The BMW 320i Touring has had a facelift. That brings some exterior styling tweaks, but the major differences are inside, where you’ll find a pair of high-resolution screens borrowed from the i4 and iX electric cars, taking the place of dials and buttons.
What are we looking for?
For years, diesel has been the preferred option for BMW’s 3 Series vehicles, but with advances in petrol engines, does the new model offer diesel-esque running costs, especially with current differences in fuel prices? And how easy is that new hi-tech interior to live with?
Towing ability of the BMW 320i Touring M Sport
A kerbweight of 1660kg doesn’t put the 3 Series into the heavyweight class, but it’s still healthy enough to give it the bulk for a good number of family caravans, despite the maximum towing limit of 1600kg (1411kg is the recommended 85% limit for less experienced drivers).
We matched the BMW to our long-term loan Bailey Discovery D4-4 with a MiRO of 1059kg, which should have been an easy test. But was it? The short answer is yes.
These days, 184bhp isn’t a lot, but when towing, it’s the torque that counts, and for a petrol engine, the 3 Series packs a punch, with 221lb ft. Given that this is produced from a lowly 1350rpm all the way up to 4000rpm, thanks to turbocharging, the car was never short of ‘grunt’.
In fact, when having to make a quick start at one junction, the outfit provided a notably brisk getaway.
Accelerating to 60mph was very easy (so much so, it was all too easy to exceed that if not careful), and maintaining it was equally effortless. However, although achieving and maintaining 60mph was simple, on anything but level ground, the automatic gearbox did drop from eighth to seventh gear – albeit seamlessly.
On a hill start, the electronic brake held firmly and released automatically when setting off, ensuring the outfit didn’t roll backwards. The service brakes were equally strong, with a progressive feel.
Despite the blustery conditions, and although the caravan was tugged about by the wind, the car was totally unfazed and felt planted and secure, something that the best tow cars always offer. Passing HGVs, and being passed by low-flying large vans, didn’t upset things one little bit.
Our Bailey Discovery D4-4 was only around 64% of the kerbweight of the BMW, but given how well the car towed, we have no reason to think it would be any different when towing up to its limit.
If you’re looking for a navigation aid while you’re towing, be sure to take a look at our caravan sat nav guide too, where we share our top picks on the market.
Solo driving the BMW 320i Touring M Sport
As with most BMW vehicles, the 320i Touring is very much driver-focused when that’s what is needed. It was a real pleasure to drive, and remarkably refined. The only noise intrusion was from the tyres, but that was only noticeable because everything else was so quiet. Even when pushed (including while towing), the engine wasn’t vocal, only drawing attention to itself because it was almost silent when not being worked.
Of the three drive modes (Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro), we found Comfort the best setting. Sport sharpened throttle responses, but also made the steering very heavy and ponderous, especially at lower speeds, and Eco Pro had completely the opposite effect on the car’s throttle.
The dash screens might look appealing, and we’re sure that in time you’d get used to how they work; but just about everything is controlled by them, rather than physical buttons, and in some cases it feels as though you’d need a doctorate in wizardry to get to where you want – so not everything is progress in our opinion.
Space and practicality
The 320i isn’t a big car, but that’s not to say it isn’t reasonably spacious for its size. It would comfortably seat four (and for shorter journeys, five – there’s quite a significant transmission tunnel), and even with the optional panoramic sunroof, the headroom would be fine for all but the tallest occupants.
Our test vehicle came fitted with the optional electrically operated front seats, which were very easily adjusted to give a comfortable driving position.
Each door has a good-sized pocket, and the large glovebox and central cubby mean there are plenty of storage options.
Rear-seat passengers can adjust their climate control thanks to buttons on the rear of the centre console.
There are also several USB-C charging ports dotted throughout the car, and a wireless charging point is a £180 option.
The three rear-seat backrests can be folded individually to extend the boot capacity from 500 to 1510 litres, giving you plenty of space to pack any caravan essentials you may be thinking of taking on tour with you. Another thing we’ve always liked is the ability to open just the tailgate’s glass, and this latest incarnation is no exception.
The towbar is operated electronically, by the press of a button in the boot area.
Buying and owning a BMW 320i Touring M Sport
The base price of the BMW 320i M Sport Touring is £42,250, which is on par for this class of car, but start ticking a few options and the price can soon rocket.
Running costs, however, are reasonable. The WLTP (combined) fuel consumption figure is 42.2mpg, although we comfortably achieved over 50mpg cruising at motorway speeds. Towing, that dropped to a creditable 26.6mpg, on a test route of over 50 miles.
The BMW 320i Touring is fun to drive, both solo and hitched up, remaining very refined. Importantly these days, it won’t cost the earth to run. And it just happens to make an excellent tow car, too.
Or you could try…
- BMW X3 M40d: If you have the budget for it, this BMW should offer high-performance towing.
- Škoda Karoq 2.0 TDI 150PS Sportline 4×4 DSG: This is a capable family SUV that is comfortable for solo driving and a great option to tow with.
- BMW iX xDrive40 Sport: This all-electric option from BMW tows brilliantly but could do with a bigger battery.
- Price: £42,865
- What Car? Target Price: £41,027
- Retained value after three years: 52%
- Kerbweight: 1660kg
- 85% of kerbweight: 1411kg
- Gross vehicle weight: 2180kg
- Max towing limit: 1600kg
- Gross train weight: 3260kg
- Towball limit: 75kg
- Towball and electrics: £1100
- Boot size min/max: 500/1510 litres
- Payload: 595kg
- Test conditions: Damp, breezy
- Engine size: 1998cc
- Official combined economy: 42.2mpg
- Towing economy: 26.6mpg
- Power (hp)/rpm: 184/5000-6500
- Torque (lb ft)/rpm: 221/1350-4000
- CO2 emissions: 161g/km
- First year car tax: £585
- Second year car tax: £165
- Insurance group: 29E
- Euro NCAP overall protection rating: 5/5
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|Engine Size||1998 cc|
|85% KW||1411 kg|
|Towball Limit||75 kg|
|Maximum Towing Limit||1600 kg|
|Torque||221 lb ft|
|Offical MPG||42.2 mpg|
|Towing MPG||26.6 mpg|