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BMW 320d Touring (2023) review

BMW's updated 3 Series has a lightly modified exterior design and new in-car technology. We drove the 320d Touring.

James Fossdyke

Words: James Fossdyke - @JFossdyke

Published on: September 20, 2022

Words: James Fossdyke - @JFossdyke

Published on: September 20, 2022

Tech Specs

Model testedBMW 320d Touring M Sport
Irish pricing3 Series Touring from €55,342, €60,085 as tested
Engine2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmissioneight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat estate
CO2 emissions133g/km
Irish motor tax€210 per year
Fuel consumption5.1 litres/100km (55.4mpg)
Top speed229km/h
0-100km/h7.2 seconds
Max power190hp
Max torque400Nm
Boot space500-1,510 litres

Some might say the estate car is dying, its market share suffocated by the popularity of SUVs, but BMW insists the new 3 Series Touring is a key part of its range. Worldwide, the estate makes up 20 per cent of all 3 Series sales, and in some markets that figure rises as high as 45 per cent. The arrival of a new 3 Series Touring, therefore, is big news, even when the updates are minor. The new 3 Series has redesigned bumpers, new headlights and an overhauled interior. We tried the 320d model to see if BMW has done enough to keep it ahead of its esteemed rivals, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate and Audi A4 Avant.

In the metal

Like the 3 Series Saloon, the 3 Series Touring estate has had a handful of external upgrades. The basic structure underneath remains the same, but BMW has fitted new bumpers at the front and rear, a new front grille and some new headlights. There are some new exhaust outlets, too, although they're dependent on the engine that's under the bonnet.

Otherwise, the 3 Series is pretty much the same as its predecessor - even the dimensions are more or less identical. Yes, the car is a few millimetres longer thanks to the new bumpers, but the internal space is unchanged. That means you still get plenty of cabin space for four adults, with ample leg- and headroom for those in the rear, and you get the same competitively sized (competitive for the premium market in any case) boot as before. In the case of the Touring, the luggage bay measures 500 litres up to the tonneau cover, giving it a slight advantage over the C-Class Estate and A4 Avant. That said, it's only slightly larger than the 480-litre space in the 3 Series Saloon, although the shape is more useful, and when you fold the back seats down you get an even larger 1,510-litre volume to play with.

But because all that is true of the outgoing 3 Series, this isn't really headline news. More notable is the updated interior, which has been changed dramatically thanks to the addition of a new infotainment system using BMW's Operating System 8. That means the 3 Series has an all-new dashboard with the 'Curved Display' infotainment screen from the i4 electric car.

That means the digital instrument display and touchscreen are housed in one curved unit that stretches across two thirds of the dashboard. BMW has lumped almost all the car's controls into those two screens, which means the designers have been able to remove most of the switchgear from the dashboard. A few controls remain, but overall, it's a much cleaner looking interior than before.

You might expect us to be outraged about BMW, the master of ergonomics, moving away from the switchgear that made its cabins so good, but we're more sanguine than even we predicted. The new-generation BMW touchscreens are incredibly good, with constant access to climate control settings, clear displays and crisp responses to users' prods at the screen. And for those who aren't fans of touchscreen technology, the rotary controller that made the old system brilliant has remained in situ, allowing those who have learned their way around the system to navigate by feel, without taking their eyes off the road.

At the same time, the new system has brought with it a new digital instrument display, which is easier to read than the fussy screen found in the outgoing 3 Series. It's easier to customise, too, and it can be paired with an exceptional new head-up display, which projects clear speed, navigation and infotainment data onto the windscreen.

Happily, none of these changes have made any difference to the 3 Series' build quality, which remains exceptional. Everything from the plastics to the switchgear and from the carpets to the door pulls feels incredibly robust and durable, as well as luxurious. Perhaps it isn't quite as solid as an Audi A4 Avant, but it's a close-run thing.

Driving it

Fortunately, BMW has resisted the temptation to make substantial changes to the car's suspension and engine range, so the qualities that made the outgoing 3 Series so good have remained firmly on the menu.

