes are largely to accommodate the new curved touchscreen digital interface, which also thinned the air-vents and removed the previous physical air-conditioning controls – for better or worse. Overall, though, the dash is superbly designed, and regardless of whether you splurge the extra £2,000 extended leather package or not, beautifully built too. 

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

One of the M3’s more recent trademarks is an ability to specify some eccentric colour and trim options – the Touring is no different. If it’s your thing, you can specify the seats in teal and chartreuse, bright orange, vivid red, or maybe a more luxurious combination of off-white or saddle brown. You can apply most of these combinations to the optional Carbon Pack which replaces the sumptuous M Sports chairs for aggressive-looking carbon-backed bucket seats. BMW also fits real carbonfibre trim on the console, dash, steering wheel and M specific paddles. While these fancy colour and trim options might sound distracting, it does make the interior feel special and incredibly personal – helping the M3 Touring justify its high price tag.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

We’ve mentioned it before, and will again, that BMW’s latest 8 operating system and its curved digital interface is the benchmark in-car user interface. The 12.3-inch driver display and 14.9-inch central touchscreen are crisp, clear and large enough to fit all of its considerable content within it without looking too busy. Most functions are only a few stabs of the touchscreen away (or turns of a click-wheel, it still has one of those), but if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of its functionality your only option is to enter the admittedly crowded main menu.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

All UK models come with the upgraded Harman Kardon sound system as standard, and the embedded sat-nav is also one of the best in the business when it comes to live traffic updates and user-friendliness. The wireless Apple CarPlay utilises the whole of the screen and works flawlessly, but you'll need a wired connection to use Android Auto

The driver’s display features BMW M’s modern graphics, and while they are fun we can’t help but wish for a button that displayed round, analogue-style dials.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

If you can fit your family in a 3 Series Touring, you can fit in an M3 Touring

The beauty of BMW’s efforts to keep the M3 Touring’s cabin unchanged from the standard 3 Series is that it’s just as practical as a 320d. Unfortunately it’s not quite as comfortable, as the trade-off for peerless high-speed stability and handling prowess is a firm ride quality. It’s never brittle, though, and while the wheels can thud into pot-holes, things improve as speeds get higher. 

Don’t be put-off by those uncompromising-looking bucket seats either, as we’ve had plenty of seat time in them and find their restrained padding has no effect on long-distance comfort, although those with an, ahem, wider frame might find them a little snug. 

Size

The M3 might technically be based on a ‘compact executive’ model, but there hasn’t been anything compact about the 3 Series since it killed off the pudgy two-door E46 Compact in the early 2000s. At 4,974mm long, the Touring will fit into normal UK parking spaces with relative ease, but the 2,068mm width (including mirrors) is more problematic. 

Leg room, head room and passenger space

The interior space yielded by the 3 Series’s growth over the years is tangible in both front and rear seats. There’s plenty of space, and while you do have to deal with a sizable transmission hump – the heavy-duty prop shaft and large-diameter exhaust system has to go somewhere – there’s plenty of space for four. 

When the car is fitted with the optional carbon fibre bucket seats legroom in the rear is unaffected, but they are arguably less kid-friendly as your little ones no doubt scratch the resin with their shoes and have endless fun poking you through the gaps in the seatbacks. 

Boot

Boot space is entirely unchanged compared to the standard Touring, so there’s 500 litres of room back there expanding to 1,510 with the 40:20:40 seats folded flat. There’s no load lip, and the boot opening is nice and low, although the optional carbon fibre diffuser is liable to scratching if loading heavy items as it sits slightly proud of the rear bumper plastic. For many, the best bit of BMW estates is the separately-opening rear glass – something that’s been carried across to the M3. 

Reliability and Safety

The BMW 3 Series and M3's five-star Euro NCAP ratings bode well for the high-performance estate

The M3 Touring has yet to be specifically tested by Euro NCAP, but both the 3 Series Touring and M3 saloon have picked up a five-star rating so there’s no reason to think the M3 Touring will be any different. In terms of reliability, the latest M3 hasn’t thrown up any red flags since it was initially introduced in 2021. 

Being fitted with a torque converter-style transmission rather than a dual-clutch means there’s no clutch or actuator issues to consider, and while BMW did have an initial stumble with some of its original turbocharged M-specific engines, the S58 has proven to be a bastion of reliability, something definitely derived from its motorsport application – see, it’s not just marketing gumph. 

Warranty

BMW’s three-year unlimited warranty is not unusual for many European manufacturers, and includes 12-years anti-corrosion coverage, too.

Servicing

Servicing is actively monitored by the car itself, but services are generally required every 12 months. BMW also offers a four-year service plan for one up-front cost on new sales, with a further option to pay a monthly service plan thereafter. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Car Deal of the Day: sensational BMW M2 is a bargain at this price!
BMW M2 - front tracking
News

Car Deal of the Day: sensational BMW M2 is a bargain at this price!

Our Day of the Day for 18 April is the formidable BMW M2 performance car
18 Apr 2024
New 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe goes on sale with specs and prices announced
New Hyundai Santa Fe - front
News

New 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe goes on sale with specs and prices announced

The big, bold seven-seater starts from £46,775, and is available with full-hybrid and plug-in hybrid power
18 Apr 2024
Best small SUVs to buy 2024
Best small SUVs - header image
Best cars & vans

Best small SUVs to buy 2024

There's a huge range of small SUVs out there, so we’ve picked out the very best
19 Apr 2024