What is it about the finest fast wagons that hits the spot for so very many of us? Rarity, certainly. Serious, longitudinally engined performance estates are pretty thin on the ground, and only sprouted as a concept as recently as 1994, with the Porsche-developed Audi RS2.
Versatility? Definitely that too. The idea of 500bhp up front and 500 litres out back will get the attention of anyone who buys their performance cars to use them as much as possible.
To live with them, build a rapport with them, and truly understand them. I think here in the UK – hot-hatch capital of the world – we’re better at this than most places, and an outrageously fast estate is about as emblematic of the mindset as it gets.
Then there’s the veneer of respectability that an estate body lends, and this effect should never be underestimated. There are petrolheads of considerable means who, for whatever reason, feel an out-and-out super-saloon is a bit on the nose.
You might well be one of them. However, transform that super-saloon into a super-estate and you’ve altered the outlook. Practicality unlocks something more in the package than raw carrying capacity, and whatever that is, it can be powerfully appealing.
All of which is why we’ve welcomed the first ever M3 Touring (at least, the first honoured with series production – an E46-based concept lurks in the multi-storey at Garching) with open arms, and it hasn’t disappointed.
Not in the slightest. With the possible exception of the B7 Audi RS4 Avant and the last of naturally aspirated C-Class-based AMG wagons, this is the greatest fast wagon to date.
In fact, if you take this 503bhp car’s wild level of performance and overlay it on a chassis that can switch from 4WD to RWD at the touch of a button and never feels anything less than indulgently adjustable yet composed, you have to conclude that the BMW is the greatest fast wagon of all time. All-weather, all-occasion drivers’ cars don’t come much better, and they certainly don’t entertain as well on circuit.
Drawbacks? Well, it costs £80,000, rising to £100,000 if you option the most tempting extra, such as the carbon bucket seats and carbon-ceramic brakes. But how many cars do you get in one, here?
School-run car, B-road blaster, long-range cruiser (yes, really), occasional track day toy… The breadth and depth of the M3 Touring’s abilities are plain exquisite, which is why it’s our Dream Car of 2023.