The 3 Series Touring offers a largely familiar driving experience to the 3 Series saloon, with only slight differences in handling that are noticed most prominently in the corners.
While the Touring grips and steers very well, it still lacks a little of the precision and directness that we know its platform to be capable of. Even so, it can still claim to be one of the most dynamic estate cars around, having made the smallest of compromises to accommodate a larger load space.
Longer, taller and wider than its predecessor, it has made small gains in seats-raised stowage. A capacity of 500 litres means the Volvo V60 will swallow slightly more, but with the rear seats folded, 1510 litres is bettered only by the Skoda Superb Estate. A wider tailgate and a low lip make for easier loading, the rear bench can be folded electrically for added convenience and the two-part opening makes a return. A tiny button hidden under the rear wiper pops the tailgate window for quicker access, but it's so well hidden that you might forget the feature exists at all.
Rear passengers are well catered for, too, with ample head and leg room for a pair of six-footers regardless of whether the optional sunroof is installed or not.
Material quality inside now sits comfortably among the best in the class, while BMW’s latest infotainment system is up there with those of Audi and Mercedes for visual impact, even if it isn't as customisable. The dashboard-mounted screen can now recognise your prods and presses, although the rotary dial returns for the touchscreen-averse.
This interior is so modern, in fact, that passengers hoping to recharge their gadgets will need a USB-C cable. The Touring has three, but only one regular USB port for the driver to hook up their handset. Apple CarPlay is free only for the first year, however, and Android Auto is absent altogether.
The six-cylinder engine’s power delivery is effortlessly smooth, with peak torque arriving very early in the range, yet it has a willingness to rev that’s rarely encountered in a diesel. It can feel a little overly eager in stop-start traffic but quickly settles and is easy to modulate. It’s largely unchallenged by heavier loads and motorway speeds, where it stays refined and quiet.
In the sportier driving modes, the eight-speed automatic gearbox responds quickly to shifts, so you’re never left waiting during an overtake. It can be more hesitant in Comfort, but on the flipside you can expect to see fuel economy in the high 40mpg range without much effort. That said, the four-cylinder 320d weighs less and should be even more frugal, especially if you opt to leave all-wheel drive (xDrive) off the options list.