Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Plenty of high-tech toys – both standard and extra
  • Excellent driving position with lots of adjustment
  • Design is cluttered and in danger of becoming generic

There is almost too much to take in the first time you step inside a fully loaded 3 Series Touring – yet despite this, the overall dashboard borders on the bland, as unless you know your BMW quirks there’s a slightly generic aspect to the design that makes you feel like it could be found in any modern premium car.

Driving position

BMW 3 Series Touring (2020) interior

No complaints about this – there’s lots of adjustment in the seats and the steering wheel, and you can sit very low if that’s your thing. Just watch out if you order the optional sunroof - it can rob headroom from taller drivers and you may find your hair brushing the liner.

BMW has carefully considered the positioning of its central infotainment screen – which is hunkered down enough to avoid disrupting the view out of the windscreen, but not so far down that you have to drag your eyes a long way from the road to look at it.

Where fitted, the head-up display option delivers the most crucial driving info directly onto the windscreen in front of you. It works really well, projecting speed and essential navigational info on to the glass before your eyes.

Infotainment to excess

There are two levels of media system in the UK: BMW Live Cockpit Plus and BMW Live Cockpit Professional.

Plus, fitted on SE and Sport models, features a smaller, 8.8-inch central touchscreen and an instrument cluster with a 5.7-inch full colour display. Based around BMW’s long-standing iDrive system, it includes sat-nav, Apple CarPlay ‘preparation’ (BMW now charges you a subscription fee for this), a touch-sensitive rotary controller, two USB ports and Wi-Fi.

Live Cockpit Professional is standard on M Sport, and jumps to a much bigger 10.25-inch central display plus full digital dials on a 12.5-inch screen. The satellite-navigation system is smarter, and the newer ‘BMW Operating System 7.0’ not only looks more impressive, it has downloadable apps and other extra features, including a ‘Personal Intelligent Assistant’.

This means you can speak to the car – simply say ‘Hey BMW’ and give it tasks. How well it will respond to those tasks seems to vary, but over time the assistant is supposed to learn your habits and should come to understand you better. Unlike other car-based systems we’ve encountered before, BMW even allows you to give it a unique name – so now you can not only name your car but have a (slow and somewhat frustrating) conversation with it.

BMW 3 Series Touring (2020) infotainment system

Build quality and design

Generally speaking, the quality is up to scratch with what we’d expect from this level of BMW, although some of the trim choices seem a little tacky. The design is more problematic. Despite all the screens there are still a lot of buttons on the centre console, and it may take you some time to get used to where they all are.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter so much, though, as with the ‘Hey BMW’ option there is now such a ridiculous number of ways to input instructions in this car it might be irrelevant. These include regular buttons, steering wheel buttons, the touchscreen, the iDrive rotary controller, gesture control (now with seven available gestures for different functions) and the ‘intelligent’ assistant. Gesture control is quite something: you can whirl your fingers in mid-air and sensors recognise the movement and adjust the volume or bat away phonecalls as if by magic. Clever stuff.

No wonder BMW has made the row of numbered buttons below the climate control customisable shortcuts to a wide range of different commands, such as opening specific menu screens and loading sat-nav destinations (so they’re not just for bookmarking radio stations).

Built-in dashcam

The options list for the new BMW 3 Series Touring is unsurprisingly extensive, but one extra that stands out is the BMW Drive Recorder. This is essentially a built-in dashcam, which operates via the on-board camera systems already in place. This means as well as a forward view it can capture things behind and to the side.

Where fitted, it automatically records 20-second loops that overwrite each other unless you manually command it to make a recording or are involved in a crash – at which point 20 seconds before and 20 seconds afterwards are saved for analysis.

The data can only be removed from the car by downloading it onto a phone or USB stick. Could be very useful in the event you have an accident or witness a crime being committed.

Comfort

  • Excellent motorway refinement, supportive seats
  • Compliant ride but not as smooth as a C-Class
  • Adaptive suspension helps improve comfort

The 3 Series is impressively quiet, and although diesel engines can be a little noisy, any other sounds are exceptionally well isolated. At speed, the engine is almost inaudible, and road and wind noise are minimal. The 3 Series comes with double glazing as standard and it shows. It’s a very well hushed car at all speeds, and makes long journeys very relaxing.

Choose a 3 Series Touring on 18-inch wheels and standard suspension, and you get a smooth ride quality that isolates bumps from the cabin very well. It’s firmer than some of its rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but it's compliant and well-damped, and still manages to grip well – a nice compromise.

On larger, optional 19-inch wheels it's less comfortable, so it’s best to try one with them fitted before choosing them. Our long-term 320d M Sport Touring has these fitted and it can feel unsettled and fidgety on the motorway. But specifying the adaptive suspension system does much to counteract this, being comfortable and reasonably composed in the Comfort setting. It's never jarring, but it feels more hot hatch than family estate car.

Otherwise, the 3 Series Touring is brilliant on the motorway – it's here that it comes into its own in terms of comfort and refinement. The seats are supportive and comfortable – especially M Sport sports seats that have a wide range of adjustment – and will suit a range of drivers because of this.

BMW 3 Series Touring (2020) driving