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Estate management. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Estate management
The mildest of makeovers adds small but significant changes to BMW's 3 Series Touring.

   



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| First Drive | Reading, Berkshire | BMW 3 Series Touring |

Careful cultivation of the BMW 3 Series Touring has brought about a round of revisions that see it gently slip into pole position for those seeking the best financial sense in the small executive estate sector. It also enjoys a makeover so subtle that many ladies who lunch will wish their plastic surgeon could wield the knife with such deft care.

In the Metal

You're going to have screw up your eyes to spot most of the changes to the outside of the BMW 3 Series Touring. Like the new saloon, it now has a couple of ridges that run from the grille up the bonnet to give a subtly more aggressive look, while the grille itself now has more prominent 'kidney' sections. There's also a sportier front bumper, new 17-inch alloy wheels for SE models as standard and, at the rear, lights with a little kink in their top edge to help create the sensation of a wider profile.

More pertinent to the way the revised Touring drives, its rear axle is now 24mm broader to set the wheels further apart for greater stability and handling prowess. The engines have also come in for some gentle attention. At the top of the range, the revamped 330d now boasts 14bhp more to produce 245bhp while reducing emissions to 152g/km and upping economy to 49.6mpg. The 325d and 335d also feature improved economy, emissions and performance, while at the lower end of the scale the 318d now comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. On the petrol engines, power and economy are unchanged from the previous models' figures.

What you get for your Money

BMW is sticking with its tried and test ES, SE and M Sport trim levels. The SE gains 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, while the M Sport models have a more distinctive body kit of deeper front and rear bumpers and side skirts for a sportier appearance. All 3 Series ordered with BMW's iDrive come with a significantly redesigned system that uses shortcut buttons to find the main functions and there's also a 'back' button to make it easier to return to the previous page. All new 3 Series Tourings come with six airbags, ESP, air conditioning and front and rear Isofix child seat mounts.

Driving it

BMW may have widened the rear track of the 3 Series Touring, but it's hard to tell any difference over the previous model as the revised car is just as superbly capable. On any type of road, the BMW simply gets on with the task of traversing the tarmac with poised control. There's no float, wallow or unnecessary body movement, just the sort of balance and feel that BMW is rightly famous for. The M Sport models are more firmly set up and the suspension might not be to all tastes around town, but for those who want a more sporting approach this is an impressive way to tackle twisty roads with absolute confidence.

Refinement is another strong suit for the Touring, managing to be almost as hushed as the saloon. A little more wind and road noise is evident in the estate, generated by the boot allowing a touch more resonance to make itself heard at higher speeds. However, the 3 Series Touring is still an incredibly refined way to travel, helped by the brilliant engines on offer. The 320d is the best seller and rightly so for its blend of performance, economy and running costs. With the slightly revised version putting in 57.6mpg and 130g/km of carbon dioxide emissions, this is the ideal car for private and business customers, and has plenty of low- and mid-range grunt for cruising and overtaking. The larger engines expedite overtaking and any other sort of driving with graceful ease, regardless of whether you opt for the six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

Worth Noting

In all of its changes to the 3 Series Touring, of which BMW says there are 2,500, it has not managed to find any more space for luggage in the boot. The cargo bay ranges from 460- to 1,385-litres, which is reasonable for most needs but not as big as the load bays in the Audi A4 Avant or Mercedes C-Class Estate. For those in need of plenty of space, the BMW is the least accommodating in the small premium wagon sector, though it does make up for this to some extent with a handy hidden storage compartment under the boot floor. Less storage space than its key rivals probably wouldn't put us off buying the 3 Series Touring, but if you do need a practical, versatile load bed it's best to make sure the wheelarch intrusion won't hinder your use of the car.

Summary

The BMW 3 Series Touring's relative shortage of load space compared to its key rivals from Audi and Mercedes is unlikely to be a deal breaker. Few buyers choose any of these cars for their ultimate load-lugging ability, so the BMW's better economy, emissions and mildly improved equipment list will count for far more with most buyers. Crucially, it's the better economy and emissions of the diesel models that will be clincher for most customers, as the BMW now makes better sense for company drivers concerned with their tax bills and private owners worried about fuel costs. The fact the BMW is also the best to drive in the small executive estate sector is almost just a happy added bonus.

Alisdair Suttie - 14 Oct 2008



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2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 BMW 3 Series Touring. Image by BMW.
 






 

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