Most people might not be aware but BMW is the world leader in the luxury car segment when it comes to sales. The fantastic global performance of the Bavarian automaker has much to do with its penchant to create new segments. The premium compact SUV segment started with the X1 while the first SUV coupe was seen in the form of the X6. Then there was the 5-Series GT, an unexplored niche which paid off so well that BMW went ahead and made the 3-Series GT. Costing as much as a standard 5-Series and not giving the sharpest of first impressions, we weren’t a big fan of the 3GT, until now. The 3-Series GT slots write between the regular 3-Series sedan and the X3 SUV, but it offers the best of both worlds, or so we found out.
So what exactly is the 3 Series GT? Well, from the look of things, it is a BMW 3 Series sedan that has been given a different roofline and a notchback boot. The coupe-esque profile of the 3 Series GT combined with a large boot opening usually found on the likes of a station wagon would seem like the ideal recipe for a beautiful yet uncannily practical automobile. Sadly though, just like its bigger predecessor, the 5 GT, there is something just slightly disjointed about the design of the 3 GT. That said, it does a far better job presenting itself and does manage to turn a head or two on the road. The 3 Series GT looks particularly nice when viewed from the front, with its slightly larger grille finished in gloss black and a sporty bumper.
The 3 Series GT, based on the regular 3 Series platform does employ a few smart tricks to make itself more aerodynamically efficient. There are gills in the front bumper that let air pass through them creating a pressure difference between the front tyre and the wheel arches adding to high speed stability on roads like the Autobahn or our very own expressways. The 3 Series GT is also the first BMW that employs an electronic spoiler on the tailgate, which can be operated through a button next to the driver’s seat. Another thing that did impress us were the 18-inch wheels that came on the press demonstrator. Not only are they a treat to look at, the overall design also seems to hark back to the multispoke alloy wheels found on the likes of the BMW 635CSi of the early 80’s. The 18-inch wheels though still manage to look small, especially on the rear due to the large mass area of the rear quarter panels.
The 3 Series GT, although based on the 3 Series platform is much bigger than the sedan. Notably, the GT is 200mm longer and 17mm wider and has a 25mm higher ground clearance. The 3 Series GT also has a whopping 110mm longer wheelbase than the 3 Series sedan. The end result of course is a car that is noticeably roomier than the standard sedan. In fact, BMW claims that the 3 Series GT is roomier than a 5 Series, especially in terms of leg and knee space. As we mentioned earlier, the boot is a whole lot bigger too and with the notchback or hatchback like tailgate, access too is a doddle. The rear seats, which fold down with a 60:40 per cent split increase the boot capacity from a large 520 litres to a humongous 1600 litres.
Inside too, the GT feels plush. Though the driver-centric dashboard with the analog instrument cluster is not the latest in the market, it is still ergonomic and practical. It is intuitive and put together quite well. It also falls in line with BMW’s reputation of making high quality interiors. The front seats come with electric adjustment, making it easy to find a comfortable position. The rear seat is however, the piece-de-resistance – which will truly keep its occupants happy. There is a lot of room for two people and the seat is nicely reclined for comfort. A third person sitting in the same row might feel slightly cramped as far as leg-room goes, due to the high transmission tunnel.
With add-on features, the GT is now on a better footing. There is a new gear selector and iDrive controller paired to an 8.8-inch screen which displays all the vehicle data and infotainment options. You may be assured of a nearly unlimited music playback during road trips thanks to the 20GB on-board data storage and nine-speaker system. The easy-to-use BMW apps provide a whole load of useful information. The parking system gives a clear view thanks to a well-appointed rear-view camera. As with new BMWs, the GT also gets two cup-holders in the center console, many storage places and roomy bins on the door to hold large bottles. The boot space, at 520 litres, is by far the largest in any 3 Series and provides even more space when the rear seats are folded flat with the pull of a lever. The GT is well-equipped with safety features too, most of which are similar to what is present in BMW’s other models eight airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, ESP and ISOFIX child-seat mounts.
The same 2.0-litre 4-pot diesel powers the 3-Series GT, there is no change in engine output. The mill continues to belt out 184 HP of peak power at 4000 RPM and 380 Nm of peak torque between 1750-2750 RPM, that’s identical to the 320d sedan. However the 3-Series GT is heavier by almost 150 kgs but that doesn’t seem apparent when you drive this practical BMW. Turbo lag is well contained and peak torque is available from as low as 1750 RPM, this does help in swift performance. Our VBOX tests confirmed the 0-100 km/hr time to be a spirited 8.17 seconds, which is quick considering this car tips the scales at a hefty 1.57 tonnes.
Although the NVH levels of this Bavarian car is good, the diesel engine is noisy, being quite audible when you push the motor around the 4800 RPM redline. It does rev fast though and reaches 100 km/hr in third gear. What really makes the 3-Series GT drive so smoothly is the flawless 8-speed ZF sourced automatic gearbox. It shifts cogs with such secrecy that you barely notice when gears change. 100 km/hr in top gear results in 1500 RPM on the tachometer so there is plenty of grunt should you want to cruise keeping the engine relaxed. With a heavy right foot, we managed to get a mileage of 10 km/l, the BMW EfficientDynamics working very well to boost mileage.
SAFETY FEATURES ;
The 2017 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo gets new features like ConnectedDrive which has BMW iDrive the on-board Driver Information system and a 22.3 cms display, BMW Navigation system Professional with 3D maps, BMW Apps, Park Distance Control (PDC), Connectivity through Bluetooth and USB/AUX IN connectivity.
In terms of safety it gets six air bags, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with brake assist, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Side-impact Protection, Runflat tyres with reinforced sidewalls, emergency spare wheel, electronic vehicle immobiliser and crash sensor.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
The GT scores well in the ride and handling department even if it’s not as good as the 3 Series. Since this is a tall car, there is a slight body roll around tight bends because of higher ground clearance and high center of gravity. Thankfully, these body movements are mild and quite controlled, allowing the car to go even faster. There is loads of grip in corners and the nicely weighted steering feels precise, inspiring confidence while tacking such bends too. Thanks to compliant suspension, bumps and rough patches are absorbed well, although sharp obstacles do send a thud through the cabin. The car also pitches and wallows over crests and joints on the highway. After all, the 165mm ground clearance is good enough for most roads, but still one will have to be slow and careful over larger bumps. All four disc brakes work well in bringing the car to a halt even though the brake pedals feel more progressive than grabby.
When we first saw the BMW 3-Series GT, we honestly thought the Bavarian automaker is making new segments pointlessly. However the car has proved us wrong. The 3-Series GT acts as a bridge between the 3-Series and 5-Series saloons and while it’s priced quite close to the latter, the amount of practicality it offers, is simply not matched by any other three box vehicle, not even the 5-Series. The 3-Series GT keeps BMW’s driver involvement but brings in a load of comfort, the cabin is huge and so is the boot. The car also boasts of an excellent ride quality and when you factor in the big picture, the 3-Series GT is so good, it starts to become an excellent alternative to bigger and more pricer sedans.