Estate of play: BMW brings back the station wagon

“Twwwwhis is for people who want to be different,” he began. “In a day and age dominated by SUVs, this is something that’s refreshing to see. It’s a car that has the cargo capability, the usability of a touring model while maintaining the driving dynamics of a 3 Series sedan.”

That was how SMC Asia Car Distributors Corporation President Spencer Yu succinctly described the BMW 3 Series Touring line – speaking to this writer shortly after the recent formal unveiling of the  trio of models now available in the Philippines.

“Touring” is BMW’s parlance for the station wagon format, and these new releases, while effectively expanding the brand’s popular (and iconic) 3 Series portfolio, now attempt to reintroduce the concept to local car buyers. “I guess it’s for somebody who wants to make a statement, be stylish. It’s also basically for people who also know what this is all about,” added Yu.

BMW M340i xDrive Touring

Before the SUV took over as the perceived standard in functionality and style (i.e. space and cargo capacity, plus good looks), the station wagon led the consideration list of many. BMW now joins the handful of brands daring to purvey the category.

The numbers do not lie. With all seatbacks up, the 3 Series Touring offers a hefty 500 liters of cargo space, with a removable roller tonneau cover promising privacy and more secure stowage. This capacity can be upped to a capacious 1,510 liters with the 40:20:40 rear seat backrest folded. A separate luggage compartment window can be used to access or put in smaller objects without having to open the rear hatch.

BMW 318i Touring

In the BMW 318i Touring (retailing for P3.89 million) and M340i xDrive Touring (P5.89 million), the marque’s signature kidney grille gets a “more powerful appearance” through new double bars and slightly altered contours. Full-LED headlights are affixed to the BMW 318i Touring; the BMW M340i xDrive Touring gets adaptive LEDs which boasts additional functionalities such as a cornering light, non-dazzling matrix high beam, dynamic headlight range control, and variable light distribution. Air intakes under the grille of both variants are finished in high-gloss black.

The cockpit of the BMW M3 Competition xDrive Touring.

The more premium M340i xDrive Touring receives the M Sport Package Pro; the 318i Touring is given the Exterior Line Satin Aluminum trim. Roof rails are standard on both, albeit in different treatments. As for the wheels, the 318i Touring rolls with double-spoke style 18-inchers (with standard brakes), while the M340i xDrive Touring has double-spoke M light-alloy bi-color 19-inch wheels with M Sport brakes in red high-gloss hue.

The cabin interior trim of the 318i boasts an aluminum “Mesheffect,” and the M340i xDrive Touring comes with M interior trim finishers in carbon fiber. Both have sport seats wrapped in Sensatec synthetic leather for the driver and front passenger.

A three-zone automatic climate control can be adjusted through voice commands or touch through the control display. Analog gauges give way to digital ones through the free-standing, high-resolution BMW Widescreen Display which combines a 14.9-inch control display and 12.3-inch information display. Both its Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are wireless capable in all variants. A wireless charging tray is located in the center control island. Audio content comes out on the BMW HiFi Loudspeaker system for 318i Touring; the M340i xDrive Touring features a Harman Kardon Surround Sound system.

The line’s cache of safety and convenience features include an automated parking system, ultrasonic and radar sensors, Parking Assistant (which helps the driver to select and park in spaces parallel or perpendicular to the road), Reversing Assist Camera, Lateral Parking Aid and Active PDC (which uses brake inputs to reduce the risk of collisions), and Reversing Assistant (which reverses the car for distances of up to 50 meters along the same line it took when moving forward).

Powering the 3 Series Touring, reports BMW, are “highly efficient petrol engines.” In the 3 Series Touring, it’s an inline four-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engine good for 156hp and 250Nm. This is paired to an 8-speed Steptronic transmission with shift paddles. Under the hood of the M340i xDrive Touring is an M TwinPower Turbo Petrol mill outputting 374hp and 500Nm of torque. It’s mated to an 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, which can sprint the vehicle from a standstill to 100kph in 4.6 seconds.

The highlight of the launch is undoubtedly the M3 Competition xDrive Touring – the first Touring model coming out of BMW’s M division. This melds two seemingly dichotomous tenets (practicality and sportiness) into a compelling package of performance.

At first glance, the vehicle is immediately distinguishable through its “flared nostrils” or, more correctly, a vertically oriented kidney grille – along with larger side air intakes, muscular wheel arches, extended side skirts, an M high-gloss Shadowline trim, M roof rails with high-gloss Shadowline finish, and an air-directing flap incorporated into the roof spoiler.

The not-so-secret sauce that enables performance is what rumbles under the hood – a 6-cylinder inline engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology “developed for the Competition models in the BMW M3/M4 lineup.” This mill submits 510hp and 650Nm, and BMW says the cooling and oil supply systems “are designed to handle extremely high longitudinal and lateral dynamic forces on the track. And the M-specific exhaust system with electrically controlled flaps generates an emotionally arresting soundtrack that brings an extra layer to the performance experience.”

Retailing for P10.49 million, the vehicle features a “finely tuned” chassis to “strike a balance between sporty driving and comfort for everyday and long-distance journeys.”

Among other highlights are an adaptive M suspension, Servotronic steering, and integrated braking system featuring M Compound brakes in high-gloss red. It gets mixed-size (19 and 20 inches) M light-alloy wheels. A Dynamic Stability Control system includes wheel slip limitation, and the car has M Dynamic Mode and M Traction Control. In 2WD mode, the driver can adjust wheel slip limitation for precise handling when cornering on the track.

Inside, the information display flashes driving information with new graphics and an in M-specific style. The control display accommodates M-specific widgets, and affords setup control for the engine, chassis, steering, braking system, and M xDrive settings, and an M Mode button adjusts driver assistance system responses and display content, with Road, Sport, and Track settings.

The last Touring model of BMW in the Philippines was rolled out in 2006 or 2007, recalled Yu, and expressed excitement about how the trio will now “provide a stylish alternative in the 3 Series.”

All models of the BMW 3 Series Touring come with a 5-year comprehensive BMW Warranty.

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