New test driving reviews of the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo emerge from Sicily. Yesterday we had a chance to look at the positive review given by Autocar and today we have two more test drive impressions by AutoExpress and What a Car.
The 3 Series has always been the most engaging car in its class to drive, so it’s a worry when BMW reveals it has softened up the suspension in the GT to improve comfort. A quick drive is all it takes to reveal the 3 Series hasn’t lost too much of its magic, though – so long as you opt for the three-stage adjustable M Sport dampers (£750).
Yes, there’s a fraction more body roll in comfort mode than the saloon, but select Sport and you still get a really crisp turn-in, combined with better-weighted, communicative steering and an agile chassis. The easiest way to allay any fears about the handling is to say it feels a lot like a 3 Series saloon, albeit one that’s lost a fraction of its sharpness. It still grips hard and feels more fun than an Audi A5 Sportback down a twisty road.
But focusing on high-speed agility is missing the point, the 3 GT’s trump card is its comfort. What it loses in handling to the saloon and Touring, it makes up for with an impeccable ride. On the 18-inch wheels of our test car it gently cushions the driver from large bumps and softens out ups and downs far better than any other 3 Series.
There’s absolutely no doubt the 3 Series GT has its place in the range but all this extra luxury does come at a price. Our 320d GT – at £31,310 – commands a premium of £2,900 over the saloon and £1,600 over the Touring. That’s a substantial increase, but then no other car offers the GT’s mix of comfort, space and driver engagement. The A5 Sportback comes close, but it’s far less spacious and costs about the same as the BMW.
On that basis, there’s a solid argument for opting for the 3 GT over one of its rivals. But, buyers looking for a 3 Series will still have the temptation of the cheaper saloon and Touring models to consider, and that – as it was with the 5 Series GT – could well be its downfall.
What’s the 2013 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo like to drive?
It might be more practical than a 3 Series Touring, but the Gran Turismo isn’t as sharp to drive.
All of our test cars were equipped with adaptive M Sport suspension (a £750 option), which allows you to vary the stiffness of the shock absorbers. However, even in ‘Sport’ mode, body movements aren’t especially well controlled. This is not all that surprising, given the GT’s relatively high centre of gravity.
This isn’t a car that relishes quick changes of direction, then, but once settled in a corner there is at least plenty of grip.
You’re better off leaving the suspension in ‘Comfort’ mode, because although this means body control is even sloppier, you do benefit from a smoother ride. Sharp-edged bumps still tend to send jolts through the cabin at lower speeds, but high-speed comfort is impressive.
It’s just a shame you can’t combine the more reassuring weight you get from the steering in ‘Sport’ mode with the more forgiving ‘Comfort’ suspension setting. Whichever mode you choose, there’s also a considerable amount of road- and suspension noise over coarse surfaces, and the wind can be heard whistling past the door mirrors at motorway speeds.
The 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel isn’t the quietest four-cylinder engine we’ve tried, but it combines decent performance with fairly low CO2 emissions of 129g/km (the equivalent 3 Series Touring emits 125g/km).
We also tried the range-topping 335i model. Its 302bhp six-cylinder engine delivers seriously strong acceleration and an equally impressive soundtrack. Unsurprisingly, though, fuel economy isn’t quite so spectacular.
Both versions we drove were fitted with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox. Our experience with the 3 Series saloon and Touring versions suggests this £1525 option is definitely worth considering, because the auto ‘box shifts smoothly and lets you accelerate gently from low revs without changing down unnecessarily early.