BMW will launch its new 3 GT at the upcoming Auto Expo in February. A roomier version of its 3-series saloon, this car promises to deliver plenty of space and comfort in a 3-series-sized package. But just how good is it? And is it worth the extra amount over the regular 3; prices are expected to start at around Rs 43 lakh. We got to spend a day behind the wheel and were immediately impressed by the breadth of its talents. It's not a traditional Bimmer for sure, but its strengths are so well matched to the requirements of Indian customers, BMW could be on to something here.
For starters, it’s not what you’d expect. It's called a 3-series GT but it looks very little like a regular 3 from most angles. Even less in the flesh. The handsome nose is fuller and more exaggerated, the roofline that leaps over to the rear is a big, bulbous arc and the elongated rear of the car is completely different. It's not strictly attractive to look at from most angles, but then neither is it unattractive. What BMW has done well is disguise how big this car is on the inside.
There's more space up front, much more legroom in the rear and, to top it off, it has a massive 500-plus-litre boot. To give you this additional space, BMW has had to lengthen the wheelbase of the regular 3. The GT is considerably longer than the regular car, and heavier too. Also, it has a lift back or a hatch at the rear, just like a Skoda Superb, which makes getting luggage in and out extremely easy. BMW has raised the GT’s ride height for added practicality.
So is it much more comfortable on the inside? First impressions, especially from the front seat, are a bit confusing. You are sat more upright and vertical space has been used well to deliver more legroom, but because the dash is similar to a regular 3-series, it doesn't feel so different. However, in the back, where it really matters, there’s much more of a difference. There's plenty of additional legroom, the more upright seat has better thigh support and you can recline the backrest as well. What's also nice is that ingress and egress is easier, due to the higher seating position. The big central tunnel does make it difficult for the centre passenger to get comfortable though.
Of course, nothing good comes without a cost, so this car doesn't really drive like a 3-series. In isolation and in comparison to the competition, it will still be very competitive, but it just doesn't steer as sweetly as a 3-series. And that 'connected BMW feel' you get from behind the wheel of a regular 3 is missing. Still, the steering is really accurate and there's no hesitation or reluctance when you ask the car to turn into a corner. Also impressive are the brakes. Pedal feel is good, there's plenty of bite and that gives you a lot of confidence. It’s just that the rear of the car doesn't feel as locked down and as secure. The additional weight, higher ground clearance and long wheelbase rob it of the extra agility. It's clear the setup is more for relaxed driving and straight-line stability.
As a result, the suspension feels surprisingly comfortable. There's a degree of suppleness that's quite welcome and the cabin remains pretty isolated from the road as well. Only large bumps and really bad craters register as a thud.
BMW will bring the GT 320d first to India and that will be followed by the 328i. We drove the latter and are happy to report that BMW's large hearted petrol four felt as zesty and as punchy as ever. The additional torque of the turbocharged direct-injection motor helped handle the extra weight of the GT pretty easily and the 328i never felt lacking in grunt. It doesn't feel as quick as a regular 328i for sure, but cleverly chosen ratios on the superlative eight-speed gearbox help you access the power in the mid-range and top-end so easily, you almost never miss having a large capacity straight-six under the hood.
BMW's 3 GT is really well suited to the Indian market, especially if you are going to be sat in the back. It has more space, is easier to get in and out of, and looks and feels like a larger car. Almost as nice to drive as a regular 3, it has adequate performance, good handling and even rides well. All 3-series buyers will need to do now is decide if they want sporty or slightly more expensive and spacious, it's as simple as that.
Installation front, longitudinal
Type 4 cyls, 1995cc, common-rail turbo diesel / 4cyl, 1997cc, direct injection turbo petrol
Power 181bhp at 4000rpm / 241bhp at 5000-6500rpm
Torque 38.74kgm at 1750-2750rpm / 35.69kgm at 1250-4800rpm
Gearbox 8-speed auto
Chassis & Body
Tyres 225/55 R17
Front Independent, MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar
Rear Independent, multi-link, anti-roll bar