They do things differently in Europe – take the latest BMW 3 Series Touring as an example. Here, families load the 3 Series wagon with Hermés beach towels and Gucci bathers as they head to holiday houses in the summer, whereas in Europe company types use them as everyday work vehicles.
Well they’re definitely onto something in Europe because a wagon as good as the BMW 3 Series Touring deserves to be driven often. Preferably over windy roads. And changing gears manually. When the engine approaches the red-line.
Yep, if this is a so-called ‘station wagon’ count us in as ‘wagon drivers’.
BMW 318d Touring Overview
The new generation BMW 3 Series Touring was launched locally in March. Lighter and more spacious inside than its predecessor, the 3 Series Touring is available in four ‘design packages’ – ‘Sport Line’, ‘Modern Line’, ‘Luxury Line’ and ‘M Sport’.
Power comes from TwinPower Turbo diesel and petrol engines (318d and 320i at launch, followed a few months later by 328i).
Car Showroom was hoping for an ‘M Sport’ model but when BMW Australia supplied a 318d in ‘Sport Line’ we were hardly moping.
Priced at $58,900, the 318d is the entry-grade BMW 3 Series Touring. The ‘Sport Line’ design package adds exterior/interior visual enhancements which are substantial (including 17-inch or 18-inch alloy wheels and red-stitched leather seats) which we reckon on their own are worth much more than the $3,768 list price.
BMW 318d Touring Engine
Nothing new here – BMW’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is one of the best four-cylinder turbo-diesels on the planet. It’s as simple as that.
Maximizing light-weight aluminium in its construction and employing common-rail direct-injection and the German brand’s superbly-engineered TwinPower Turbo variable geometry, the 318d delivers maximum power of 105kW at 4000rpm and impressive peak torque of 320Nm between 1750rpm and 2750rpm.
Driving the rear wheels via BMW’s outstanding eight-speed automatic transmission, the BMW 318d Touring was refined at all engine speeds.
Zero to 100km/h takes 9.2 seconds and, aided by BMW’s slick auto start-stop system, combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 4.7l/100kms.
BMW 318d Touring The Interior
Our test car ran the ‘Sport Line’ package which in our case brought black/red accents to the interior – contrast stitching for the black leather seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, red scales for the instruments and a base trim strip in high-gloss red with coral-red accents.
Otherwise it’s the hallmark quality BMW 3 Series interior.
That means excellent steering wheel and drivers’ seat adjustment so you sit low and sporty and are held nicely in place by adjustable side bolsters. To the left is the ‘i-Drive’ controller for the satellite navigation, audio etc – now much more intuitive to use and sitting in a narrow, offset console for more space.
Like rival German wagons, the rear seat in the BMW 318d Touring is comfortable but by time they hit high-school, the heirs to your family fortune might be grumbling about leg-room.
Folding the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat is easily done and this opens-up a luggage area with capacity up to 1500-litres (495-litres with the rear seat in-place – 35-litres more than the outgoing model).
BMW 318d Touring Exterior & Styling
Have you ever heard anyone with a shred of common-sense criticize the looks of a BMW? No – neither have we. The German marque’s stylists are the masters of proportion and aesthetics – from the 1 Series hatchback to the X5 SUV, BMWs look beautifully-balanced, purposeful and offer a commanding on-road presence, regardless of their segment.
In the case of the BMW 3 Series Touring, on the outside, it must be said our test car’s ‘Sport Line’ package certainly up-scaled the looks – headlined by the alloy wheels (on our car, 18-inch five twin-spoke alloys with excellent Pirelli Cinturato (225/45 R 18) tyres).
As well, the ‘Sport Line’ extras bring high-gloss black for the kidney grille slats, front apron and air-intakes as well as exterior mirror highlights and B-pillars.
Compared to the previous 3 Series wagon, the latest generation is 97mm longer overall with an extra 50mm in the wheelbase (to provide the extra interior space). From the front number plate aft to the B-pillar, the 3 Series Touring is identical to the sedan version.
From there the designers have really weaved some magic with a long, slightly curving roofline, steeply-raked D-pillars and subtle wedge-shaped geometry in the window surfaces. The low-cut tailgate operates automatically and scores points with us for its quickness (seems trite to be complaining about automatic tailgates which open/close too slowly, but there you are…this is 2013).
BMW 318d Touring On The Road
We might not fit the BMW stereotype as our beach gear comes from Cronulla Surf Design on Sydney’s south-side so there wasn’t a Hermés logo in-sight as the Car Showroom family headed to the shoreline for a day in our BMW 318d Touring. However all of our beach gear fitted into the Beemer and the Car Showroom Juniors loved the massive panoramic glass sunroof…and right there is the whole point of a wagon isn’t it?
So that’s the first wagon test covered.
Compared to its predecessor, the latest BMW 3 Series Touring is 40kgs lighter on the scales, but body rigidity is actually up by more than 10 per-cent. And the wagon version sits on the same platform as the sedan, so it too runs the independent front-end with aluminium wishbones and torque struts plus the double-joint tie bar front axle and a five-link rear-end. So, over the twists and curves of our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the wagon version of BMW’s iconic 3 Series behaved just as you’d expect a 3 Series would – precision turn-in, great balance, a ‘firmish’, flat ride and impressive stopping power from the new floating-caliper discs.
And special praise for BMW’s latest electromechanical power steering which provides good feedback at all speeds and at all angles.
Around town, we did select ECO PRO mode on the Driving Experience Control (a simple switch) which adjusts accelerator mapping, gear-shift points and climate control systems to deliver fuel consumption gains up to 20 per-cent. Even in ‘Sport’ mode, acceleration of the BMW 318d is best described as ‘handy’ rather than ‘heroic’ (the latter reserved for the $74,500 328i M Sport Line) so to be frank, ECO PRO changes in driving dynamics in the peak-hour rush and CBD crush are so minor you deserve an upper-cut if you don’t select this fuel/energy saving mode most days.
BMW 318d Touring Challenges
We reckon the BMW 3 Series Touring is a ripper. Alongside the Mercedes-Benz C Class Estate and Audi A4 Avant, these are our favourite – and the benchmark – European wagons.
But in the golf club car-park, as we pulled our golf buggy apart to fit it into the 318d’s cargo area and loaded our clubs into the back seat (rendering its useless for passengers) one of our mates remarked: “For an all-new model you’d reckon they could have contributed a little more cargo space.”
We couldn’t mount a valid opposing argument.
BMW 318d Touring Verdict
If you like racy performance and can whip-up the extra $11,000, the more powerful and better equipped BMW 328i Touring would be worth a look. But to be honest, after a week in the 318d, we must say we haven’t driven a comparable European wagon which is better than the BMW 3 Series.
Stylish, reasonably practical, great to drive and oozing BMW’s hallmark quality, there’s no worries about fitting in with the Hermés set, but more importantly you will have made a sound new car decision no matter how you evaluate it.
BMW 318d Touring The Competition
For us, this is like picking a holiday location: Sunshine Coast, Hawaii, Florida, Bermuda…they’re all favourite memories.
The Mercedes-Benz C Class Estate (C200) starts a little north at $60,600. The mercurial Merc’ is a bit shy on torque at 270Nm, but ahead on power at 135kW.
Audi’s A4 Avant starts a smidge less than the BMW 318d at $58,500 and delivers 125kW/320Nm.