What's the used BMW 3 Series estate like?
The original 3 Series Touring (the BMW term for an estate) was born when an engineer at the company modified their used 3 Series saloon by extending the roof and adding a hatch to the back – it even had a cut out in the rear sill big enough for loading a keg of beer through. Management saw it and loved the idea so much they green-lit it for production. Fortunately, you don't have to go to the same extremes Max Reisböck did; there are now loads of used Tourings available that come pre-made from the factory.
There's a myriad of engine options including four diesel, four petrol and one plug-in hybrid to choose from. The base, 148bhp 318d is fine, but the 187bhp 320d is a stronger performer that's almost as economical. There's also a lusty 261bhp, six-cylinder 330d and a mighty M340d that, with 335bhp, is the most powerful diesel-engined 3 Series.
Entry-level SE gives you automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection; automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, LED headlights, three-zone climate control, a DAB radio and 17in alloy wheels. Mid-range Sport adds leather trim and heated front sports seats; top spec M Sport models have M Sport suspension and brakes, along with an upgraded 'professional connected package' for the infotainment system.
Speaking of packages, there were many on the options list. The main one to look out for is the premium pack, which gives you adjustable lumbar support and electric front seats with memory. If you like your tech, the technology pack has an upgraded Harmon Kardon sound system, wireless charging and a head-up display. There was even something called Laserlight in the visibility pack; it's a lighting system that provides twice the high-beam headlight range of an LED headlight system.
To drive, the 3 Series is a far nicer thing to sling through the bends than the equivalent Volvo V60 or Audi A4 Avant. True, the A4 will provide a more cosseting ride, but the body movements of the BMW are kept more tightly in check and it feels far more agile and alert as a result. Grip levels are high and the steering is wonderfully precise, allowing you to accurately gauge how much steering lock you'll need to apply for a corner. Refinement levels are impressive; there's barely a whisper of wind noise at speed and road noise is low, provided you avoid larger 19in alloy wheels.
The interior of the 3 Series does has a good mix of high-tech screens for the infotainment system and instrument cluster, and physical buttons for the air-con system and iDrive infotainment interface. This setup is easier to use on the move than the post-facelift Audi A4, which has two touchscreens to control everything.