BMW has finally gone and done it.
After five generations of staunch refusal, save for a couple of one-off concepts, BMW has gone and built an M3 Touring.
Only offered in Competition guise, it’s an all-wheel drive rocket aimed directly at the Audi RS4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate. It’s not cheap, with a sticker price approaching $200,000 before on-road costs, but on paper it promises to cover a lot of bases.
Practicality and day-to-day family comfort don’t tend to mix well with mind-bending performance, but that’s what BMW has tried to do here – has it managed to pull it off?
The 2023 BMW M3 Touring is priced from $180,100 before on-road costs, and before you start ticking options boxes.
Adding the Carbon Experience Pack ($17,500) brings extra gloss carbon-fibre trim on the outside including on the splitter grille, mirrors, front splitter, and diffuser, along with carbon-fibre bucket seats.
Carbon-ceramic brakes are a $16,500 option, aimed at people who plan to take their Touring to the track regularly, and you can spend more again on a flashy paint finish ($7500 for Daytona Violet Metallic) on the outside.
The as-tested on the purple M3 Touring pictured throughout this review was $187,600 before on-roads, we also drove a matte black car with the Carbon Experience package with a sticker price of $219,100 before on-roads.
Rivals for the M3 Touring are thin on the ground in Australia. The Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate is currently off sale in Australia, and it’s been converted from an old-fashioned turbocharged V8 to a plug-in hybrid.
The Audi RS4 Avant has a sticker price of $156,059 before on-roads, while the bigger RS6 Avant is $232,200 before on-roads.
With lashings of waxy leather, lacquered carbon-fibre, and two high-resolution screens, the M3 Touring looks and feels special.
It also feels purposeful. You drop down nice and low, to the point it feels like you’re sitting right on the floor, and their bolsters hug you tight if you’re broad. Opting for the carbon bucket seats adds another degree of racy drama, and crank up the support even further.
They’re tricky to get into and out of with anything approaching grace though, and the knobbly carbon section between your legs is still a strange addition.
No doubt they’d be perfect for regular track work, but the standard seats help up nicely at The Bend and are more in keeping with the Touring’s pitch as a family friendly destroyer of worlds.
The carbon back on the optional seats is also so stunning, it’d be a shame to have it scratched up by children or inconsiderate adults sliding into the back seats.
The latest BMW technology looks sharp, and comes loaded with a full suite of features. Once you’ve spent some time getting the home page set up most of the functions you use most are within easy reach, but the decision to move the climate controls into the display is a step backwards.
Simple tasks are more difficult than they used to be, requiring more time with your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.
The windscreen demisters have been moved to a spot that’s obscured by drink bottles, and the death of the eight shortcut buttons that have featured in BMWs since the early days of iDrive is a shame.
At least wireless Apple CarPlay works reliably, and all the motorsports graphics look straight out of a video game.
Rear seat space is similar to what’s on offer in the regular 3 Series, although the bucket-style seats in the M3 do impact things slightly.
Their broader wings and the integrated headrests mean it’s quite hard to see past them, which may make shorter passengers claustrophobic.
There’s enough legroom to get adults back there behind regular adults, and kids will be able to get comfortable without stress.
There air air vents back there, along with a fold-down central armrest. ISOFIX points feature on the outboard rear seats, and there’s a trio of top-tether points.
Anyone loading a child seat will want to be careful though, the polished carbon backs on the optional bucket seats is begging to be dulled by a scratchy plastic seat.
Claimed boot space is 500 litres. The rear-seat backrest can be split-folded 40:20:40, expanding boot space to a maximum 1510 litres.
Power in the M3 Competition Touring comes from the same 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol inline-six as the sedan, pumping out 375kW of power and 650Nm of torque.
It’s hooked up to an xDrive all-wheel drive system capable of operating in rear-wheel drive when the mood strikes you.
Even in its most conservative mode, BMW M boss Frank van Meel essentially described the system as rear-wheel drive with some help from the front axle.
The 100km/h sprint takes a claimed 3.6 seconds, and claimed fuel economy is 10.4 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. You’ll need to fill the M3 Touring with 98 RON premium unleaded, and it has a 59L fuel tank.
People have been saying new cars are too fast for the road for generations now, but we really might be at that point.
