Rather than trying to convince potential buyers that they need a particular car, what if an automobile manufacturer collected and examined the needs of those buyers and then designed and built the car that best satisfied that set of needs? This is the rationale behind BMW’s GT models, and specifically the 2015 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo. This unique entry-level luxury vehicle offers abundant room for four adult passengers (five in a pinch), the luggage capacity of a small wagon and the all-weather capability of a crossover SUV.
The 3 Series GT follows in the footsteps of its bigger brother, the 5 Series Gran Turismo. But rather than just changing the roof line of a 3 Series sedan or wagon, the 3 GT is truly longer between the front and rear wheels than either of those by a few inches. This extra length noticeably opens up more rear seat legroom and luggage space. Besides that, the hatchback’s wide opening (a traditional one-piece hatch rather than the 5 GT’s complex two-piece design) and reasonable floor height make it easy to load bulky cargo items. The mainstay 3 Series engines are offered, and you get the same collection of features and impressive interior design as you get with the 3 sedan.
DESIGN AND STYLE ;
Refreshed for 2016, the new 3 Series GT gets subtle revisions on the outside as well as the inside. In typical BMW fashion, the design is all about understated elegance. The sharp crease lines on the bonnet and along the sides look great. Viewed head on, it does resemble the 3 Series sedan. However, the eagle eyed will spot the wider grille and LED headlamp cluster.
The petrol variant of the 3 Series GT is only available in the luxury line trim. Which means its kidney grille gets more slats (24 instead of 18 on the sport line), and there’re generous dollops of chrome around the car.I particularly like the chrome around the window line that highlights the glass area and accentuates the side profile of the car. The frameless windows and the way the roofline merges with the stubby boot lend the car a distinct look. In fact, I did catch a few bystanders taking a second look at the car. I think it’s because the design is still quite unique in India.
The side profile also has a few functional elements like the air breather located aft of the front wheels. It reduces wind turbulence and in turn improves stability at high speeds. The new L-shaped LED tail lights look stunning, especially in the dark. BMW has retained the active rear spoiler that deploys at speeds over 110kmph or at the touch of a button located behind the power window switches. That also makes it easier to clean the area under the spoiler. Overall, the car looks quite appealing as it steers away from the boring three-box design of a regular sedan.
And then there is an advantage to the 3GT’s shape in the form of acres of interior space. The car measures 4,824mm in length, 1,508mm in height and 1,828mm in width which makes it longer by 190mm, taller by 79mm and wider by 17mm than the 3 Series sedan.
SPACE AND CABIN ;
The 3GT’s interior is typically BMW and exudes the same level of premiumness that the current gen 3 Series brought to the segment. The cabin’s driver focussed layout ensures easy access to all driving functions. A black panel display and a free standing iDrive monitor in contemporary flat screen design underline the sense of functional elegance.
The higher seating position raised by about 59 mm provides an outstanding view of the road and makes entry and exit more comfortable.
Also, the increase in space is noticeable more in the rear compartment, where there is extra leg room of 70 mm, placing the 3GT in the luxury car territory between the BMW 5 Series and 7 Series. Sports utility and crossover lovers should like the 3GT’s drive position.
The 3GT has a large luggage compartment with a boot capacity of 520 litres, about 25 litres more than the 3 Series sedan. By folding the split rear seats, the boot space can be increased to 1600 litres. Interestingly, a rear passenger can have an access to goods stored in the boot, by simply lifting the arm rest. Inside the boot, there’s a trap door, when opened leads to an under floor storage compartment where small things can be stored.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION ;
Whereas the E90 330i packed a sweet revving in-line 6 motor, the new 330i GT makes use of a 1998cc, turbocharged 4-cylinder unit which makes a healthy 252bhp at 5,200rpm but more crucially, 350Nm of torque is tapped from low down the rev range (1450-4800rpm, in fact). This engine is mated to ZF’s evergreen 8-speed single clutch gearbox that’s scattered across BMW’s range.
