New BMW 3 Series Touring is not just a thing of beauty, it's actually practical too

Motoring correspondent Declan Colley compares the dynamic design of the new BMW 3 Series to the much-loved original model

New BMW 3 Series Touring is not just a thing of beauty, it's actually practical too

A long time ago, when Examiner Motoring first encountered the BMW 3 Series Touring, it was a car we described as being a fantastic thing to drive, live with and be seen in.

We did express the reservation, however, that unlike most estate cars, there was very little practicality in the design.

Many years later, we have just driven the brilliant new 3 Series Touring (albeit equipped with BMW’s superb in-line six-cylinder 330d turbodiesel, as well as the xDrive 4WD system and also kitted out in an M Sport Plus kit package) and it is still a wonderful car to get behind the wheel of; it still is great to live with; and, it is most certainly a thing of great beauty and therefore still good to be seen in.

Sure it is not terribly practical – the extra boot space is good, but not jaw-dropping – but from the driver's seat you will not care much about any of that because this thing is a sizzler to drive and a splendid example of how-to-do-it-right dynamism.

The price tag will mean you won't see this car parked in too many driveways

It is the type of thing that mere words cannot fully communicate its full merit. As will all great things, however, there is a downside: the price.

At a cost of over seventy-eight thousand euro – I spelt that out just so you get the full impact of it – for what is defined in industry terms as a compact executive estate, I think you’ll agree that this is not cheap and will, therefore, reside only in the driveways of those whose lily is well gilded.

Despite the fact that the 3 Series Touring is actually quite a popular car here in Ireland – it has accounted for a quarter of all 3 Series sales here over the years – I doubt very much if the 330d xDrive M Sport Plus will be the big seller.

And certainly not simply because you’d nearly need to be holding a winning Lottery ticket to even contemplate buying one, but also because six-cylinder diesels are not exactly the engine of choice for Green Party staff cars.

But, what the hey. This is a spectacularly good car and one which I can fully endorse as a potential gong winner come the end of the year when we here at Examiner Motoring come to hand them out.

When thrown in against opposition such as the Audi A4 Avant, the Mercedes C-Class Estate and perhaps even the Volvo V60, this thing is a stand-out drive.

Even up against such accepted class this is an exceptional driving machine – the sort of thing that makes getting up out of the bed in the morning so much worth it.

Although by now something of a historic – if not divine – relic of a bygone era, the 2993cc twin-turbocharged diesel outputs 261 bhp, as well as a whopping 580 Nm of torque (at between 1,750 and 2,750 rpm).

That translates into a governed top speed of 250 kph and a 0-100 time of 5.4 seconds and a general feeling of well-being about your undeniable right to a place at the top table of compact executive estate motoring for having the wisdom and foresight to buy one.

The ease with which this engine - which is allied to BMW’s excellently slick and smooth eight-speed auto ‘box – goes about its business has to be experienced to be believed. Power delivery is fluently smooth and despite all that low-end torque, there is a willingness to rev to the red line if you so desire.

Invariably though there is no need to flog it whatsoever as its responses to throttle inputs are reacted to with an effortlessness which is very confidence-inspiring.

Sure you have the usual battery of driving modes to choose from, but even in the half-asleep ‘comfort’ setting the car will react forcefully and swiftly to any driver demand. It the sportier settings it can get a little bit scary if you’re any way weak-kneed.

If you are not, this car will deliver the sort of driving experience that many will only ever dream of. It is exceptional on pretty much any class of surface and with the xDrive there to back things up in case you get too excitable, it drives like it’s painted to the road.

The handling is as sharp as you might expect and while the ride is a little on the stiff side (not helped here by those awful run-flat tyres), it is such can you can feel any nuance-change in road surfaces coming through to your fingertips.

Certainly, the adaptive M Sport suspension adds further credibility to the car, but the overall feeling you get here is of a machine that is capable of taking you to the edge and back without ever biting the hand off you. This truly is a rich driving experience.

The inside of the car is as elegant as a Paris salon and utilisation of the bewildering array of electronics and driver aids is simplified by the iDrive system which, I am glad to say, has been refined to the point of being completely intuitive – which is a long way from where it started out back in the day.

As I mentioned, the boot space is not great, but is nearly useful when you put the rear seat down and create a decent cargo space for when you go to the garden centre – if you ever get there, that is.

For the money, you would expect pretty much everything BMW can offer in terms of added specification and, in fairness that’s what we did get with this tester. As an example of this is the fact that the wheels are not just 19” alloys, they are 19” RFT Jet Black 791 M Light Double Spoke Alloy Wheels. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Practicality is a different language for cars such as the A4 Avant, the C-Class Estate and this beast when compared with such as a Passat or a Superb, but that is rather the point as the former are ‘executive’ estates and not plebs like the latter (no offence). That means that whatever practicality there is on offer, is limited.

But then, that’s not the point there. The point is to look good, have a great driving experience and generally live with.

The BMW 3 Series Touring 330d xDrive M Sport Plus does give you exactly that three-way confluence. Just like it always has done.

COLLEY'S VERDICT

The Cost: €70,264 - €78,108 as tested.

The Engine: We won’t be seeing many more like this beauty.

The Specification: You pays your money.

The Overall Verdict: Pretty good, all told.

Star Rating: *****

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