The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo: A grand twist

Jun 15, 2014, 09:24 IST | Amit Chhangani

The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is a well-executed spinoff of its donor platform and one of the best premium machines you can buy today. Here’s why

Despite sharing a part of its name with the legendary 3-series nameplate, the GT isn’t just a slightly different looking iteration of the car model. It’s a substantially different product with extensive changes made to the chassis, design and features of the sedan body type. So much is the difference between the 3-series sedan and the Gran Turismo that a new shape of headlights for the latter would probably have made it pass as an entirely new model. And the good news is, it’s all for the better, as the GT presents itself as a more practical product, with an uncanny suitability to the Indian market. Let’s explore the wonders of this intriguing machine, representing an unusual body type.

Design and appearance
Except for the headlamps (which too are slightly bigger), the 3-series GT has hardly any similarities with the sedan variant. The creases on the bonnet are different — smoother than the sedan, in our opinion. The bumper is all-new, featuring a slim, but wide central air dam, flanked by faux air intakes on the flanks, which also double up as black housings for the fog lamps, lined with chrome.

The GT interior, typical of all BMWs, is an epitome of functionality, quality and workmanship

Open the car’s doors with their rimless windows, and they transform this otherwise average -looking car into a glamorous machine. The coupe-styled, gently falling roofline and large tailgate define the distinctive profile character of the car. There’s a signature vent in the front fender, behind the wheel, facilitating BMW’s Air Curtain technology to reduce the turbulence around the wheels.

The leg space is mind boggling for a car in this segment, and at this price point

Horizontally aligned elements, a big rear hatch and the sporty looking spoiler dominate the rear look. The active spoiler on the GT is the first ever on a BMW car. It rises up at speeds above 70km/h and sets down at lower speeds automatically. It can also be deployed manually using a button on driver side-door panel. The familiar L-shaped BMW tail-lights are slightly different to the ones on the sedan.

The 3-series Gran Turismo looks bigger and arguably has more road presence than the 3 series sedan. However, as mentioned earlier, it isn’t the most striking looking cars around.

Engine and performance
The 320d GT in India is powered by the familiar 2.0-litre, 4 cylinder turbo diesel unit. The engine produces a very healthy 186bhp of power at 4000 rpm and an impressive peak torque of 380 Nm between 1750 and 2750 rpm. Those figures are good to propel this big machine from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 8 seconds. That’s not as quick as some of the more expensive Bimmers, but still swift enough to put a vast majority of cars in the rear view mirror with ease. Top speed is a fast 230 km/h.

The engine is paired with BMW’s well known 8-speed transmission doing duty on several other models from the maker. Swift, smooth and extremely intelligent, the transmission works beautifully and doesn’t leave anything to be desired in real world conditions. Manual shifts can be made via the drive selector, though no pedal shifters are available here. Driver can choose between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport modes. Eco Pro mode ensures maximum efficiency with early upshifts and intelligent use of Stop/Start system. Comfort mode is relaxed, with relatively lighter steering. Sport mode tightens everything up, loads up the steering, sharpens the transmission and gets the car ready for action.

The 320d GT offers punchy performance for real world use, with great fuel efficiency and fantastic refinement. This engine transmission combination has proved to be a winner for the Indian conditions, and the story is no different on the 320d GT.

Cabin and comfort
At 4,824 mm long, 1,489 mm tall, 1,828 mm wide and with a 2,920-millimetre wheelbase, the new BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo is notably larger than the 3-Series sedan. With an extra 70 mm of legroom at the rear seat, the GT beats the much more expensive 5-series for roominess. True to its nomenclature, the GT has been designed to let its occupants travel long distance in supreme comfort. Boot space is generous too at 520 litres.

The 520 litre boot can be extended to 1,600 litres. Provision of a space saver spare wheel is welcome

The 3 GT is also a taller car, with a relatively higher seating. This allows a better view out and makes entry and exit significantly easier. The Gran Turismo also offers better headroom than the sedan. The rear seat backrests are fitted with folding head restraints and can be split 40:20:40.

Ride quality is surprisingly comfortable for a BMW, and just like the 3-series sedan, the Gran Turismo, too, offers an absolutely smashing blend of compliant ride and exciting, dependable handling. The ride is decidedly softer and more comfortable than the sedan, which is slightly sharper around the corners.

The active spoiler goes up above 70km/hr to reduce lift and ensure optimum traction. It can be deployed using buttons too

The driver-focused layout of the centre console allows comfortable access to all driving functions. There is a freestanding iDrive hi-res screen on the dashboard. BMW iDrive comes loaded with the BMW Live feature which has several useful apps available for download. Feature list, though not as generous as some of the bigger models from the brand, is quite impressive, and the 3 GT in the Luxury Line trim offers itself as a liberally equipped machine.

After driving the 3 series GT for more than 500 km in a day — the kind of distance the car was built to cover at a single stretch, we were astounded by the comfort and space offered by this machine for the price. At about Rs 42 lakh ex-showroom, the GT is about R5 lakh more expensive than the 3 series sedan, and Rs 7 lakh less than the 5 series. But here’s the thing — it’s got more space than the 5 series, and it’s cheaper. It’s big, it’s well equipped, it’s comfortable, it handles well, and it’s got decent road presence. We honestly believe that it’s probably the best way to spend Rs 42 lakh if an all-rounder premium family car is what you are looking for.

BMW 320 GT: Rs 42 lakh (ex-showroom price)

Bells and whistles
>> Panoramic sunroof
>> Active rear spoiler
>> Cornering brake control
>> Power tailgate
>> Hi-resolution central display
>> BMW Live
>> Park drive control
>> Hi-performance audio system
>> Brake energy recuperation
>> Frameless doors
>> Headlight Washer System
>> Rain and light sensors
>> Electronic Immobiliser

Technical specs
Engine — 2.0 litre, 4 cyl turbo diesel
Power — 186 bhp @ 4000 rpm
Torque — 380 Nm @ 1750 - 2750 rpm
Acceleration — 0 to 100 km/h - 7.9 seconds
Top speed — 230 km/h

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