The station wagon (or estate) was the original family car. Long before the SUV and its many hybrids took ownership of the market, the humble station wagon was the transport of choice. Its benefits are clear. It retains the elegance of a sedan but with the benefits of an extended luggage area.
Its history traces back to the early part of the twentieth century where the cars were used as carriages around US railway yards — hence the name station wagon. The early cars had evolved truck chassis with wooden paneling sides and curtains instead of windows. Through time they grew to have hard top roofs, rear doors, covered seats and glass windows. Travelers could now ride in luxury and the ample cargo space made these vehicles ideal for hunting parties.
Our car for Christmas has been the BMW 3 Series Touring — as the Bavarian brand refers to its station wagon range. And although our adventures did not include hunting parties or any animal shooting activities, the car has been a perfect holiday companion. The 500 liter boot has plenty of space to easily carry our cases, presents and wine. Meanwhile, the car transported us safely up and down and across the UK to visit family whom we hadn’t been able to see in the least year due to the pandemic.
The BMW 330e Touring became available last summer. The model on loan benefits from the latest plug-in hybrid technology which combines a 2.0 liter petrol engine with a small lithium-ion high-voltage battery. The car also comes with the marque’s intelligent all-wheel xDrive technology — all of which adds to the driving dynamic.
On our travels, the petrol engine takes care of longer journeys and freeway drives, while we use the electric power for shorter commutes across London. The battery is limited to just 30 miles, which works well for urban trips, while it takes five hours to charge from empty from a regular domestic socket and just over three hours from a fast charger.
This is an executive car and so it comes with a great deal of technology as standard. Ours is the M Sport Pro Edition package which offers a lot of extras: tinted exterior windows for privacy, an expansive panoramic roof with sun protection glass and 19-inch black wheels. Inside there are sports seats, a chunky leather steering wheel and fun “M” styled seat belts. Meanwhile, there is a M Sport braking system, adaptive M suspension, variable sport steering and an M Sport differential contributing to a sportier and safer drive.
Acceleration is a real brisk thanks to the hybrid set-up which offers instant power delivery of the electric motor. Meanwhile, the cabin is roomy, the seats are comfy, the driver and passenger technology a breeze to navigate. And, unlike the many other SUVs we drive past, this station wagon is elegant and practical and not at all showy. It’s a grown-up car — a car for the confident.