When BMW set out to build a Gran Turismo variant of the 3 Series, one could have surmised that it would turn out to be like a smaller version of the 5-Series GT. But just lay eyes on this new 3er GT and you know that you’re in store for something completely different.
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First off, though, we should be judging this car as an addition to the 3 Series range and not necessarily comparing it to its larger sibling. But it doesn’t really look like a 3-Series either now, does it? The 3 Series GT is larger than the standard 3er in all respects. It’s wider, longer by 200 mm, has a stretched wheelbase (by 110 mm) and is taller too. Essentially, this car is its own model that just happens to be called the 3-Series GT.
So what impresses first is how roomy the car is. You can see those extra wheelbase centimeters in the legroom available to rear passengers (75 mm more) and the physical stance the car takes is deceiving, looking like a slick coupe almost, with a soft sloping fastback line that doesn’t give away how big the trunk really is. This is in contrast to the bulky-looking back end of a 5-Series GT.
Open that fastback tailgate and you have 520 liters of luggage space, which triples to 1,600 liters with the rear seats down. Sit inside, and you notice the extra headroom over the standard 3-Series. The driving position also feels just slightly raised compared to its 3-Series brethren, although, it is actually a full 59 mm, which makes it easy to see all around you. It’s a big car but the GT refuses to give you any sense of bloatedness. It’s like its dimensions make perfect sense.
On the Road
Once you sit yourself down behind the wheel of this 328i GT Modern Line, you have to stick with the notion that this is an independent BMW item. Of course, being larger and heavier, it’s not going to handle like the sedan or Touring, but the GT does give you a ride worthy of a Gran Turismo-branded car. Throw this thing into corners and it responds with a confident balance of rigidity and give. The GT aims to keep you comfortable while still providing a sporty feel through the relatively taught steering and suspension. And you can really feel the difference between the 4 drive modes. Put this thing in Sport mode and it can rage in its own way. What the 328i GT lacks in excitement, it certainly makes up for in a more subtle type of ride that still keeps you satisfied.
But aside from Gran Turismo comfort and space, the engine here is its own delight. Coupled with the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, the 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbo has a refreshing maturity to it. The powerplant also delivers great fuel economy – 6.4 liters/100 km – although to achieve that you have to do a considerable amount of your driving in Eco mode where the throttle goes leaden and has the engine punching below its weight. Keeping it mostly in Comfort and Sport mode, and pushing the car at times to test its handling, I got away with a real-world fuel-economy of 8.4 liters/100 km.
Output on the 2.0 liter turbo is 180 kW / 245 PS (241 bhp) with a torque rating of 350 Nm (258 lb-ft). That provides plenty of heave for this GT, especially with full torque already coming online at 1,250 rpm. The engine is quiet and supple and you would think technology had jumped ahead about 10 years. You have to remind yourself that this is a 2.0 liter, four-cylinder engine and BMW has done such a crafty engineering job with the twin-scroll turbo here that it’s difficult to describe its workings. Loath to sound cliched and repetitive, but this feels like a natural-breathing 3.0 liter unit. This is the perfect option for those who truly prefer petrols over diesels even if today’s BMW diesels are some of the best and quietest in the world.
This was our summer vacation ride and I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. I even got used to the frameless doors, which I had never liked before. We took the car to the resort town of Ascona in Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland. Of course, the 3-Series GT fit right in there alongside more expensive fare from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Sizing it up against the competition, the 3-Series GT really looks luxurious in a way that’s above its class and going beyond its 3-Series roots.
Crossing the Alps, the car made our mountain driving dreamy, the GT simply floating up and over the passes, swinging gently around each switchback (done in Sport mode). The small rear spoiler raising itself and providing some extra stability on the speedy autobahn stretches. Also looking pretty cool too. A car with an identity that provides a unique driver experience.
- A good alternative to a 5-Series
- The 2.0 liter turbo petrol is superb
- An abiding travel companion