Car Reviews Reviews

BMW 3 Series GT: Reviewed

Side profile, the major differentiator
Parichay Malvankar
Written by Parichay Malvankar

The BMW 3 Series GT has been launched in India at a price of Rs. 42.7 lakh (Ex-Showroom).

The GT or Gran Turismo is a variation to BMW’s product line-up offered on a couple of models. We first saw the 5 series get a GT steroid shot, and now, the 3 Series in the GT avatar. The 3 Series GT is the first generation Progressive Activity Coupe (PAC) from BMW, which made its debut — in concept phase — during the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show. For the BMW loyalists looking for a smaller sportier version of the 5 Series GT, this is it.

The BMW 3 Series GT is slightly more imposing from the front end, compared to the regular 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series GT is slightly more imposing from the front end, compared to the regular 3 Series

Across its entire product portfolio, BMW has been trying to squeeze in as many products which it can so that it can offer a number of variations in their products, and also retaining the customers rather than losing them to the competitors. The 3 Series GT slots in above the regular 3 Series sedan and below the much larger, BMW 5 Series. But who would buy the 3 GT? The answer is simple. The 3 GT is unique in its styling and has a couple of features that neither the 3 Series has, nor the 5 Series. Anyone who is looking at exclusivity will surely give the 3 Series GT a second look. With the added space, the GT version adds that little more to the practicality quotient of the 3 Series.

Rear three quarter

Rear three quarter

Exterior:
Cross-breeding between the niches, the BMW 3 Series GT is noticeably different from the regular one. The 3 Series GT is 200mm longer, 79mm taller and 17mm wider than the regular version. Also, the wheelbase has been extended by a massive 110mm. Not just on paper, side by side, the GT does look noticeably larger in proportions even to an average Joe. Exterior design looks more like a coupe rather than a utility car, or an estate. For the uninitiated, the car might look quirky, but the quirk adds a lot more function than form to the car. At the front, compared to the regular 3 Series, the GT gets a slightly larger kidney grille. Headlamps which might appear identical to many, actually have slight design tweaks. The point where the headlamp flushes in with the kidney grille, is larger (read taller) than the regular 3 Series. Front bumper has been completely redesigned to add that little bit extra in terms of product differentiation. Fog lamps might be identical, but the housing is completely different. The 3 GT gets an air-duct to the outer side of the fog lamp housing, which might serve better for aerodynamics. Crease lines on the bonnet remain unchanged and the front windscreen angle also appears to be the same. The side profile difference is what helps differentiate better. Where the regular 3 Series is well, sedan like to look at, the arcing silhouette and a longer tail section on the 3 GT is distinct and comes through as a noticeable (if not striking) design when seen on the road. Even from the outside, the roofline is a giveaway that rear occupants will be more happy here, than in the regular 3 with respect to rear headroom. Although a different body style towards the rear end, BMW has managed to keep the crease lines on the sides almost similar to each other. Only the chrome ornament on the front fender of the 3 GT helps show off the lower crease line much better. Rear door is visibly different too and so is the rear quarter glass, which on the GT, is not a part of the door. Alloy wheels provided are multispoke 18″ units shod with 225/50 R18 section tyres. The 3 GT when viewed head-on from the rear looks unique — the only similar designed vehicle being the bigger 5 Series GT. The rear end is what provides customers with exclusivity. With a liftback boot, the GT has a steeply raked rear windscreen almost all the way till the end of the boot. The pop-out ‘Active Spoiler’ occupies the little edge on the top of the boot. Tail lamps have small corrections too; the GT has a curved cut out on the outer unit where the boot lid aligns when shut. The BMW logo is also much chunkier and juts out from the boot lid. Rear bumper gets chrome garnish and the reflectors are a little more elongated on the GT.

