- Published: Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:00
SINGAPORE - It had to happen sooner or later. Given BMW’s proclivity for making new, unique (and some say outright weird) cars, its success with the X6, and the ‘luxury hatchback-ification’ of the 5 Series (that’s really the shortest way to describe it), it was only a matter of time before the best-selling BMW model got its own Gran Turismo version.
Gran Turismo, as we all know, is a European term for ‘the grand tour’, which means high-tailing it around the Continent in comfort and style, and preferably at a break neck pace.
To this end, BMW made the 5 Series GT, which was actually a 7 Series platform with a raised roof and a big hatchback rear, plus fold-down seats for more utility. We recently tested the revised version in Munich and came away impressed with the car’s new-found handling and ride prowess.
The 3 Series GT has a less convoluted evolution: it’s simply a 3 Series Touring with a higher roof and more space between the wheels. At 4.82-metres long, 1.83-metres wide and 1.51-metres high, the 3 GT is much longer (20cm), a tad wider and eight centimetres higher than the station wagon it’s based upon. To put that into perspective, that’s only 7cm short of the current F10 5 Series and both cars are larger than the first-gen 7 Series.
That size translates to plenty of room. There’s enough acreage to kick back and cross your legs in the rear, but while airspace is generous in the front, the sloping rear section of the car, which also gives it a much sleeker on the road stance than the 5 GT, means taller passengers shouldn’t jump around in the back.
Boot space is also very good, at 520-litres, some 25-litres more than the Touring thanks to a taller roof, and the rear seats fold down (also via remote handles in the back) to accommodate a total of 1,600-litres of cargo. Compare this to 480-litres on the sedan, and that equates to a lot of room and flexibility.
The best thing is, the 3 GT neither looks nor feels as big as its dimensions suggest. The best cars use clever packaging to maximise interior room – the Harry Potter-like Honda Jazz is a great example, as is the upcoming BMW i3. Stroll up to the 3 GT in the car park and it seems like nothing’s amiss – maybe this effect is heightened given the test car’s grey paintwork, but the car blends in on the road and evinces no curious stares.
But you have to pay the tally man somehow, and at 1,725kg, some 140kg weightier than the standard sedan, some of the quintessential 3 Series magic is lost in translation. We don’t mean the 3 GT is a bad drive by any means. The base 3 Series is already the best driving machine in its class, but GT-ing it has its price.
We didn’t have the chance to push the car as we’ve done on the regular sedan, but dynamically it feels like, for lack of a better description, slower, less agile version of the sedan. That supportive all-conquering confidence and capability is somewhat lessened as the steering response is less, the ride a little busier.
The sterling ‘35i’ drivetrain has already proved its worth in numerous other machines, and gives the car serious pace and drivability thanks to its super-torquey and flexible nature. More weight and size dips efficiency from 7.2 to 7.7L/100km, but drive it like a well-behaved citizen and it’s relatively frugal.
It’s still enjoyable with the stonking drivetrain and basic 3 Series accuracy, but if you’re 1. A keen driver and 2.Have tried the regular 3 Series, you may find it hard to justify the extra space and practicality.
And that’s exactly the point. As a long distance tourer, the basic sedan is still the better choice (it’s good to drive everywhere and anywhere). A 3 Series Touring will do everything the GT does, and better, in terms of cargo carrying, but the extra space for humans is what will convince buyers of the GT’s viability.
BMW 335i Gran Turismo
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2,979cc, 24V, turbo in-line 6
Power 306bhp at 5,800rpm
Torque 400Nm at 1200-5000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100kmh 5.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Price $320,800 with COE
Also Consider: Audi A5 Sportback, Volkswagen Passat CC
For more information flip to the CarBuyer Guide