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BMWBLOG Test Drive: 2014 BMW 335i xDrive GT

Featured Posts, Test Drives | September 16th, 2013 by 19
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MY2014 marks the launch of the all-new F34 chassis BMW 3 Series GT. BMW North America were kind enough to invite us up to the …

MY2014 marks the launch of the all-new F34 chassis BMW 3 Series GT. BMW North America were kind enough to invite us up to the winding, circuitous roads that stretch between Seattle, WA and the Canadian border to give this latest entry to the 3 Series family a go.

Interestingly, a little bird mentioned to us that while the BMW 3 Series GT is an all-new entry in the United States, the basis for the car is actually around the long wheelbase 3 Series – a notable player for BMW from the Chinese market. Beyond the elongated wheelbase, which affords a massive amount of legroom in the rear of the car, the exterior design cues curiously lift from both the 3 Series and newly emerging 4 Series. Boomerang styling cues flank each front wheel well ala the 4 Series. While it still has the slight “tacked on” hunchback appearance – is this now the modern Bangle butt? – with the large rear hatch like its large brother, the 5 GT, BMW have managed to better integrate this feature into the overall styling of the F34.

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Upon exiting the lobby of our hotel and dipping into the darkened valet stand I caught the first glance of the 3 Gran Turismo for the first time in person and found it instantly more appealing than the 5 Series GT. However, it wouldn’t be until a few hours later that I would get some time both behind the wheel and in the back seat to see which was the best place to be in the 3 Series GT.

Driving Impressions

After a morning jaunt in a 2013 BMW M6 Competition Package and narrowly avoiding a ticket from the fierce Washington State Patrol, my driving partner and I took a decidedly reduced pace vis-a-vis a 335i xDrive Gran Turismo in the sexy Estoril Blue by way of the optional M Sport line. Beyond the striking color, M Sport brings 18 inch Style 400M wheels, and generally everything else festooned with M badging but the standout piece being the M aero kit which escalates the aggressive nose of the F34.

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2014 BMW M5 Competition Package and M6 Competition Package-33bmw-335i-xdrive-gt-review-image

I offered to take the first stint and slipped into the Venetian Beige Dakota Leather driver’s seat and thumbed the Start/Stop button – noting the surprisingly quiet turnover of the N55 TwinPower turbocharged inline-six. We crept out of the River Meadows Park, our first rendezvous point, and onward North towards the US-Canadian border as the morning fog surrounding Seattle began to burn off. Confined to slower back roads, we took a more leisurely pace. Noting the relative comfort and striking similarity to the F30’s interior while trying to get acclimated to the elevated seating position – though most anything will feel elevated when stepping from the cockpit-like interior of the M6. At the controls, I found the steering to feel light, perhaps a touch lighter than the F30’s. As our speed climbed a bit, the steering firmed up somewhat thanks in part to the optional variable speed as well as switching Dynamic Control to Sport and Sport+ mode.

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At speed, the BMW 335i xDrive GT proved to be more accurate than initial feedback through the wheel would have led me to believe. Turn in for a corner and electric steering proved to be accurate and easy to correct when exiting a turn. As always, the 8-Speed ZF gearbox was a perfect pairing for snapping off rapid gear changes but even better when left to its own devices to choose shift points for you in Sport mode – allowing for a satisfying hold of each gear before continuing upward.

Overall, the suspension felt compliant and never let the 3 GT put a wheel wrong even on the occasionally less than perfectly even back roads of the Pacific Northwest. Through the bends, thanks to the adaptive suspension from the M Sport line coupled with the Dynamic Handling Package, body roll was kept to a minimum with the N55 motor providing enough poke to quickly propel us down the road to the next corner.

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Everything was good, then, it seemed.

But not quite.

The 335i xDrive Gran Turismo is a good car overall, a jack of all trades but doesn’t champion any one area. Dynamically, the 3 GT falls somewhere between an F30 3 Series Sedan and F10 5 Series Sedan– not as communicative or fun as an F30 but not quite as remote as an F10. Paired with xDrive and the additional weight of the deep rear cargo area, the N55 feels like the right engine pairing while the N20( I was unable to drive the N20-powered F34) could potentially be a bit underpowered for the chassis. The ride height is a bit awkward as well, sitting somewhere between a 3 Series and an X3. From the driver’s seat the 3 Series GT just doesn’t quite get me to a point of buying into the Ultimate Driving Machine moniker.

For that reason, I decided to change my perspective on things.

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As my stint as driver came to an end, we pulled off at a small roadside dinner for one of the pre-determined driver swap points. Disappointed in the results I was finding in the front seat, I moved my 6’4 (193cm) frame to the rear passenger side seat and stretched out as my driving partner got comfy upfront before tearing off down the road, inching us closer to the US-Canada border and most importantly, lunch along the Washington coastline.

The rear seats of the 3 GT proved a more compelling place to be. Ensconced in the lightly bolstered rear seat, I felt as though I was positioned slightly above the driver’s line of sight giving excellent visibility both throughout the cabin and outside the car. Just ahead of me, my feet lay, outstretched and happy to be free of the pedal box of the driver’s seat. After a morning either driving or riding it was a nice change of pace to sit in relative comfort in the 3 GT and begin to take better note of our surroundings.

The latter half of the morning was spent bombing along curvaceous back roads as we would climb and fall back toward the valley floor under a canopy of tree tops. Despite the corner carving going in the front seat, I was able to relax a bit and start taking in the nicer accoutrement of the F34 – notably the Harman Kardon 16 speaker, 600W sound system that created a mini-symphony in the back seat, easily overpowering the low pitch of the N55’s exhaust as my driving partner hustled the 3 GT along the back roads of Northern Washington.

