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.
Kicking off the petrol range is the 154bhp 318i, followed by a 181bhp 320i and 254bhp 330i and finishing with the 369bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder M340i, an engine that sounds great and goes like stink. If you fancy indulging in a bit of electrified driving, the 288bhp 330e uses the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine as the majority of the petrol range, but it has an additional battery and electric motor for electric-only driving over short distances.
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.
As per the saloon, you get a decent driving position; the slightly offset pedals are the only blot on the copybook. Rear seat accommodation is where things differ; the Touring gives you a bit more head room, provided that you don't choose an example with the optional panoramic glass roof. A standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear bench improves flexibility between carrying people and longer items. This might be necessary because the boot isn't the biggest around, while the way the rear wheels arches intrude makes it fairly narrow in places. Not ideal for an Ikea run. More helpfully, you can open the glass portion separately from the tailgate itself to load smaller items when parked in a tight spot.
If you're interested in finding a used 3 Series, or any of the other executive cars mentioned here, head over to the Used Car Buying pages to find lots of cars listed for sale at a great price.
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