It’s been a long time coming but BMW has finally added an estate bodystyle to its M3 family. Since 1986, and the launch of the E30 M3, there have only been coupé, soft-top and, later, saloon versions, but now the M3 Touring is here – and it’s potentially the best definition yet of the acronym that was never intended for it, Sport Utility Vehicle.
The headline facts and figures are a starting price of £80,550, a modest increase over the £78,425 M3 saloon. It boasts 503 horsepower, enough to get you from traffic light to national speed limit in just 3.7 seconds. There’s 500-litres of luggage space, sufficient to handle a camping weekend away with the kids. And it’s four-wheel drive, so you stand as good a chance of getting out of a wet grass car park at Goodwood as you do powering away without drama from a slippery apex at Brands Hatch.
The estate bits are the new bits, so let’s concentrate on those. The M3 Touring features the opening rear window in its tailgate, handy for accommodating those timber decking supplies for a weekend’s DIY project. The tailgate itself is powered. There is underfloor storage in the boot, hooks for shopping bags, magnetic rails for optional boot dividers and, with the back seats folded down, a total load volume of 1500 litres. Factor in the generous back seat space (in case you haven’t been around a 3 Series for a few years, they’ve grown in all directions) and it’s a credible family estate car in a way no 3 Series Touring has ever been.
The twin turbocharged, 3-litre straight-six engine may lack a little of the sparkle of ground-up designed M engines, but with 503bhp, and a hefty 479Ib ft of torque from 2750rpm to 5500rpm, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it effortlessly delivers supercar-bating performance, together with the potential for 27mpg and 229g/km of CO2 emissions.
Meanwhile, the delightfully naughty M Drive Professional package uses traction control, stability control and the electronic differential to skillfully manage the power delivery and car’s attitude every step of the way. M3 Touring drivers can, like M3 and M4 owners, also see how well they score on the M Drift Analyser.
BMW says that the 1755kg kerbweight of the new M3 Touring model is only 25kg more than the saloon. The company says the chassis has been reinforced to maintain torsional rigidity comparable with the saloon, and the rear suspension has been given slightly stiffer springs and dampers to allow for the increased payload.
So far, so factual. Let’s now take a moment to ponder the way this thing looks. To our eyes, it looks fantastic. Estate cars have become increasingly handsome over the past decade, the 3 Series no exception, and the M3 Touring version has a stance that is both assertive without being as look-at-me as the M4 coupé. Assuming, that is, you can forgive the current front grille design.
Available to order now in the UK, the M3 Touring takes up the space vacated by the M5 Touring, of which there have been two over time, starting with the E34 in 1992, and then the every-so-slightly-barmy E61 which used V10 power to propel the ultimate Labrador lugger.