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As we glided into the Chrysalis Inn in Bellingham,WA I had mixed feelings about the 335i xDrive GT. While, as a passenger it is a wonderful place to be in the back seat, wafted around with acres of legroom and leather surrounding you. The 3 GT is, like its larger sibling, an ideal car for couples vacationing. It can swallow up luggage and comfortably carry four adults for hours without leaving them worse for wear. With the help of the Technology Package, the F34 3 Series GT will even help them get there as they stream music through an iPhone integrated into the recently improved iDrive.

Should I Buy One?

This car feels perfect for empty nesters – but that demographic is perhaps not looking for the Ultimate Driving Machine and maybe that’s OK when it comes to the somewhat lackluster fun factor of the 3 Series GT. However, the car we tested easily clocked in right at the $60,000 barrier when you consider it came equipped with the M Sport line, Dynamic Handling Package, Technology Package and Premium Package in addition to the M Sport Brakes. For my money, BMW has other options that provide a better balance of performance, comfort and technology at perhaps a lower pricing point – give me a 428i or even a lowly optioned X5 xDrive30d.

I’m not the target demographic for this vehicle – but there is a market for it – and that’s why I’ll be recommending it to my parents who are in the market for this type of BMW.

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  • Daniel Campos

    Is that an M3 Sedan with the yellow calipers? Hmmmm….

    • Truong Giang

      M5

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  • Giom

    I’m glad you ended your article with that statement Andrew. BMW can’t be all things to all ppl, but when you’re the demographic, that car will suit you like a glove. We must remember that the GT range of cars was never intended as volume products, rather as niche mashines. Their sales, in that regard, is doing very well, I understand.

    I still don’t have a problem with the 5 GT, though, I have to say that the 3 GT better looking. I havn’t seen the updated 5 GT, but the reworked rear seems to be an improvement – although taking away some of it’s uniqueness.

    Jumping from an M6 into this car was probably not a good thing for you guys, but you handled the reporting commendably!

    • Murph

      Thanks Giom! It’s a good car as a passenger but I just wasn’t won over by it’s driver-oriented dynamics. Tough to go from an M6 to anything! did the same the following day in an M5 to a 428i

  • fredyschiftan@aol.com

    I think its a very good looking car, its good for a family that does not want a SUV , younger people will go for a Coupe , BMW has a car for every taste !!!!

  • bent635

    This was quite the thing to stumble across in my quiet little part of the PNW, never thought I would see whole fleet of new BMWs at the Rusty Wagon north of Bellingham. I was glad I got to bring out my e24 as well and share something most people never get to see in person even as a BMW enthusiasts.
    Peter Z.

    • Murph

      Peter – good to see you and your E24 – very cool to have an old and new 6 on hand. We should actually have some photos of both your 635 and the M6 in an upcoming article.

  • CDspeed

    I own a 550i Gran Turismo, it’s been one of my favorite cars I bought it after trading in my X5 4.8 and was not disappointed. I’ve always felt like I got a 7-series fastback SAV, or a great luxury sport sedan with cargo versatility wrapped up in a sleek body as apposed to my big boxy X5. I really like the 3GT, the one wish I’ve had for my 5GT is I wish it weighed less, you can tell it’s heavy when you brake. So I think the 3GT is perfect, it’s sportier looking, it has tons of leg room, great cargo capacity, and the sport sedan handling you expect from a 3-series.

    • Murph

      The 550i GT handles well for its size and can be fun to drive but I think most people have a hard time getting beyond the styling. Those who love the GT absolutely love – it seems to be very divisive.

      • CDspeed

        I’ve always thought that the 5GT’s styling was unfairly judged, because when it premiered people tried to compare it to the Mercedes CLS and it kept that early reputation. I knew it wasn’t a CLS competitor it was easy to see, but at the time the 6-series Gran Coupe did not exist so I think people thought BMW messed up. But it’s higher roofline means I’ve never hit my head like I did test driving a CLS and I have had people stop me to tell me how good looking they thought the car was.

        • Murph

          While I agree that the 5 GT has long had an unjustly bad reputation/perception – I do think BMW missed the mark on styling when you compare the 5 GT to the Audi A7. As a BMW enthusiast, I see where BMW is going with the 5 GT and give props for that – the 5 GT is a great car to ride in. But I think the general perception is they missed the mark where perhaps the A7 really nailed it. I don’t think the GT as a vehicle needs to die off but retooling it in the next generation(lowering ride height, better integration of the rear hatch) would do wonders for sales.
          Unfortunately, at the end of the day that’s what it will always be about.

          • CDspeed

            Though the A7 is also a hatchback it’s still more CLS like then 5GT. The 5GT is more of a 5-series hatchback meant to bridge the gap between the 5 sedan and X5 while being sportier then the 5 Touring.

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  • gadrunner

    Thanks for the report, as you mentioned not the car for everyone. However, the perfect car for my wife. She bought the 4 cylinder, 328xdriveGT and took dleivery in December.
    She considered the 328D and the new 4 series as well. She just loves the GT body, interior volume, and driving position. Her car is loaded and I feel well worth the money. She also likes the GT because not everyone will have one.
    By the way, we live in Germany (US spec vehicle) and have enjoyed and average of 30MPG Plus with average speed of 75MPH on our last 3 hour trip. Bottom speed of around 60MPH and top speed of 100MPH.

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