Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Diesel has proven a popular 3 Series choice over the years, and deservedly so. It’s tempting to plump for the 261bhp 3.0-litre 330d – with a 0-62mph time of 5.4sec, it's certainly quick. However, our favourite engine is actually the cheaper 320d. This 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel is more than nippy enough, hitting 62mph from a standstill in just over seven seconds.
Those who prefer petrol power can opt for the 330i, which has a very different character to the diesel engines. It needs to be worked harder to deliver its best, but its 254bhp is enough to take the Touring from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, with a more appealing exhaust note than its diesel equivalent can offer. There's also a cheaper, less powerful 320i, but we haven't tried this yet.
We’re also yet to try the six-speed manual gearbox that comes as standard on some of the cheaper engines, but the eight-speed automatic gearbox is extremely responsive – more so than the equivalent 'boxes in the Audi A4 Avant and Volvo V60. You’re never left hanging when overtaking.
Suspension and ride comfort
How smoothly the 3 Series rides depends on which suspension setup you choose: the standard system, stiffer M Sport or M Sport adaptive suspension. We’ve yet to sample a 3 Series Touring on its standard steel springs but, if the saloon is anything to go by, it should offer a good balance between comfort and control.
M Sport models have stiffer M Sport suspension, with which you definitely feel every bump as it passes beneath the car. Still, while the ride it provides is definitely on the firm side, body movements are neatly controlled so there's no unwanted body bounce. It's also worth noting that, when ordering an M Sport, you can swap to the softer standard suspension for no extra charge.
Finally, M Sport adaptive suspension is available only on M Sport models as part of the M Sport Plus Package. It’s not cheap, but allows you to stiffen or soften the springs at the touch of a button. Set to Comfort mode, it helps the 3 Series Touring to smother big bumps with ease while remaining controlled over undulating roads. The Audi A4 Avant is still the comfort king in this class, though – as long as you avoid the sports suspension that's standard on S line and Black Edition trims.
If you enjoy your driving, the 3 Series Touring is a better choice than either the Audi A4 Avant or the Volvo V60. It just feels more alive and agile through corners with little in the way of body lean. That's enough to put a far bigger smile on your face than the other two.
Admittedly, so far we've only tried the Touring on stiffer M Sport suspension and optional M Sport adaptive suspension, but, based on our experience with the 3 Series saloon, you won’t be disappointed if you stick with the standard suspension.
And no matter which suspension you go for, all 3 Series Touring models have brilliant steering. It’s really good at telling you exactly how much grip the front wheels have, helping you to instinctively judge how much steering lock to apply.
Noise and vibration
Thanks to foam-filled front pillars and a standard acoustic windshield, there’s barely any wind noise at motorway speeds in the 3 Series Touring, although you may hear a faint whistle from the side mirrors with the radio off. The run-flat tyres that are standard on Sport trim and above bring increased tyre noise, but you can mitigate this by avoiding the temptation to add bigger alloy wheels.
The six-cylinder 330d is very quiet and you don't feel much vibration coming through the controls. Meanwhile, the 320d isn't quite as silky smooth as the 330d, or indeed the 40 TDI engine in the rival Audi A4 Avant, but it's more refined than the equivalent engines of most other rivals, including the Volvo V60.
Although you may feel a brief moment of hesitation from the automatic gearboxes when accelerating away from a standstill, the 3 Series Touring requires far less time to think than the A4 and V60.
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