I remember back when BMW first announced the 3 Series Gran Turismo model and I thought that this was going to be a train wreck given the reaction to the 5 Series variant. For the 3 Series line-up you may be even more confused since you can still get a Sportswagon in 2014 as well. What was BMW thinking?
If you talk to BMW, their goal with the 3 Series GT is to offer a 3 Series that offers extra space in a versatile car that cannot be confused with a station wagon. Yes, there is a segment of buyers that want the utility of a station wagon but cannot fathom the idea of owning one. This generally applies to the United States market since customers in Europe love their wagons.
So what is the GT really? It is essentially the long wheel base 3 Series that is traditionally sold in the Chinese market with a raised seating position and larger rear trunk. The GT shares the same general lines with the sedan but is quite noticeably bigger. The biggest difference is the 9 inches of extra length that the GT has over the sedan, the addition of the side "Air Breather" and an Active Rear Spoiler that extends at 68mph and retracts when back under 43mph.
The Gran Turismo we were test driving was the more powerful 335i variant that is powered by BMW's 6-Cylinder TwinPower Turo motor. This is the same motor found In most other 35i BMWs and provides roughly 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque to propel the car down the roadway. The 335i GT gives you a pleasant 50.2 / 49.8 weight distribution but it does top the scales at 4,010 pounds. This is compared to a standard 335i sedan that weighs in at about 3,700 pounds and the 328i Sportswagon at 3,780 pounds. Clearly, this car needs more power for the added weight.
Our Estoril Blue 335i GT was outfitted with BMW's fantastic 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, an amazing Harmon Kardon 16 speaker sound system , BMW Navigation System with touchpad controls and M Sport line. The M Sport line adds in an aggressive aerodynamic kit, M Sport Steering Wheel, 18" M Sport Wheels, Sport Seats and optional Dakota Leather. The M Sport line is almost a must have if you want your car to have a more sporty look.
The first thing I noticed after pulling the 3 Series GT out onto some back roads was that the car felt just like every other 3 Series from behind the wheel. You forgot about the fact that the car is so much bigger and the only way you remember you are in a GT is probably the slightly higher seating position. This can be good or bad depending on your personal opinion but generally it didn't impact my overall impression of the car either way.
After finally getting away from the populated areas, I had a chance to get on the gas and take the GT through some of the twisty roads to see how it handled. The 300 horsepower motor was more than enough to see how smoothly the GT handled the back roads and to see just how quickly you could pull through the turns. Amazing enough, the GT seemed to handle quite well albeit a bit numb at times like has been reported on the 3 Series sedan.
Where the 3 Series GT really shines is when it comes to the sheer amount of space inside the car for both passengers and storage. The most noticeable difference was the amount of space that you have in the rear seats for carry extra passengers. The difference was night and day and on a trip with the back seat full, you will probably have back seat passengers with a little less to complain about. For those of you with kids, the fitment of a rear facing car seat would be much easier with the extra space and it would be that much harder for little legs kicking the back of your seat while you drive. Cargo space was also more than ample with a 40:20:40 rear seat split coming standard and a plethora of options on how to maximize the cargo area. If you are looking at taking long trips with a lot of cargo or with multiple people in the back seat , the 3 Series GT may be what you have been looking for.
Is the 3 Series Gran Turismo Worth Buying
If you are considering this car, the biggest question that you will run into is probably whether the GT or the Sportswagon (read our first drive impressions now) fits your needs better. It might be a tough choice given that they are both excellent driving cars that start at the exact same price of $41,450 for the 328i versions.
The most obvious reasons I could see for buying the 3 Series GT would be those buyers who want the additional power of the 6-Cylinder motor that is not currently offered in the Sportswagon or those buyers who can't imagine the idea of driving a station wagon. Both cars have very good storage options but the GT will win in terms of versatility.
The Gran Turismo is a very interesting addition to the 3 Series line-up and I do believe BMW will see some good sales numbers from this decision. I do not feel like this car will be something that will convince a 3 Series Sedan owner to move up to a GT but it may be a serious option for a current 5 Series owner to consider, especially given the lack of a 5 Series wagon in the United States.
If it were me, I would skip the GT and go with the 328i xDrive Sportswagon. I spent a week with the Sportswagon a couple months ago and enjoyed it so much that my previously negative view on wagons was turned around.
Go test drive both cars and decide for yourself.
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