With so much performance on offer and so much traction, the M3 Touring devours Australian roads on fast forward. We’ll get to that, but it’s worth noting just how friendly it is day-to-day as well given the Touring is meant to be an all-rounder.
Beneath the swollen, bulldog exterior lies a pussycat. The torque converter is smooth and smart in traffic, and the inline-six doesn’t really raise its voice above a murmur on light throttle – even if you have the exhaust in its loud mode.
There’s a noticeable difference between the M3 and something like an M340i though, even at low speeds. The ride is comfy enough but there’s no getting around the fact it’s riding on big wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin rubber, and there’s an extra sense of purpose to all the controls.
The throttle is heavier, the brakes are sharper, the steering is more direct; you’re always aware of the potential within.
Even with the suspension in its most comfortable mode, the gearshift at its most relaxed, and the engine in “Efficient”, the M3 Touring is blindingly fast when you put your foot down. It has a sort of any gear, any time thrust that makes it feel completely effortless around town.
Setting it up for driving fast takes a bit of fiddling. There are three suspension, steering, engine, transmission, and all-wheel drive modes to choose from, along with three stability control options, and they can be mixed however you want.
BMW gives you two M buttons that allow you to save your favourite recipes. We had M1 tuned so the engine and transmission were in their angriest settings, stability control fully on and four-wheel drive in its safest split, and the suspension in its middle setting for bumpy roads.
M2 was maximum attack; with the four-wheel drive system in its more aggressive Sport mode, and the stability control in M Dynamic Mode for a bit more freedom.
Regardless of how you set it up, the M3 is a pretty remarkable beast.
The steering is direct, the front end is pointy, and the all-wheel drive is surprisingly rear-biased under power, to the point you can have the car coming out of corners with just a hint of opposite lock with all the driver assists turned on.
It’s fearsomely fast, and you’re able to extract maximum performance in essentially any weather thanks to the clever all-wheel drive.
That all-wheel drive powertrain doesn’t hold it back on track, either. Rather than feeling one-dimensional like some performance all-wheel drive systems, the xDrive setup feels like it offers you the best of all worlds.
Coming out of low- and medium-speed corners it just digs in and grips, allowing you to get on the power without fear, but through higher-speed corners it still has what feels like a classic rear-wheel drive balance.
There’s clearly lots going on under the skin to make it happen, but you’re not really aware of that from behind the wheel.
The eight-speed torque converter automatic is pin-sharp on the track, rendering the paddles essentially redundant with the powertrain in its most aggressive mode, and the way the turbocharged engine responds is incredibly linear.
For such a high-tech car, it’s incredibly natural and approachable.
M3 Competition Touring highlights:
- 19-inch front, 20-inch rear forged wheels
- Adaptive M suspension
- M Sport Seats with power adjustment
- 12.3-inch digital driver’s display
- 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Head-up display
- Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- DAB+ digital radio
- Harman/Kardon surround sound system
- Wireless phone charging
- Heated front seats
- Carbon-fibre trim
- Merino leather seat and dashboard trim
- Dual-zone climate control
- BMW Laserlight headlights with high-beam assist
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Tyre repair kit
- Keyless entry and start
- Powered tailgate
The M3 and M4 are yet to be tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, although the standard 3 Series sedan wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2019.
2.0-litre variants of the 3 Series range scored 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupants, 87 per cent for vulnerable road users, and 77 per cent for safety assist.
The BMW M3 Touring is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Maintenance is required based on the Condition Based Servicing program, although you can opt to prepay a five-year/80,000km maintenance plan.
The Basic plan covers standard service items for the allotted period and costs $3810, while the Plus package – which includes filters, brake discs and pads, clutches, wiper blades, and brake fluid – is $10,520.
It’s hard to understand why it’s taken BMW so long to build an M3 Touring, because it ticks so many boxes.
It also feels in keeping with the way the M3 has evolved from a lightweight homologation special into an all-rounder with all-wheel drive and luxurious interior… along with the ability to devour a backroad or race track.
Enthusiasts have responded so positively, BMW M has been forced to up production twice since launch. It’s easy to see why.
The M3 Competition Touring is great to look at, great to drive when you have time to yourself, and has enough space to fit the kids and all their stuff when family duty calls.
Audi and Mercedes-Benz have been cashing in on the formula for years, and BMW has clearly taken notes because the M3 Touring has what it takes to give them plenty of sleepless nights.
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