As BMW gears up to expand its line-up of M performance cars with the first ever M3 Touring, our snappers have caught a development mule up close, giving us our best look yet at the performance estate.
The test car is wearing a full camouflage wrap, but we can see that it will bear a strong resemblance to the standard 3 Series Touring - albeit marked out by flared arches, added air intakes and a sports exhaust system.
It will also gain the vertically oriented front grille that made its debut on the new 4 Series coupé, rather than the standard car's more familiar, horizontally aligned grille
A short clip posted to BMW M's official Instagram feed (below) recently showed a road-registered M3 Touring prototype leaving the performance division's Munich headquarters.
A post shared by BMW M GmbH (@bmwm) on Aug 25, 2020 at 8:32am PDT
The new M3 Touring will give BMW a direct rival for the long-established Audi RS4 Avant for the first time. In a release, the firm described the hot version of the 3 Series Touring as a “dream come true” that will add to the “unparalleled model diversity” of its expanded M range.
Autocar reported in 2018 that an M3 Touring was being strongly considered by BMW. The firm confirmed the model shortly before it began development work at its Garching facility near Munich. Track tests on the Nürburgring Nordschleife are set to follow.
BMW has yet to reveal many technical details of the M3 estate but has confirmed it will use its turbocharged six-cylinder petrol M engine. The M3 Touring is expecred to share its mechanicals and powertrain with the new M3 saloon and M4, in which the S58 twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line engine is set to deliver 473bhp and 443lb ft in standard form.
BMW said that “further speculation on engine and performance is quite welcome” and confirmed that the machine will offer the M division’s signature wide axles, large front air intakes and quad exhaust pipes.
The estate will, according to BMW, also offer the full space and capacity of the regular 3 Series Touring. It added that it will fulfil “the hopes of all those who wish to take the M-specific interplay of racing-orientated performance and everyday suitability to the extreme”.
A release date for the M3 Touring has yet to be confirmed, although BMW said that it's in the early stages of a two-year development process, suggesting an arrival in late 2022.
While BMW has never previously offered an M3 Touring in the 34-year history of the M3, it did produce a feasibility study prototype based on the third-generation model in 2000. Although it was driven by a number of journalists, it didn't reach production.
The firm has also twice offered a Touring version of the larger M5, with the second-generation model between 1992 and 1995 and from 2006-2010 as part of the fourth-generation line-up.