car tests

Review: BMW M3 Touring (2023) – The best car today?

December 31, 2023

Well, first order of business: the garden set. I walk up to the M3 Touring. There he stands, with his unsubtle mug shot, like some kind of devilish character coming to terrorize my lovely residential neighborhood most personally. Enough has already been said and talked about the huge grille. It’s funny, because when the M3 was unveiled, the criticism was unrelenting. Now public opinion seems to favor the extreme mugging of the M3 somewhat. It remains subjective, of course, but I can understand why BMW went about it this way. The M3 Touring is absolutely not to be confused with a regular 3-series Touring. Along the way, you’ll get the requisite sightseeing. In a positive sense, because more than once fellow road users raise a thumbs up.

Of course, the grille is not the only distinguishing element of the M3 Touring. The whole car exudes one pound of muscle. For example, look at those flared fenders and wider sideskirts. Or the huge diffuser with four chutes of exhausts at the rear. As a Touring, the M3 looks perhaps even thicker than the sedan or its coupe brother, the M4. The particular composition of our test car contributes positively to this. For example, the body color Fashion Grey is an option from the Individual color palette and this one has black wheels with huge ceramic brake discs behind them. This is not exactly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

A specific M workplace

The interior of the M3 Touring is a different story from the exterior. Apart from the special M sport seats, complete with luminous M3 logos, on the face of it you find yourself “just” in a new 3-series. If you look a little longer, however, you will see a lot of unique details. The two bright red ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ buttons that occupy a prominent place on the steering wheel, for example, as well as the M shift lever on the center console. Furthermore, there is a whole battery of buttons that you won’t find on the less endowed versions of the 3 Series. A ‘Setup’ button that takes you directly to the car settings, a button to mute or make the exhaust louder, a button to change the ‘M-Mode’: you immediately notice that you are in a car that is primarily about driving pleasure.

Aside from the specific M buttons, the M3 Touring also has a completely separate interface for iDrive 8, BMW’s now familiar infotainment system. The typeface is specific to BMW M and you won’t find the specific layout of the instrument cluster made up of M colors in a regular 3-series either. The major drawback of iDrive 8 is that BMW decided to also immediately remove a number of physical buttons, including those for climate control and seat heating, from the interior. This is not progress as far as we are concerned. Also, the infotainment system takes some getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, it works sublimely. Furthermore, we are full of praise for the workmanship. Our test car has a beautiful Individual interior with extensive leather package, which means that the dashboard and door panels are also fully covered in leather. Everything feels tremendously high quality.

The BMW M3 Touring in daily use

I start the mighty 3.0-liter six-in-line with 510 hp and 650 Nm of torque. The engine comes to life with a brisk, powerful roar and continues to roar for a while before calming down again. The BMW M3 Touring makes it immediately clear that it is something special. I tap the M lever to the right, the eight-speed automatic is in automatic mode, and I drive off. With all driving modes in “comfort,” the M3 is surprisingly easy to drive. The transmission shifts buttery smoothly, and thanks to the cartload of torque, the engine offers plenty of power down low as well. If you drive the M3 quietly, it even resembles a diesel in character. Rarely does the engine need to exceed 2,500 rpm, unless you explicitly want it to, of course.

The outward journey to the garden center I take the highway. The six-cylinder hums contentedly in eighth gear. Adaptive cruise control is my best friend, because exceeding the speed limit unintentionally is child’s play in the BMW M3 Touring. On the highway, one notices that while the M3 Touring is stiff, it is not uncomfortable. Because of the wide rubber, the rolling noise is a bit more emphatically audible, but even that is not annoying. Especially not if you use the great-sounding Harman/Kardon audio system. In short, this superstation is ideally suited for everyday use. On top of that, with a normal driving style, it is relatively economical with its fuel. An average fuel consumption of 1 in 10 should be easily achievable on daily trips to and from work. Provided, of course, you don’t get carried away by the M3 Touring’s rousing character.

Heavy sportsman

Time to put the M3 Touring’s practicality to the test. In terms of luggage space, fortunately, you don’t have to make any concessions compared to the regular 3 Series Touring. Indeed, the M3 Touring also has a 500-liter luggage compartment, expandable to 1,510 liters if desired. More than enough room for my garden set. It can therefore be slid into the trunk with ease. It remains a delightful combination: a sporty car that is also incredibly practical.

Back, I drive inland. I put the M3 on edge. First, I set “M Mode” to “Sport,” which means the layout of the instrument cluster changes to one big tachometer. The head-up display also shows the RPM. Then I press the “M2” button. I configured these so that the suspension is in “Sport,” the engine is in “Sport Plus,” the transmission is in “S2,” and the traction control is in “M Dynamic Mode. You can set the car even sportier, but in my experience that is actually too much of a good thing for public roads. Of course, you can experiment with the system to your heart’s content to build your perfect driving mode.

I am at the front at the traffic light. That can only mean one thing: Launch Control. If you have the traction control in M Dynamic Mode, it’s child’s play. Left foot on the brake, right foot on the gas, wait two seconds and release the brake. The wide tires bite into the asphalt, and thanks in part to the fantastic M xDrive, I shoot from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds. Granted, many EVs these days don’t turn their hand to those kinds of numbers, but in an internal combustion engine car, this degree of acceleration feels so much more intense and special. Then the first turn presents itself. I send in and am a little disappointed at first. Indeed, the M3 Touring’s steering feels a tad numb on initial steering. You also notice that you have to change direction with some mass. After all, the M3 Touring weighs nearly 1,900 kilograms. But beyond the first turn-in, the M3 comes full circle. This car enables cornering speeds that are far beyond the bounds of what is acceptable on public roads. You can also position it incredibly well in corners and it gives an above-average sense of confidence. Thank goodness I secured the garden set properly….

Off to the Eifel

I’m glad I was able to experience the BMW M3 Touring for longer than just that drive to and from the garden center. In the Netherlands you can’t really go anywhere with this power, so I decided to look across the border in Germany. The Eifel, that is, a place where steerage roads come naturally to you. To get there, the M3 and I first consume quite a bit of Autobahn. No punishment. Our test car has the M Drivers Package, which means that the limiter allows for a little more muscle. Effortlessly, the M3 Touring pulls through to 287 mph. At that speed, it feels insanely stable. You feel from everything that it could be even faster if the limiter were not there. Over 300 km/h? No problem at all.

In the Eifel you are allowed to drive 100 km/h on many inland roads. In terms of speed, that’s a bandwidth that fits the M3 Touring perfectly. One thing in particular strikes me. The harder I seem to tackle the car, the more aggressively I steer into a corner, the more it seems to come alive. The M3 Touring continues to constantly challenge you to push your own limits. Therein also lies a danger. Indeed, the M3 Touring’s limits are extremely high, so if you go over them, your speed is so high that catastrophe is almost inevitable. Therefore, always treat a car like the M3 Touring with respect. The advanced all-wheel drive and computer systems present do a lot to keep you on the road, but always have a certain limit.

Conclusion BMW M3 Touring review: the best car of the moment?

To ask the question is to answer it. After a week with the M3 Touring, I am genuinely struggling to return the keys to BMW Netherlands. What a fantastic all-rounder this is. Comfortable and forgiving enough for daily driving to and from work, but at the same time great for tossing and turning on back roads. You do notice at times that you are driving a somewhat heavy car. Nevertheless, the M3 Touring is significantly sportier than the M5, its bigger brother. Oh well, we forgot to mention that: it is the first M3 Touring BMW ever built. As far as we are concerned, it is an instant hit. If you only have room for one car and can spare the money, do it. Buy that M3 Touring!