As before, the engine range comprises a selection of 2.0- and 3.0-litre petrol and diesel options, as well as a 2.0-litre petrol plug-in hybrid. Thanks to the vagaries of the Irish tax system, that plug-in hybrid, the 292hp 330e, is the cheapest option, but customers can also choose to spend a little more on the 184hp 320i and 245hp 330i petrol engines, or the 190hp 320d diesel. Alternatively, those seeking even more power can choose one of the 3.0-litre engines: the 340hp M340d diesel or the 374hp M340i.

While the 3.0-litre engines are fantastic, they are far more powerful (and more expensive) than most customers really need. We tested the more representative 320d model, which still provides ample performance with a 0-100km/h time of around seven seconds. More importantly, it's also frugal, burning through just over five litres of diesel every 100km on the official economy test. For those who regularly cover long distances, the 320d's balance of performance and economy takes some beating.

It's also really refined for a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine. Sure, it gets a bit noisy when you put your foot down, but it never clatters or grumbles like diesels of old, even at idle on a chilly morning. And when you settle into a cruise you can barely hear it growling away in the background.

And no matter whether you choose the 320d or some other version of the 3 Series Touring, you're buying a car that's glorious to drive. With rear-wheel drive as standard (xDrive all-wheel drive is available as an option on the 330e and 320d, while it's standard on the M340i and M340d), the 3 Series is set up to handle well and it doesn't disappoint. The steering feel is good, the suspension controls the body lean well and, although you can feel the bulk of the larger boot pulling the Touring out of line in corners, it's only slightly less poised than the saloon.

The trade-off is a slightly firm ride. While the 3 Series still rides maturely, it isn't as smooth as some of the more comfortable vehicles in its class, finding the odd bobble and bump in the road. That said, it's better at high speeds and the suspension soaks up the imperfections enough to prevent any jarring or discomfort. Instead, it gives you lots of feel for the surface over which the wheels are travelling.

What you get for your money

In Ireland, prices start from just over €55,000, which pays for the 330e plug-in hybrid in entry-level Sport trim. That makes the 3 Series Touring more than €10,000 cheaper than the basic Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate, and around €2,000 more expensive than the 3 Series Saloon. And even though Sport trim might be the cheapest option in the 3 Series range, it's hardly spartan inside. You still get three-zone climate control, alloy wheels and the curved infotainment screen with navigation, while standard equipment also includes leatherette upholstery and parking sensors at the front and rear.

Summary

The 3 Series Touring remains the executive estate of choice, but then that's no surprise, because it's only the dashboard that has really changed. The new model is every bit as efficient, as practical and as good to drive as its predecessor. Admittedly, the new touchscreen was an opportunity for things to go horribly wrong, but BMW has integrated the touch-sensitive and physical controls well, while the Germanic efficiency of the system also helps. And while the new interior makes the 3 Series feel more modern and more upmarket, the overall difference between the new model and its forebear is not great.



Alternatives

Car Reviews | Audi A4 Avant 35 TDI diesel (2020) | CompleteCar.ie
Audi A4 Avant vs. BMW 320d Touring (2023): the A4 Avant may not be the youngest executive estate on the market, but it's a well-engineered and high-tech model all the same. It isn't as much fun to drive as the 3 Series and C-Class, however.
Car Reviews | Mercedes-Benz C 220 d Estate (2022) | CompleteCar.ie
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate vs. BMW 320d Touring (2023): now featuring a more upmarket cabin and a selection of hugely efficient diesel engines, the C-Class has plenty going for it on paper, but on the road it's less comfortable than its predecessor and less exciting than the BMW.
Car Reviews | Volvo V60 D4 | CompleteCar.ie
Volvo V60 vs. BMW 320d Touring (2023): Volvo has decided not to challenge the Germans directly and has instead elected to offer a distinctly Scandinavian alternative. The V60 is perfect for those who find the Audi, BMW and Mercedes a bit predictable, but it isn't quite as good.

Tech Specs

Model testedBMW 320d Touring M Sport
Irish pricing3 Series Touring from €55,342, €60,085 as tested
Engine2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmissioneight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat estate
CO2 emissions133g/km
Irish motor tax€210 per year
Fuel consumption5.1 litres/100km (55.4mpg)
Top speed229km/h
0-100km/h7.2 seconds
Max power190hp
Max torque400Nm
Boot space500-1,510 litres