Dashboard is identical to the regular 3 series

Dashboard is identical to the regular 3 series

Interior Front:
One of the best features on the 3 Series GT is the frameless doors. Open the door and the window stands out, all by itself. When you pull the door handle, the window rolls down a little. When you close the door, once shut, the window rolls back up and locks up in position. This is for better insulation, and also, to save the rubber beadings from wearing out due to the constant opening and shutting of the doors. Also, this would even damage the glass, when the door opens or is shut. With the window rolled all the way down, opening the door gives you a distinctive convertible esque styling and a lot more to the feel good factor. This is one major differentiator from the 3 Series apart from the roofline and extended boot lid. The dashboard is identical to the regular 3 Series, and wears the beige and black colour scheme with wooden inserts. A silver accent flows across the dashboard from either ends, separating the beige from the black. Apart from the colour difference, there is nothing more or less to the dashboard. Everything starting from the infotainment screen, AC controls to the audio controls is identical. The 16.5cm iDrive display on top of the dashboard provides a host of information about the vehicle, on-board computer, music menu, etc. Dual zone climate control at the front provides a choice for either occupant to stay cooler – or relatively warmer. Steering wheel is chunky and is good to use. Steering mounted controls are also are placed ergonomically, except for the horn-pad, which is a  bit hard and will leave your thumb sore after constant use. Also, the steering touch and feel is just about average. Where it looked absolutely flawless, it just felt a little, well, dry. Front seats offer good all-round support and the lumbar support adjustment will not be missed by many. Although it would have been a good addition, compared to the 3 Series. Seat upholstery is of the medium compound and will be suitable for long highway runs. Front seats get electric adjustments and memory function on the driver side. Travel range of the seats, including the height adjust is adequate to suit tall and short drivers. The gear lever is nothing new; the same old unit used on the 3 Series and the 5 Series. Centre armrest has a sliding adjustment to suit those with shorter arm length. Brake and accelerator pedals are spaced out well and one can get comfortable within minutes of getting inside the car, even for the first time. While the organ accelerator pedal is an absolute delight to floor, the dead pedal provides ample support to your left foot when on the move. View for the driver is average and the A-pillars do not create much of a blind spot. Where the frontal view is satisfactory, the rearward view for the driver is as minimum as it can be. The steeply raked rear windscreen leaves you with almost negligible viewing range when backing up. One has to depend on the reverse camera display and the ORVMs.

The cabin is bright and airy, also, thanks to the huge greenhouse

The cabin is bright and airy, also, thanks to the huge greenhouse

Interior Rear:
Get in the back seat and the game changes. The 3 GT with its larger dimensions carves out significant amount of room compared to the regular 3 Series and it is clearly visible. While sitting behind a taller driver was not a problem even in the regular 3, the headroom was a bit of an issue. In the GT though, the headroom area is scooped out. One can notice that the roof, particularly above the rear neck restraints is scooped out to make room for taller passengers. This might look odd to a few, but the functionality is spot on. Taller passengers will now be happy being driven around with much more legroom and headroom. The advantage that the GT has with respect to space over the 3 is noteworthy. With beige interiors everywhere, including the floor carpet, the roof lining, seats and the door trim, the cabin is very airy. The additional greenhouse on the 3 GT deserves a special mention, as it lets ample light inside. One problem though, which has been carried over from the regular 3, is the massive transmission hump. Carrying five adults for long journeys is simply a punishment for the 5th occupant, who will constantly find themself hunting for a comfortable seating position, and as a result, try to eat up and unsettle the other two rear occupants.

Another addition is the panoramic sunroof. Premium car buyers love sunroofs and we often spot owners posting pictures or occasionally standing out from this when on the move. The front half of the panoramic sunroof, functions as a regular unit; the rear half, is a fixed glass unit. Because of this, the upward view is not just restricted to the front occupants, but even for rear passengers. However, on a hot sunny day, make sure to have the sliding cover / curtain shut, or you are going to sweat it out. Boot space of the 3 GT is massive, standing at 500 litres. With the liftback tailgate, loading and unloading cargo is an easy task. The only problem here is that BMW equips the 3 GT with a space saver spare wheel, which sits on top of the boot floor, and not underneath. This eats up a lot of the useable boot space, and as a result, somewhat hampers the 40:20:40 folding functionality of the rear seats too. Nevertheless, available space for cargo is much more than the regular 3. And to close the boot, just press a button. Piece of cake, isn’t it?

