You probably don't need me to tell you that wagons are a dying breed. Chances are, you don't know all that many people who own one, unless you happen to run with a crowd rife with fans of one of the few remaining automakers that still deigns to offer Canadian buyers a long-roof model. You can count the number of wagon-builders on one hand, these days, and if you were to take those fingers and then point them onto a map the majority of them would be touching one single country: Germany.
The 2016 BMW 328i xDrive Touring continues to carry the Teutonic torch for wagons that are fun, comfortable, and useful without resorting to the attention grabbing antics of jacked-up crossovers that won't ever see terrain more rugged than a snow-filled parking lot. It also happens to have seen a carefully-focused redesign for the current model year that sharpens a few of its important edges without sacrificing the delicate sensibilities of its passengers.
- Also: 2017 BMW 330e: Boosting a Stalwart
- Also: 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 300 Wagon: Canada’s Little Darling
To look at the 2016 BMW 328i xDrive Touring is to realize that very little about the wagon's visual character has been changed. The BMW's forward gaze is a bit more intense, thanks to updated headlights and a front fascia that comes across as sportier than the model it replaces, while the backside of the Touring's hatch is even more subtle in its makeover. The 328i's cabin follows a similarly subdued cosmetic path compared to older versions of the wagon.
What hasn't changed is the spaciousness imparted by the entry-level Touring's generous interior dimensions. Perhaps more so than any of its luxury competitors, the compact BMW 3 Series maximizes rear seat room to the point where it pushes up against many mid-size options. The wagon's extra cargo capacity is, of course, the primary lure of the Touring body style, and with the back row folded forward you're looking at enough storage to stand tall next to many small SUVs.
Back From Gymnastics Camp
It's in driving the 2016 BMW 328i xDrive Touring that you are able to detect the key aspects of the car's revised personality. Facing taunts from rivals like the Cadillac ATS and the Audi A4 that maybe, just maybe a bit of complacency had seeped into Bavaria's chassis tuning strategy, BMW has redoubled its efforts to improve communication between car and driver. The tighter the turns, the more noticeable the wagon's willingness to keep you abreast of what's happening under the wheels, especially with regards to its steering. The electrical assist found in the 3 Series offers clearer commentary than before, which works together with a redesigned front suspension and new shocks at all four corners to impart a sense of confidence that wasn't as evident at higher speeds in the older car. Best of all, there's no price to pay in smoothness or civility for the car's quicker reflexes - if anything, the Touring is better than ever when puttering around town.
Underneath the hood, nothing has changed: the 2.0-liter, 240 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that motivated the 328i xDrive Touring in 2015 remains untouched, still churning out its 255 lb-ft of torque. The turbo four is a good match for the wagon's weight, providing competent acceleration and a minimal amount of racket with the throttle pegged, but in any case you won't have much choice in the matter: it's four-cylinder power across the board for Touring models, which also come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and mandatory xDrive all-wheel drive. You can swap over to the turbodiesel 328d xDrive Touring if you wish, but the fresh turbo six-cylinder unit found in the 340i sedan is off-limits (and so is that model's no-charge six-speed manual gearbox).
The popularity of crossovers and SUVs is one of the ultimate demonstrations of the power of marketing. Automakers reap enormous profits by convincing families to buy large, heavy vehicles offering capabilities they truly don't need, which is what's known in the business as a 'win.' If you want to come out ahead as a driver, however, and actually enjoy the experience you're having behind the wheel, nine times out of ten you're going to have to leave the sport-utility vehicle in the showroom and look for something lighter, lower, and more engaging.
The 2016 BMW 328i xDrive Touring proves that you can step into a plush, nimble, and above all useful vehicle that even lets you hang on to the tether of all-wheel drive, all without succumbing to the urge to bulk up. Provided, of course, that you can get your head around the Touring's window sticker - a number that gets bigger and bigger the more you nose around the options sheet - anyone who truly aims to enjoy the act of driving owes it to themselves to include this BMW on their family shopping list.