2023 BMW M3 Touring review
The BMW M3 Touring is the first ever estate version of the iconic M3 performance car. So, was it worth the 37-year wait?...
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The new BMW M3 Touring is the high-performance version of the 3 Series executive car that will appeal to dog owners. However, they should resist the temptation to use maximum acceleration when travelling with their four-legged friend, because the resulting g-force is likely to leave the poor pooch stuck to the inside of the rear window, doing a great impression of a suction toy.
You see, this is the first time in the 37- year history of the BMW M3 that it’s been offered as an estate car. But while that means it’s the most practical car ever to wear the badge, the M3 Touring uses the same 503bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre engine as the saloon, and it comes with traction-enhancing four-wheel drive as standard to help you make the most of all that power.
The result is 0-62mph in 3.6sec, which is just 0.1sec off the time of the equivalent saloon and half a second quicker than the rival Audi RS4 Avant can manage. It even trumps the 3.9sec time of the Alpina B3 Touring, which is itself based on the 3 Series. Meanwhile, the M3’s top speed is limited to 155mph (unless you specify the M Driver’s Package, which raises it to 174mph).
What’s it like to drive?
Impressive as the numbers are, they don’t fully do justice to the engine. Abundant torque means it pulls hard from low revs, yet it piles on speed even faster at the top end, so it’s very much worth revving out.
Performance is further aided by snappy gearshifts, despite the M3 using a conventional eight-speed automatic ’box rather than a more exotic dual-clutch set-up. Instead, it’s the noise the engine makes under acceleration that’s a little disappointing; it’s loud and bassy, but rather one-dimensional.
Fortunately, that’s not a criticism you can level at the way the M3 Touring drives. Despite it being heavier than the saloon, you don’t really notice this, because the car feels beautifully balanced front to rear and body lean is kept well in check through corners, even when you’ve selected the most relaxed, Comfort driving mode.
At the same time, this setting lives up to its name, letting the car follow undulations in the road without bouncing or crashing, and only struggling to take the sting out of particularly nasty bumps and potholes.
As good as Comfort is, though, when you really want to push on, it’s worth switching to the more focused Sport setting. This makes the car feel even more tied down, plus it adds a little more heft to the steering without making it unnaturally heavy, so you can place the front wheels with even greater precision.
Tackle a corner at pretty much any speed and you’re left with the distinct impression that you could have gone around faster. And if you wish, you can mix and match the settings to suit your personal tastes; you can leave the steering in its lighter Comfort mode, for example, while having the engine at its most responsive.
In short, the M3 Touring can play the role of rapid cruiser just as well as the B3 and a lot better than the RS4, unless the latter is equipped with Dynamic Ride Control (standard on the range-topping Vorsprung but an option on lesser versions). Plus, it’s more agile and composed than both of those alternatives.
And more fun. When you’re in Sport mode, the back end of the M3 Touring is happy to play. Yet slides are surprisingly easy to manage, thanks to a clever 10-stage system that enables you to fine-tune how much wheel slip is allowed before it intervenes. Or, if you’re feeling brave, you can turn this safety net off completely and put the car in rear-wheel drive mode.
True, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (which is available only as a saloon) will break traction more readily, making it easier to adjust your line using the accelerator pedal. But ultimately the M3’s limits are much higher, and it has more confidence-inspiring brakes, even though the pedal would ideally be a little firmer.
What’s it like inside?
With the rear seats and luggage cover in place, the boot of the M3 Touring has a 500-litre capacity, which is 20 litres up on the saloon’s and fractionally larger than the RS4 Avant’s. However, the RS4’s is wider between the rear wheel arches, so it’s better suited to Ikea runs.
Then again, the M3 Touring does have useful details such as 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats and rubber strips on the boot floor to prevent luggage from sliding around. Plus, the tailgate is powered and its window can be opened independently, allowing you to quickly drop in light items – such as shopping bags – without having to open the whole tailgate.
Rear passengers, meanwhile, don’t get quite as much space as they do in the RS4, but a couple of six-footers will still be fine. In fact, if you specify the M Carbon Pack fitted to our test car (a £6750 option), there’s actually a bit more knee room than there is in lesser versions of the 3 Series Touring, because the standard front sports seats are swapped out in favour of slim, carbonfibre-framed buckets.
These look spectacular and lock their occupants tightly in place, yet they still manage to offer decent long-distance comfort. In fact, their only downside – apart from how much they cost – is that their high, rigid bolsters make it harder to get in and out.
Elsewhere, the interior features seatbelts finished in M division colours, a bright red starter button, some carbonfibre dashboard trim and a sports steering wheel with contrasting stitching. However, aside from this garnish, it’s much like that of any other 3 Series.
Fortunately, that’s mostly a good thing, because it means fine build quality and a huge curved display, which is made up of two adjoining screens: a 12.3in one for instrumentation and a 14.9in infotainment touchscreen.
It’s a striking-looking set-up, plus the infotainment menus are logically laid out and there’s the option of operating the system using a rotary controller that minimises distraction on the move. The only disappointment is that last year's facelift of the BMW 3 Series removed the simple-to-use physical climate control switches; instead, you now have to adjust the temperature using the touchscreen or the voice control.
Next: BMW M3 Touring verdict and specs >>
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