Available only in one variant, the BMW 320d GT is powered by a 2.0L TwinPower turbo diesel engine producing 184 BHP @ 4,000 RPM and 380 Nm @ 1,750-2,750 RPM mated to a 8-speed steptronic automatic gearbox

Available only in one variant, the BMW 320d GT is powered by a 2.0L TwinPower turbo diesel engine producing 184 BHP @ 4,000 RPM and 380 Nm @ 1,750-2,750 RPM mated to a 8-speed steptronic automatic gearbox

Engine:
The 3 GT is available only in the 320d Luxury Line variant. The 320d’s engine is the same 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine powering the regular 3 Series (even the previous generation E90). The same engine is also shared with the larger, more expensive BMW 5 Series. This motor pumps out 184 BHP of power @ 4,000 RPM and 380 Nm of torque @ 1,750 – 2,750 RPM. Termed as the BMW TwinPower Turbo, the power delivery is linear and you will barely feel the turbo spool. Feather the accelerator and that’s all you need to keep progressing inside the city. Early upshifts and a linear power delivery keeps all passengers at ease and this surely adds to the back seat comfort. But when need be, floor the pedal and one can feel the Gs. At highway cruising speeds, the car managed to deliver brilliant fuel efficiency at about 15+ kmpl. Inside the city, with a light foot, the car maintained a figure of approximately 10 kmpl, which is respectable by segment standards. NVH levels though are nothing great. The diesel clatter is audible at times, for example when the stereo system is switched off. Frameless doors might look all great, but wind buffeting after a couple of months of ownership is inevitable. BMW claims a 0 – 100 kmph speed sprint in just 7.9 seconds. The car feels stable at all speeds, and the power is available on tap, whenever you might need it. With a right balance between practicality and performance, the 320d was an obvious choice as a motor for a niche such as the 3 GT, rather than a petrol engine. Also, the seamlessly shifting 8-speed ZF gearbox makes city and highway driving a breeze.

Gear lever fits in your hands perfectly. Press the unlock button on the side to shift gears.

Gear lever fits in your hands perfectly. Press the unlock button on the side to shift gears.

The 3 GT provides three driving modes — Eco Pro mode, which primarily focuses on fuel economy, Comfort mode, which tries to balance adequate performance with efficiency and the Sport mode which goes all out to provide a much more aggressive ride along with activating a different ECU map. The auto start-stop mode which activates automatically when you start the car switches off the engine every time the car comes to a halt. Almost all functions one might be using remain switched on during this time, expect for the AC, which shuts down the compressor. At this very instant, the RPM needle will be resting on ‘ready’. Lift off the brake pedal and the engine automatically switches on. This feature is not really something we particularly like, as every time the engine fires up, there is a noticeable shake inside the cabin. In order to save a few drops of fuel, the constant start-stop function will surely do damage to the engine mounts.

The 3 Series is the segment best when it comes to ride quality and handling, and the 3 GT carries forward the same qualities. With increased dimensions, the amount of body roll has increased, but minutely.  The difference between the two is nothing significant for it to be a deal breaker for either of the two. The car keeps passengers comfortable on all kinds of roads. The ground clearance surprised us the most. With four on board, the car did not scrape on the nastiest of speed breakers in the vicinity. The ride is slightly firmer with the 18″ rims, but owners will be happy. Steering feedback is below average at times. While city commuting and highway runs will be almost the same for all, enthusiasts will dislike the electric steering, which at times, feels a little vague. However, it does try to weigh up when one engages the sport mode. Brakes felt adequate, but a bit spongy. The brake bite could have been slightly sharper.

Halfway between the 3 Series and the 5 Series, the 3 GT tries to attract the customers who are looking at something bigger than the 3, but less common than the 5. With the funky or quirky (call it what you like) rear end, the car gets its fair share of attention on the road and will keep those who like being looked at happy.

Click here to check out the BMW 3 Series GT photo gallery.