Cars > Driven

BMW 318i Touring: A stately estate

Yes, it’s just the base model, but it’s no slouch

Wagon styling has come a long way. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Mom mobile. Grocery getter. Hearse. Go ahead, make fun. Let it all out.

In today’s world where the SUV is king, wagons are an outdated and defunct proposition. To many, everything a wagon can do, an SUV can do better: More vertical room, better ground clearance, and enhanced comfort make SUVs the obvious choice.

Another thing is the price. Take this BMW 318i Touring, for example. Add a mere P100,000 to its P3,890,000 price tag, and you can roll out of the dealership in an X3 xDrive20d, which is literally more car and more metal for the money.

But enthusiasts beg to differ. To the select few, an estate is stealthy, kind of sexy, and delightfully esoteric. Remember the Bimmer suckers? Yeah, this is peak Bimmer sucker right here.

With turbocharging these days, BMW's numbering system no longer corresponds to the engine's displacement. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Apart from being a wagon, the G21 318i Touring is not a special BMW as it does share most things with its 318i sedan twin, the G20 LCI. The 156hp and 250Nm that come out of the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the sedan are sufficient, but nothing to write home about.

The B48B20 engine’s twin-scroll turbos work with the double-VANOS system to effectively eliminate any lag at low rpms, giving it punchy, linear power down low. Up top, it does have a reasonably throaty bark, but not much else. It is smooth and refined, though, making it a great daily companion. Fuel consumption is a respectable 8km/L in the city.


There’s nary an M badge to be found anywhere in this variant—not even a hint of tri-colored striping. No Shadowline trim, no M aerodynamic package, no sport wheels. But as a result, the 318 is the most stately of the three 3-Series Touring variants BMW recently launched in the country.

Up front, it gets the standard bumper and a gloss-black double-slat kidney grille. The 18-inch Style 782 wheels wrapped in run-flat tires are modestly sized, and the multi-spoke design exudes elegance more than it does sportiness. The rear is recognizably similar to the sedan, and although it does not get sporty bits out back, twin tailpipes and an understated spoiler complete the look.

Yay or nay on the red interior? PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

There’s no M badging on the inside, either. But for the humdrum model, it still has got a lot of things to get enthusiasts excited. The headliner is finished in a shade of black that BMW likes to call Anthracite, something usually seen on M Sport or M models. Red sport seats also make their way into this base 3er. The aluminum “Mesheffect” trim is unique and definitely fits the upscale aesthetic of the vehicle.

Passengers sit low and close to the floor as is typical of the 3-Series. Unfortunately, the rear occupants still don’t get much legroom and headroom despite the obvious enlargement of this model. The lucky guy or gal who gets to sit in the middle has to rub shins with the other two passengers because of the transmission tunnel that runs through the center. A small price to pay for rear-wheel drive, really.

Did you know the 3-Series Touring could do this? PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

But the pièce de résistance of the interior has to be the iconic luggage net right behind the rear headrests. It’s functionally a bit pointless, but it does provide tons of Touring charm to the interior—an understated reminder every time you look in the rearview mirror that you’re not in just any 3-Series. You’re in a 3-Series Touring.

Comparing boot to boot, the difference between the sedan and the wagon doesn’t seem like much with 480L and 500L of trunk space, respectively. But drop the rear seats on the Touring and you can get over 1,500L of cargo capacity. I’m sure it can swallow one’s IKEA haul just as easily as an SUV would.

There are two ways to access the cavernous boot: one is to open the tailgate, and the other is through the glass hatch. The former is power-operated, but the latter is the more convenient of the two and the one I found myself using most of the time. The tonneau cover also has an ingenious party trick where it not only slides horizontally, but can also slide up along the D-pillars making it easier to put back into place once you’re done.

What was wrong with a normal shifter? We can't imagine it being easier for anyone but the pockets of BMW's board members. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

The expansive widescreen display equipped with the latest iteration of iDrive is present on this model. The sheer size and the clarity of the screen are impressive. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are onboard as well. This new system drops physical climate controls in favor of onscreen ones—a decision I am not particularly fond of. Also, it’s slightly harder to navigate due to the fact that settings are scattered all over the main app tray instead of being consolidated in one settings app.

BMW has also revised its gauge layout for this model, and it’s frankly a little overdone for my taste. Functionally, however, it has never been more customizable, and the screen is clear and bright as always. But it must be said that the layout it replaces was far more tasteful.

The no-name-brand sound system is superb. Powerful on the low end, crisp and bright up in the higher frequencies. There’s a beautiful definition and clarity to the sound it produces. The sound stage, however, is weirdly right below the ear rather than up front, but the system is incredible nonetheless.

Sadly, that’s as far as it goes on the electronics front. Yes, there are a few bits and bobs here and there such as automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and parking sensors. But it’s not even enough to keep up with a modern Ford that’s half the price.

Look closely. Notice where the shock towers are in relation to the engine. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Even though it is just a four-cylinder, you can visually see that the engine sits way back in the engine bay right on top of the front axle. The shock towers line up to the middle—almost to the front end of the four-cylinder engine, and that speaks volumes of the car’s balance and weight distribution. It’s obviously no M car, but it handles supremely well considering its place in the 3-Series hierarchy.

The steering is quick if not slightly numb, and the chassis is tuned rather stiffly. However, it reiterates its position as the luxury trim with incredible NVH levels and a smooth ride; it feels like you’re rolling on nothing but ball bearings.

The driving modes can be customized to fit each and every driver, and I gravitated toward keeping everything in Sport except for the transmission to keep engine braking to a minimum. If needed, paddle shifters behind the steering wheel allow the driver to quickly row through the remarkable eight-speed automatic transmission.

Elegance in motion. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

I’d say this car needed a manual gearbox, hydraulic steering, and a bit more power if I wished to be pedantic. But that would be missing the point. This car is for people who want to commute in a sophisticated yet practical machine. Something that’s not too flashy, but always stands out in a sea of gray SUVs. The G21 is a fantastic chassis, and it shines even in this base spec. I’d say it was the perfect blend of driving fun and practicality, but I think I’ll save that statement for when I get my hands on the M3 Touring. Imagine what that thing must be like.


Engine2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power156hp @ 4,500-6,500rpm
Torque250Nm @ 1,300-4,300rpm
Dimensions4,713mm x 1,827mm x 1,440mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideThe driving dynamics of a sedan combined with the practicality and the cargo capacity of an SUV makes it a versatile car to own.
DownsideThe lack of advanced driver aids is unacceptable at this price point. Rear passengers don’t get a lot of legroom.

Simonn Ang

Simonn is just a regular guy who happens to love cars and motorcycles. He also loves writing about them, too.