I’ve got a thing for station wagons. There. I said it. 37 year old Jay has a thing for station wagons. It’s primarily due to my first car being a 1987 Volvo 240 DL wagon that I drove from 1994 to 2002.
Wanting to be a rock-star in my teenage years (I know, I know), that wagon frequently hauled tons of gear across the GTA, from crummy rehearsal spaces to even crummier venues.
I was the guy who got the “I’m buying something from Ikea, can you drive me?” calls.
The “I’m moving and can’t afford a moving truck, are you free to help me move all my stuff?” calls.
And the “I need help moving/transporting lots of things” calls. To all of which, I happily obliged.
It was a matter of having the right tool, in this case, a car with tons of cargo space. And while that old grey wagon wasn’t beautiful to anyone else but me, it sure beat the minivan alternative at the time.
It gave me the best of both worlds: the feel of a car with a ton of storage space.
And then the SUV/CUV/Crossover boom came and the wagon went the way of the compact disc.
Thankfully, there are still a handful of wagons out there for those of us who are modern traditionalists.
Including a remarkable offering from BMW.
The 2016 BMW 328i xDrive Touring is an intelligent, beautiful and excellent alternative for those of us who want to combine world-class handling via the legendary 3-series with the practicalities that come in the modern world. And yes, I’m talking about kids, weekend rock-star gear, road trips, shopping at Costco and Ikea, trips to Collingwood, etc.
While there’s not much creative room when designing a wagon, oops, 328i Touring, BMW has taken the simplistic route and finished it with the right amount of curves giving it a clean look from kidney grille to tailpipe.
The aesthetics of this car are absolutely stunning and being bookended in LED lights only enhances the luxurious appearance.
One interesting note…On a nighttime drive to Collingwood from rural Milton on a two lane road with the adaptive high beam system engaged, I was “flashed” several times as if I had my high beams on, when they were clearly not. So in an effort to show the oncoming folks I wasn’t that jerk who forgot to turn off the high beams, I gave them a quick “Hey, my low beams are on, I promise!” flash in return. I can’t say whether the lights are too bright or if other drivers were overly sensitive.
The upgraded 19” wheels add to the sporty side, along with enhanced aerodynamics and tight suspension that comes with the M Sport package, which my tester was equipped with.
The functional and smart 40/20/40 folding rear seats allow you to easily load up the 3 Touring with nearly anything…well, you know what I mean. So you can have four passengers and all their skis, or a few guitars, a couple of Billy bookshelves, or even a wrapped up, freshly cut Christmas tree (bagged and tied, of course). The hands-free trunk opening feature comes standard and is activated by a kicking motion beneath the centre of the rear of the vehicle.
The rear windscreen opens separately, a class exclusive feature and has functionality written all over it, just like the rest of the vehicle.
Full marks on the design side, BMW. You’ve modernized the “two-box” wagon design with subtle curves, an aggressive stance and modern functionality.
Beneath the hood, BMW gives the 3 Touring a 2.0 litre, Twin Turbo, four-cylinder engine forking out 241 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque through and eight speed automatic transmission, complete with paddle shifters if you think the speed and accuracy of your hands will exceed what’s given to you.
Albeit, it’s still fun to use the DIY method and flip it into Sport or Sport + to get that really tight suspension feel, especially if you find yourself in a rural setting, like the backroads of Collingwood, ON.
The 0-100 km/h figure is a respectable 6.3 seconds…not bad for a wagon. And the 60L tank of premium fuel scores a 10.5 city and 6.9 highway rating, for a combined 8.9 L/100 km. With predictive driving habits and a conscious right foot, there’s a good chance those figures will decrease.
Driving feel is excitingly exhilarating, which is what BMW strives for with their “ultimate driving machine” slogan. I did plenty of city driving, highway driving and rural driving in my week with the 3 Touring and most times, I didn’t feel like there was an impressive 495 litres of trunk space behind me, let alone the cavernous 1,500 litres of space with the rear seats folded.
And that’s the true appeal of this vehicle: you get to enjoy the handling, power and comfort of a car with the ability to say “sure, I’ll take you to pick up your new ‘insert large item here’”. Yes, you could go up a few inches and explore the “X” line, which is quite fine in its own regard. But if you’re like me and want more car than SUV/CUV/Crossover
The xDrive system will help in winter months, along with a set of snow tires. Because there’s no such thing as all season tires. Really. There’s not.
So there’s power to move this beautiful vehicle quickly but what about inside this utilitarian chariot?
Well, in a surprise to no one, the 3 Touring’s interior mirrors that of its trunk-lid counterparts. The dashboard is clean and simple with all the information easily available and the whopping 8.8” free standing centre console display controlled via iDrive is remarkably easy to operate. For the natural light fans out there, BMW’s panoramic sunroof really opens up the cabin so you can admire the well-designed interior.
Dakota leather seats with oyster stitching offer incredible comfort, power seats allow you to find an optimal seating position quickly and the overall fit and finish is gorgeous.
Safety wise, there’s an optional Heads Up display, rear view camera with surround view, park distance control front and rear and alarm system available via the Premium Package Enhanced, for an extra $5,400.
There’s a full suite of safety features (cross traffic alerts, active cruise control, lange change warnings, speed limit info, approach control warning system, and others) through BMW’s ConnectedDrive Driver Assistance system.
The auto start/stop is good to save some fuel instead of having it go up in smoke…err, exhaust.
I could easily double the word count on this and go on and on about how functional, practical, sporty, fun, exciting and simply great the 2016 3 Touring is but then you’d probably stop reading. What I can say is that the 2016 3 Touring is a brilliant option for those who want their cake, latte, steak, lobster, lamb, rice, potatoes, vegetables and extra slice of cake, all on one tray.
The only drawback to the 3 Touring is that it may shift buyers to a different part of the BMW showroom.
No, it won’t fully cannibalize sales of the X1/X3. What it will do is give drivers another alternative in the BMW lineup.
With only a handful of other wagons out there (Outback, E-Class, Golf Sportwagon, V60) the 3 Touring is beautifully crafted throughout, has plenty of pep in its step, has so much functionality and practicality it could afford to lend some out.
The S/CUV and crossovers are still popular and in their defence, they’re still useful and aren’t going away soon. The same goes for the ultimate people movers, vans.
But if you’re in the market for sporty, sensible, stylish, suave, spacious and swift coupled with something that’s got legendary handling, cargo friendly and a fun factor through the panoramic sunroof, the 2016 328i Touring is absolutely worth a test drive.
And maybe a permanent spot in your driveway or parking spot.
2016 328i xDrive Touring: $48,050
As tested options:
$5,400 Premium Package Enhanced
Heated steering wheel
Universal remote control
Rear view camera
Auto dimming exterior mirrors
Parking distance control, front and rear
SiriusXM radio tuner
Harman Kardon sound system (that’s incredibly crystal clear and loud!)
BMW ConnectedDrive services package
$1,900 M Performance Package
M sport brake
Adaptive M suspension
Variable sport steering
$895 Metallic paint
Total price as tested: $56,245
Yay: Functional, beautiful and modern looks, legendary 3-Series handling/feel/driving experience, 1,500 litres of cargo space with seats folded, nimble
Nay: May take buyers away from the X1/X3, consumers may choose SUV/CUV/Crossover opposed to a traditional “wagon”