Call them wagons or estate cars, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the sad fact that the decline in global demand is rapidly driving a genre that symbolizes style, space and street cred towards extinction. Worse, the industry has simultaneously fallen into the habit of replacing every family hatch that comes out with another nameless SUV or crossover. Central Europe is now the last bastion of the once-coveted bodystyle, often badged Touring, T-model, Variant or Avant, and typically equipped with inspiring powertrains and lifestyle-oriented accessories.
The auto industry’s costly struggle from gasoline and diesel propulsion to hybrid and EV powertrains will continue to thin the wagon ranks, but BMW, for one, decided to expand its offerings. The 503-hp 2023 M3 Touring made its debut last year, and it will be followed in early 2025 by the all-new 650-hp PHEV M5 Touring Competition and the beefier 740-hp M5 Touring Label Red.
The M3 Touring—the first of its kind—shares the overbite grille and adaptive AWD/RWD system with the less expensive M3 Competition xDrive sedan. Both also share the same powertrain, consisting of a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A fully loaded example we drove stickered for $120,000.
While the 53 cubic feet of trunk space with the rear bench folded is a welcome bonus for the next weekend getaway or trip to the DIY superstore, the M3 Touring is best used six days out of seven in its essential role as ultimate driving machine. True to its nickname, it goes like a stinker, handles like a gymkhana hero, oozes presence even when parked and makes all the right noises when not. The run from zero to 60 is over and done in 3.4 seconds, according to BMW. The expensive M Driver’s package drives up the price top speed up to 174 mph. And from 2750 to 5500 rpm there’s a maximum 479 pound-feet of torque that can be sent to all four wheels—or just the two rear wheels. Save fuel when pushed? Next question.
The scalpel-sharp steering wheel has the approval of the German Association of Surgeons. Even on Michelin winter tires, our M3 Touring provided massive grip, the carbon ceramic anchors responsible for pulling the eyeballs out of their sockets, and the optional thinly padded lightweight composite bucket seats clamped man to machine. Like the facelifted 3-series, the M3 Touring features the latest infotainment complete with a widescreen digital display, improved instrument graphics and too many new functions (think M Drift Analyzer) to process in one sitting.
The M3 Touring is a tough, sharp-edged performance wagon that shines brightest when driven aggressively. Keen drivers will find an unfiltered audio soundtrack, an uncompromising ride, a narrow bargaining zone at the limit, and on uneven roads, the fragile directional stability of a tethered walker. While the taller and longer rear end improves weight distribution by a small margin, it lowers the center of gravity upwards by the same measure. Since the recalibrated rear suspension is tuned for a wider range of axle loads than the sedan, the Touring displays an occasional shoulder-shaking stiffness that we miss in its rear-notch siblings.
More discerning buyers will be drawn to the M340i xDrive Touring, but dyed-in-the-wool M3 enthusiasts will want the real McCoy. But beware: The 503-hp Touring is no part-time school bus; Saturday morning shopping cart; or the only family car, with two baby seats in the back. Instead, this very special M car deserves to live its life in the fast lane.
2023 BMW M3 Touring
Vehicle Type: front engine, all wheel drive, 5 passenger, 4 door wagon
Base: $108,772 (Germany)
Twin turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 183 in32993 cm3
Power: 503 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm
Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
Length: 189.0 in
Width: 74.9 inches
Height: 56.9 inches
Passenger Volume, F/R: 55/42 ft3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 53/18 ft3
Curb weight (C/D approx): 4200 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 3.0 seconds
100 mph: 7.2 seconds
1/4-Mile: 11.2 seconds
Top Speed (mfr): 174 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 18/15/22 mpg