A new 3 Series is here, and with it, following the introductory model year, is the new touring version. The G21, as many expected it would be designated, is visually striking no matter what trim it’s been fitted with, and can be had in variety of different power configurations, including an M340i with a 380-horsepower B58 inline-six. Unfortunately, if you’re a U.S. BMW customer, you won’t be able to buy one. Instead, for the first time in twenty years—since the E46 touring came on the scene—there will be no BMW 3 Series touring, or any BMW touring model in the U.S. for that matter.
Yes, the unfortunate future many of us hoped would never come is now upon us—but you can’t place the blame squarely on BMW. For the years that BMW touring models have been available in the U.S., they’ve sold in fractional numbers in comparison with their sedan, and now X model, counterparts. Many attributed this to a limited model selection for U.S. market BMW sport wagons, which were typically kept from having the largest engine of their model range, along with higher prices, and finance incentives that favored other models. Nonetheless, the trend towards SAVs and SACs has long been clear, and it seems the general public prefers them to wagons, even though a case can be made for how the latter is actually the better choice.
As with any new BMW generation, the G21 brings numerous improvements over the outgoing F31 3 Series touring. It’s lighter, despite being a bit larger in almost all dimensions, while enhancements to usability have also been made, in the form of a larger cargo opening and slightly increased hauling volume, among many, many other updates. The latest technology, like iDrive operating system 7.0, and BMW Live Cockpit Professional can be optioned as well, but all of the specific details, which you can find a nice breakdown of here at BMWBlog, are a bit extraneous to our discussion.
We don’t need to wax poetic about the benefits of a touring, sport wagon, station wagon, estate, avant, or long-roof—whatever you refer to them as. BMW CCA members specifically, are some of the most ardent wagon defenders out there, and beyond that, the greater automotive world seems to be catching on as well. Station wagons that appeal to enthusiasts, specifically BMW models made in the last 25 years or so, are demanding serious money these days, with people seeming to have finally woken up to the unique blend of performance and practicality that can be found in so few vehicles.
But, even with all of of those truths, BMW has decided to invest heavily in an SAV and SAC future, choosing to completely eliminate all touring models from the U.S. model portfolio. Would the G31 5 Series touring and G21 3 Series touring sell here? Absolutely, but is the enthusiast consumer niche enough to offset BMW’s regulatory and marketing costs? It’s a question many of us have asked, all while maintaining a willingness to compromise on what wagon we would end up with anyway—likely a four-cylinder model with xDrive.
And with that, we have arrived at the moment where BMW manufactures its most powerful and capable wagons ever, each with remarkably enticing looks, and we can’t buy them. At the same time, people are willing to shell out the equivalent of new-car money on a dialed in German wagon from a few generations back, while a market for more pedestrian examples exists as well.
Accompanying BMW’s press release for the G21 3 Series touring were photos of an M Sport model. Largely mirroring the spec of the M340i sedan, the first allocations of which are just now arriving at U.S. BMW dealerships, the M340i xDrive touring will be the performance thoroughbred of the lineup. Beyond the striking visuals of the conventional G21 platform, M Sport trim enhances things through the liberal use of large air intakes, along with specific wheels, and a diffusor integrated within the rear bumper. Standard equipment will also include the M Sport differential, clearly designating the M340i xDrive wagon as the enthusiast model.
Even with the advent of models like the X3 and X4 M40i, along with the multitude of other X models that flank them in the model lineup, we still mourn the loss of the 3 Series touring. Your wallet, and BMW’s bottom line will appreciate you opting for the X3, but it’s a shame that we won’t get the opportunity to rack up miles in a G21 across this great land of ours.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]