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BMW 320i Touring 2013 Review

EXPERT RATING
8

Why don't wagons attract an Aussie audience? It's a mystery worthy of a CSI episode. Yet we line up like sheep to get into a five-door load-lugger if it's got more than 180mm of ground clearance (ie, a compact SUV), even if we're no more likely to drive it on dirt than through a combat zone.

The latest wagon from BMW's top-selling 3 Series range provides yet further evidence that SUVs aren't the duck's guts for shifting offspring and their gear. The Touring (as BMW labels its wagons) is lighter than most soft-roaders, better looking to boot (so to speak) and outperforms them.

VALUE

Most of the Touring's features carry over from the sedan range, which has been on sale for more than a year. The petrol versions - 320i and 328i, running differently tuned versions of the same turbo petrol engine - join the diesel 318d.

The Touring comes at a $2500 premium over the corresponding diesel sedan and $4000 over the equivalent petrol sedan. Pricing starts from $58,900 for the 318d which has three upgrade options, from $3768 to the $6000 M Sport pack. Petrol versions start from $62,600 for the 320i with $3152 for Luxury, Sport or Modern packs. For some reason M Sport is even dearer at $6385.

At least the petrol models have paddle shifters for the eight-speed auto transmission, which is standard on the range, with stop-start function. All versions get an automatic tailgate as standard. A reversing camera is standard on the two petrol models.

Rolling off the production line from this month is the 328i priced from $69,900, with the upgrades adding $1538 or, for the M-Sport, $5000. It too sits on 17-inch alloy wheels but gets electrochromatic mirrors (with folding function for the exterior), "fine-wood burled walnut" interior inserts, Dakota leather trim and top-spec satnav and audio.

The Sport Line option pack adds high-gloss black exterior trim bits, 17 or 18in alloys, black and red accents in cabin, red stitching on the sports steering wheel and standard leather upholstered sports seats.

Those looking for the finer things can tick the Luxury Line box - high-gloss chrome exterior trim bits and wood trim inserts for the interior, 17 or 18in alloy wheels and model-specific leather upholstered seats are among the highlights.

The Modern option pack adds satin-finish aluminium trim, 17 or 18in alloy, a light-coloured dashboard and a steering wheel in dark oyster, leather upholstery in oyster or black and a choice of four trim strips in pearl-effect chrome or optional wood surface in three-dimensional structure.

The M Sport package has aerodynamic add-ons, 10mm lower sports suspension, an optional brake upgrade, as well as the exclusive optional exterior paint shade Estoril Blue' metallic, 19in M-design alloy wheels, an M leather steering wheel and aluminium hexagon trim.

TECHNOLOGY

Diesel power propels the entry wagon. The 318d Touring has a 2.0-litre turbo diesel producing 105kW/320Nm. It gets to 100km/h in 9.2 seconds but also sips 4.7L/100km.

The 320i and 328i share a turbo direct-injection four-cylinder, which in the mid-spec model has 135kW/270Nm and gets to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds for a 6.2L thirst. The 328i develops 180kW/350Nm, cutting the sprint time to 6.0 seconds and raising consumption to 6.5L.

The range gets the fuel-saving stop-start system, brake energy recovery and the Eco Pro mode, which encourages economical driving and claims up to 20 per cent improvement in economy by way of "intelligent energy management" engine systems.

DESIGN

From the nose to the front occupants' shoulder at the door pillar, the Touring mimics the sedan. It's longer and roomier than the superseded 3 Series wagon. The cargo area is 495 litres with the rear seats up, on par with most big sedans. This trebles when the seats are folded flat.

Access is via an electric-opening tailgate (which works via remote or by “kicking'' underneath the rear bumper when the key is in range), which also has a glass-only opening function, with extra clever underfloor storage in the cargo area.

SAFETY

The European NCAP program ranked the sedan five stars so the wagon will surely win full marks too. The active electronic driver aid list is long stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, cornering and dynamic brake control, as well as brake drying and electronic "limited-slip" for the rear differential, activated when the "DSC Off" function is employed.

Also fitted standard is the Active Protection safety package, which readies the car's myriad safety systems if it detects a imminent impact. The options list has the obligatory raft of choices, including active cruise control (with stop-go function) and head-up display, surround-view camera system and high-beam assist.

DRIVING

The 320i's engine is willing, smooth and works well with the eight-speed auto. It hesitates a little when exiting corners, but is fuss free in fast open country running.

Fans of older BMWs will miss the six-cylinder engine soundtrack, but they'll welcome the new car's Sport Plus mode and its steering wheel paddles for changing gears manually. A highlight is the ride afforded by the optional adaptive suspension it remains settled and unperturbed through mid-corner bumps.

Switching to the diesel is anything but a stepdown. Its torque is reasonable and the noise intrusion minimal. The noisiest thing on the diesel drive was the climate control's fan. The diesel doesn't get the paddleshifters but has little need for them with the two sport modes offering clever shift patterns, but the more powerful petrol engine is our choice.

VERDICT

A versatile wagon that offers chassis balance, ride comfort and driving ease. A serious rival for an SUV.

BMW 320i Touring
Price: From $62,600
Warranty: 3 years/ unlimited km
Capped servicing: No
Resale: 54% (Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 12 months/25,000km
Safety: 5 stars
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol 135kW/270Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic; RWD
Thirst: 6.21/100km,
Dimensions: 4.6m (L); 1.8m (w); 1.4m (h)
Weight: 1495-1595kg
Spare: None

Pricing guides

$24,990
Based on 127 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$16,200
Highest Price
$34,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
325i 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,500 – 31,900 2013 BMW 3 Series 2013 325i Pricing and Specs
325i High Line 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,400 – 39,820 2013 BMW 3 Series 2013 325i High Line Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $39,000 – 49,940 2013 BMW 3 Series 2013 335i M Sport Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport High Line 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $35,800 – 46,310 2013 BMW 3 Series 2013 335i M Sport High Line Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$16,200

Lowest price, based on 101 car listings in the last 6 months

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