BMW M 1

BMW – Good things come to those who wait

There is finally a Touring version of the M3 and its appeal is as close to a supercar as a wagon has ever been. School runs will never be the same.

It always struck me as odd that BMW had never produced a Touring version of the M3. After all, the M3 is the brand’s most recognisable performance car and the one that has gathered the most followers for the Bavarians over the years.

What began as a homologation special in the eighties – for a competition machine that became the most successful in touring car racing history – soon evolved into a hallmark of what an everyday sports car should be. Practical like a regular 3-Series, but with an added spice of motorsport magic. Since 1986 there has been an M3 for every 3- Series generation but, unlike its big brother, the M5, which has seen two versions of the M5 Touring so far, the M3 was never given the same treatment.

I clearly remember being at the international launch of the previous generation, where the M3 Coupé became the M4 at a time when BMW decided all coupés would bear even numbers, and asking a leading project engineer about a possible M3 Touring. “Wouldn’t that be the perfect daily sports car? Still small enough for the city but big enough for the kids and the dog?”

“Ah yes” – he said – “We would love to do an M3 Touring but there is no market for it because it would not sell in America or China – they only want saloons and coupés”.  Well, not even a decade later and here we are: BMW have just upped production of the M3 Touring because demand is bigger than they anticipated. And it still is not sold in America and it still is not sold in China. So why is there one to begin with?

Well, in my opinion it’s because this is BMW’s last chance. Cars are going electric whether we like it or not and this is the last generation of the M3 to use just a petrol engine as its propulsion system. The next one will surely be a hybrid and, very likely, the one after that 100% electric.

But where is the business case? – you might ask and with good reason. The numbers must still add up for the board to green-light any project. Well, because there is so much money going around and there has never been a bigger number of millionaires in the world, performance cars are more expensive than they have ever been. A BMW M3 from 2010 would cost around €90,000 whereas the current one usually leaves the showroom with a sticker price nudging or even surpassing €150,000.

That means there was some margin for the Touring to go wrong and still not be a money-losing venture. Except it is not going wrong: it’s an enormous success and, like I said, demand is so strong BMW had to increase production.

My daily car is a 2014 BMW 325d Touring (almost 10 years old, 175.000km and zero serious problems, it’s been a good one) so, naturally, an M3 Touring would fit my life like a soft, silk glove. For the four days I drove it around I had a vision of what it would be like to have such an amazing car and to use it every day, just like it its maker intended. Apart from some (quite) larger fuel bills, I have to say it would be a dream.

The M3 Touring is available in Portugal only in Competition guise and always with permanent four-wheel drive via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Mechanically, it is identical to the M3 saloon and M4 coupé/cabrio, meaning a 3-litre, inline six-cylinder turbo engine with 510 horse-power. It’s mighty. It’s so fast for a car of such innate practicality and usability you have to adapt your brain and driving style or you may as well go directly to the police station and hand in your license.

There are some differences in the suspension setting to cope with the extra weight at the back compared with the saloon – and the extra weight it can carry – but at the wheel the feeling of the car is virtually the same. When I wrote about the current M3 saloon I said it was the best M3 ever, so this is necessarily the best M3 ever in the most desirable layout for someone who will use it every single day.

To me, it is also the best-looking of the four current models in the M3/M4 line-up and I would even be able to live with the controversial front grille if the whole car was black. In fact, I know living with this car would make me very, very happy. I just don’t have the €146.000 the press car cost.

However, if you do, don’t hesitate for a second. This is one of the best BMWs ever made and a car that will make every daily drive feel very special. The end of such incredible cars may be near, but not yet. Not yet.

The M3 Touring is probably the coolest wagon ever made. It’s fast, it’s practical and it’s amazing to drive. Well worth almost 40 years of waiting.

Guilherme Marques

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