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The BMW 330i Touring M Sport is the most BMW of all BMWs. I don’t need to convince you of this, because you’re here and obviously a believer, too.
But, if anybody dares to doubt this claim, at say a wedding reception or your daughter’s graduation, before you spear tackle them, just remain calm and remind them of the following.
Draw their attention to the fact that not only is it a 3 Series - the bestselling BMW model in Germany - it’s a wagon and not an SUV, which means it doesn’t handle like an elephant who’s had its legs replaced by wheels, and so stays true to the whole BMW 'Ultimate Driving Machine' ethos.
Then hit them with your secret weapon. Not the nunchucks, put those back under your seat. No, tell them about how the 3 Series Touring was invented by a dad working at a BMW plant in Germany who just wanted to take his family away on a holiday.
Max Reisbock is his name. He was an engineer with BMW during the early 1980s and found that with two kids he needed something with a big boot for all the gear that goes with a family on holiday.
So, he took a wrecked 3 Series and worked on it after hours modifying it into a station wagon. He didn’t really want BMW to see his finished Franken Beemer but when they did the idea of his family truckster was stolen… I mean… liked so much it was scheduled for production as the 3 Series E30 Touring in 1987 and became the first BMW station wagon.
Now 33 years later I’m reviewing the seventh-generation 3 Series and the sixth iteration of the Touring.
In this review I’ll cover what the 330i Touring M Sport is like to live with as a family car, what features it comes with, and how thirsty the petrol engine is.
I'll also investigate how it compares to an SUV (such BMW's own X3) for practicality and driveability, as well as how it competes on price against rivals such as the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate.
|BMW 3 Series 2020: 330i TOURING M-SPORT|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The latest generation BMW 3 Series arrived last year and to anybody who’s not really into cars it looked just like the previous model had been served up, but it’s completely new inside and out.
Like its 3 Series sedan sibling the latest Touring has brought some significant styling changes. There’s the wider kidney grille, the more angular headlights and the tail-lights have taken on a hockey stick shape.
For the first time since Max Reisbock’s E30 wagon the 3 Series Touring doesn’t have a 'Hoffmeister Kink' – the boomerang-shaped forward curve to the C-pillar.
Nope, that rear-side window has had its curve replaced with angle. The change is small but my eye is so used to seeing that stretched rounded corner that this straight-edged new one looks awkward (similar to the same window on a mid-’90s 5 Series Touring).
That each 3 Series is bigger than the last is now just one of those things we accept and expect. In the past the growth has seemed subtle, but this time, to my eyes, the Touring looks huge.
The dimensions show it to be 4709mm end-to-end, 1827mm wide and 1440mm high, making this seventh-gen 3 Series Touring 76 mm longer, 16mm wider and 8mm taller than the previous model.
Our test car was a 330i Touring M Sport, which meant it came with a few aggressive styling touches such as an aero kit and 19-inch M light alloy wheels. The 'Davit Grey metallic' paint provided the perfect urban camouflage.
Inside the 330i Touring shows off BMW’s new-generation cockpit, complete with a virtual (digital) instrument cluster, large integrated media display and leather upholstery with aluminium trim.
It’s a modern and super stylish cabin but for BMW fans it will still be familiar with that traditional centre console treatment.
The Touring is more elegant than Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class Estate, but to my eyes Audi’s A4 Avant pulls off the tough, little wagon look better,. Then, outshining all the luxo wagons in the style stakes is the Volvo V60.
The 3 Series 330i Touring M Sport lists for $70,900 and for that you get leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, an auto tailgate, a head-up display, proximity key, power front seats, auto parking, plus a 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch media display with sat nav.
Then there’s the M Sport gear such as 19-inch alloy wheels, the body kit, the M Sport leather steering wheel and adaptive M suspension.
Is it good value? Yes, but there are a few items which you may have expected to be standard, such as heated seats, which were optioned on our test car ($700) along with a heated steering wheel ($400), a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo and the ($5589) 'Visibility Package' which adds the metallic paint, sunroof, laser headlights and ambient lighting.
Audi’s A4 Avant 45 TFSI Sport and Mercedes-Benz C200 Estate cost about the same, but the BMW feels the most modern and pips the others on value.
The father of the 3 Series Touring, Max Reisbock, would have swapped his home-made BMW wagon in a split second for this new version, and being larger than the previous model, cabin space has also increased.