While it’s not as quick as an M3, the 330i is willing and brilliant for ducking in and out of city streets, with hardly any turbo lag noticeable between light to medium throttle inputs. Better still, the engine is supremely refined and up till 5,000rpm and thereabout, totally devoid of any vibrations whatsoever. It’s only when you punch it out of the blocks that you will find some turbo lag down low, but once above 3,000rpm the acceleration is effortless with nice mid-range pull that doesn’t leave you wheezing for revs. Its no surprise that the 330i turned out to be plenty quick during our performance tests. In fact, it dispatched the 0-100kmph sprint in just 6.31 seconds, hitting 150kmph in an equally impressive 13.18 seconds. In gear, too, the acceleration is strong with 40-100kmph and 20-80kmph coming up in 4.96 and 3.94 seconds respectively.
The strong performance is no doubt aided by the exceptionally smooth and slick shifting 8-speed automatic. This single clutch gearbox is equally happy to be used to zip around town or wind up to the redline when needed. Drivability around the town is superb since there’s no lurching in stop/start traffic – a big plus for those who tackle rush hour traffic daily. The various driving modes inhere include the usual suite – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, with each behaving exactly as expected. In Eco Pro, the throttle response is suitably dull and the gearbox, too, upshifts at the earliest. Things get better in Comfort mode which maintains a fine balance between decent economy and relentless performance. The engine and the gearbox are fully charged up in Sport and Sport+, delivering sharp throttle response and slick gearshifts.
With 8 gears and an impressively wide power-band, the 330i is a very comfortable cruiser. Its long-distance ability is supplemented with refined dynamics and a hushed cabin – road noise is kept to a minimum even at highway speeds. More importantly, the low speed ride is surprisingly plush and absorbent despite the lack of adaptive dampers. Having said that, the unusually soft suspension setup (for a BMW, that is) can be felt at high speeds. The highways and expressways offer up more than their share of undulations and broken surfaces across which the 330i tends to wallow with noticeable amount of vertical movement. Nonetheless, the whole thing sticks true to its line and gives drivers full confidence to cruise at some serious speeds.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
The GT scores well in the ride and handling department even if it’s not as good as the 3 Series. Since this is a tall car, there is a slight body roll around tight bends because of higher ground clearance and high center of gravity. Thankfully, these body movements are mild and quite controlled, allowing the car to go even faster. There is loads of grip in corners and the nicely weighted steering feels precise, inspiring confidence while tacking such bends too. Thanks to compliant suspension, bumps and rough patches are absorbed well, although sharp obstacles do send a thud through the cabin. The car also pitches and wallows over crests and joints on the highway. After all, the 165mm ground clearance is good enough for most roads, but still one will have to be slow and careful over larger bumps. All four disc brakes work well in bringing the car to a halt even though the brake pedals feel more progressive than grabby.
SAFETY FEATURES ;
The 2017 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo gets new features like ConnectedDrive which has BMW iDrive the on-board Driver Information system and a 22.3 cms display, BMW Navigation system Professional with 3D maps, BMW Apps, Park Distance Control (PDC), Connectivity through Bluetooth and USB/AUX IN connectivity.
In terms of safety it gets six air bags, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with brake assist, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Side-impact Protection, Runflat tyres with reinforced sidewalls, emergency spare wheel, electronic vehicle immobiliser and crash sensor.
BMW’s Gran Turismo range is somewhat controversial, mainly because it adds a lot of confusion to the company’s nameplates. For instance, the 6 Series GT is the four-door version of the two-door 7 Series, while the 4 Series GT is the four-door version of the two-door 3 Series. Pretty confusing right? Well, at least the 3 Series GT keeps things simpler and can be described a slightly longer, roomier, and more the utilitarian version of the standard sedan. While the GT isn’t exactly pretty to my eyes, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and some appreciate the sporty looks of the 3 Series combined with the crossoverish stance that comes with the Gran Turismo badge. But, while the GT stands out thanks to its added legroom and cargo space, its expensive sticker