We drive the new BMW 3 GT - a more spacious and practical 3 Series, which will makes its debut at the 2014 Indian Auto Expo and will cost around Rs 45 lakh
The 5 Series GT never did well in India. It was meant to sit between the regular 5 Series and the 7 Series to plug a gap that no one saw till BMW mentioned it existed. But, the 5 GT courtesy being an import was just too expensive. It wasn't good looking either, so the aspirational bit went out the window as well. No wonder it failed.
So, it's a little surprising that BMW has decided to launch yet another GT or Gran Turismo in India. But, this time BMW is playing it right. The new GT will be relatively more affordable, and it is certainly better looking; if nothing else, its design is certainly more pleasing and harmonious than the 5 GT. However, there's one thing it still shares with the 5 GT (besides the GT suffix, of course); it too is here to plug a gap that we did not know existed, till of course BMW mentioned it. It will sit between the 3 Series and the 5 Series and therefore, it is appropriately called the 3 GT.
The 3 GT will be launched at the Auto Expo and will carry a price tag of Rs 45 lakh for the base 320d version. And it's only the 320d that will be sold in India initially followed by possibly the 328i and the top of the line 335i. Internationally, the 3 GT is also available in the 320i and the 318d guise and with all wheel drive. In India though, the 3 GT will only come in rear wheel drive form.
The 3 GT is based on the 3 Series platform but it occupies more space in all planes. It is 200mm longer and 17mm wider; it has a 25mm higher ground clearance; and it sits on a 110mm longer wheelbase than the regular 3 Series sedan. The end result is a car that is roomier than the 3 Series. Notably, the rear knee and shoulder room have increased and BMW claims the rear knee room is more than the 5 Series even. The boot is a whole lot bigger too and with a hatch like opening, it is easy to access as well. The rear seats fold (60:40) and the already large 520 litres expands to 1600 litres with the seats down.
The increase in overall interior space is obvious the moment you step in. The larger glass area and the higher seating contribute towards it. And the seats themselves are comfortable to be in. The regular 3 Series already had good seats but with higher seating on the 3 GT, the thigh support both front and back has improved. The seats are large too.
The first of the 3 GTs to be sold in India - the 320d - comes with a 4-cylinder diesel engine. The 1995cc makes 184PS and 320Nm of peak torque, which is the same as on the 3 Series sedan we have in India. The performance, as a result, is blunter compared to the 3 sedan. 0-100kmph claim for this 3 GT is 7.9 seconds and the car can manage a top speed of 230kmph. It's a refined and quiet engine till about 3000rpm, but then on, one can rear the noise and feel some vibrations via the floor. It isn't obtrusive and is in fact similar to the sedan, but given the steeper pricing of the 3 GT, we expected a quieter cabin throughout the working range of the engine. The 8-speed automatic ZF 'box though, is lovely. It is one of favourite auto 'boxes in the luxury class, and it doesn't disappoint no the 3 GT either.
In terms of driving, the bigger size and the extra weight can be felt the instant you start driving the 3 GT. It doesn't feel as nimble as the sedan, and it isn't as willing to turn in into corners or make quick direction changes as deftly as the sedan either. But, it isn't cumbersome, mind, just not as athletic or light on its feet as the regular 3. Moreover, the steering though quick, doesn't return a whole lot of feedback and feels artificially weighed as well. Besides the weight and the size, the 3 GT's softer suspension setup is also to blame for its limited athleticism compared to the sedan. But, this also means, the 3 GT is more comfortable to drive and be driven in, particularly over longer distances. The ride is quieter and more supple for most part too. Even in Sport mode.
Yes, the 3 GT will be offered with three driving modes as standard - Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. In Eco Pro and Comfort, the ride is more supple, the steering is lighter to operate and the throttle response is more relaxed. And in the EcoPro mode, there's also a promise of better fuel economy thanks to regenerative braking and start/stop tech.
In Sport, the steering weighs up, the gears hold on longer in the rev range and the suspension tauts up a bit. For most of our drive on the motorway and through some heart-achingly good scenery around the Spanish hillside, we stuck with Sport throughout. And though the 3 GT's dynamic character didn't exactly transform into being racy, it felt nicer to drive without ever being uncomfortable. And, we eventually got used to its larger size and its slightly lazier responses as well.
So, what do we make of the 3 GT? It is certainly more spacious and practical than both the 3 and 5 Series. And it also stands out in the crowd, and not in a bad way. It will also be as well equipped (if not better) as the sedan in 320d Luxury Line trim. As we see it then, unless you want more driving pleasure, increase your budget and go past the sedan; go for the 3 GT.