That said, rear legroom behind my driving position isn’t too generous for me at 191cm tall, and I had only a finger’s width of room between my knees and the seat back.
Cabin storage is good with enormous door pockets in the front, decent sized rear ones, plus four cupholders, but the centre console bin is on the small side.
Power outlets are in good supply with a wireless charger, plus two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet in the tray in front of the shifter, while for those in the second row there are two USB-C ports and a 12-volt outlet.
The 330i Touring doesn’t come with sunshades or privacy glass in the rear, and I wasn’t happy about putting my young son back there on long trips during this blistering summer Australia's just had. We were thankful, though, for the climate control and directional air vents in the back row.
The cargo capacity of the boot is 500 litres, which is 50 litres less than a BMW X3. Is the 3 Series Touring as practical as an X3 SUV? Nope, and it’s not just about the boot size, but also from an entry and exit perspective.
See, while the 3 Series’ large rear doors open wide, nothing beats an SUV's ease of access, for putting kids into their car seats and even for the less mobile adults climbing in and out.
Just as a reference: the 3 Series sedan’s boot is 480 litres, but is nowhere as accommodating as the wagon’s cargo area with its large tailgate opening and a removable parcel shelf which opens up the entire rear of car when the seats are folded flat.
Scooters, BMXs, doonas, holiday gear, shopping, boogie boards were all swallowed up by the Touring’s boot – Max would have been proud.
Personally speaking, BMW’s straight six turbo is the stuff of dreams, but this four can throw the 330i from stationary to 100km/h in 5.9s, which is brisk enough for most.
BMW says the 330i Touring should use 7.0L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. After 190.3km of my testing on motorways and suburban school runs the trip computer was reporting 12.6L/100km.
SUVs are so popular and fill up so much of my testing timetable that piloting the 330i Touring felt like I was literally sitting on the road, both in terms of visibility and dynamics.
Okay, so you aren’t going to have the high-up commanding position as you would in an SUV (although if everybody has an SUV doesn’t it defeat the towering-above purpose?), but the handling you get in exchange is grin-inducing.
Yep, there’s no wobbly, no top-heavy sensation and no slow-geared vagueness in steering that tends to go with SUVs. Instead, the 330i Touring feels un-tippable with sharp and quick steering.
This family alternative to an SUV is low, fast and different to the rest of the over-fed herd.
That turbo-four isn’t the in-line six I prefer, but it’s still responsive, smooth and powerful, while the eight-speed shifts seamlessly.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The 3 Series Touring was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019, scoring high marks for adult occupant protection.
An impressive array of advanced safety technology on the 330i includes AEB, lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance, rear and front cross traffic alert, 'Evasion Aid', 'Crossroads Warning' with braking, rear collision prevention, auto parking, surround view camera and adaptive cruise control.
There are eight airbags on board, two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points. No spare wheel though – just a puncture repair kit, which is disappointing. Nothing beats a full-sized spare wheel when it comes to getting a flat.
The 330i Touring is covered by BMW’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is the same duration as Benz’s and Audi’s coverage, but falling short of the five-year warranties offered by mainstream brands.
Servicing is condition-based, meaning the car will tell you when it needs to be serviced through a message which will appear on the instrument cluster.
While there is no capped price servicing, BMW does offer the Basic plan for $1650 for five years/80,000km.
The 330i Touring is not as practical as an SUV such as a BMW X3 in that it’s not as spacious nor does it have the cargo capacity. Then there’s the low ride height which was a pain in the back for me as a tall dad trying to strap kids into their car seats. That said, the 330i is far more practical than the 330i sedan with its tailgate and boot opening, while retaining all the sedan’s superb dynamic ability and performance.
While I’m still adamant the 330i Touring is the most BMW of BMWs, if it was today that Max Reisbock was looking to take his family away on holiday, he would have chosen an SUV rather than a station wagon.
|330e (HYBRID)||2.0L, Hyb/PULP||$78,900||2020 BMW 3 Series 2020 330e (HYBRID) Pricing and Specs|
|330i||2.0L, ULP||$70,900||2020 BMW 3 Series 2020 330i Pricing and Specs|
|320d Luxury Line||2.0L, Diesel||$67,900||2020 BMW 3 Series 2020 320d Luxury Line Pricing and Specs|
|330e LUXURY LINE (HYBRID)||2.0L, Hyb/PULP||$78,900||2020 BMW 3 Series 2020 330e LUXURY LINE (HYBRID) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||9|
|Engine & trans||8|