Grip and traction levels are also excellent, and even though our test car made use of BMW’s xDrive system, it remained distinctly rear biased in the manner in which it behaved in bends. With the M Sport differential, you can feel the rear axle helping rotate the chassis through bends under power, and although that xDrive chassis might not be quite as willing to waggle its tail as its purely rear-driven counterparts, the additional security proffered by the driven front axle is welcome in inclement conditions. Make no mistake: the balance struck here between dynamic poise, driver engagement and inherent handling security is exceptional.
Few cars in this class deal with Millbrook’s Hill Route as impressively as the 3 Series Touring. With its dampers firmed up, the 330d Touring exhibits exceptional body control and poise, while the direct, accurate steering makes the process of nosing in to an apex at speed a predictable and enjoyable undertaking.
Traction levels are generally good courtesy of the xDrive four-wheel drive system, although with the stability systems reduced, the BMW will happily adopt a fair amount of attitude through sharper bends. Such moments of oversteer arrive in a predictable, readable fashion, however, and its front axle gracefully steps in to pull you out of a corner’s exit before things become too lairy.
Meanwhile, the course’s more gruelling ascents are dispatched with ease owing to the engine’s effortless torque, and manual gearshifts are executed in a snappy fashion.
Comfort and Isolation
Nevertheless, a trade-off has been made in order to imbue the 3 Series Touring with its heightened level of agility. With its adaptive dampers set to Comfort, it immediately feels more compliant and forgiving than its passively damped M Sport siblings. However, next to the likes of a C-Class, the BMW’s rolling refinement leaves something to be desired.
This, of course, will be the result of a conscious decision to engineer a more sprightly character into the 3 Series than any lack of tuning ability at BMW. It’s a question of the sporting priorities that the car represents – and many owners will therefore embrace it. But the fact remains that the 3 Series Touring’s low-speed ride is characterised by a mild restlessness and punctuated by relatively frequent thumps and bumps from many surface imperfections. The car’s dampers smartly round off the sharper edges of such impacts, so that while they remain relatively constant around town, they never become coarse or wearing.
Move to open-road speeds and things settle down nicely. The primary ride on undulating surfaces is fluid yet purposefully assertive and controlled, while cabin isolation is improved. At a sustained 70mph cruise, our microphone produced a reading of just 65dB. Next to the 70dB effort of the S4 we road tested late last year, the BMW is comparatively church-like. Still, that’s not to say the 3 Series is totally immune from road roar or wind noise, but its ability to mitigate these sources of fatigue is impressive enough to ensure it’s a competent and comfortable long-distance tourer.