First drive: BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo


First drive: BMW 3 Gran Turismo

Manufacturers are currently having a field day playing God with their model ranges. Renault has been busy cross-breeding its Clio with a 4x4, Vauxhall managed to get an Astra pregnant and it gave birth to the Cascada and now BMW has decided its 3-Series could do with some Gran Turismo genes. The result is a familiar shape with some muscular lines and a strange rear end. AOL Cars took it for a spin.

What is it?

The 3-Series GT rests somewhere between an SUV and BMW's much-admired 3-Series Touring model. GT drivers sit around 60mm higher than those in the Touring, allowing for a much more commanding view of the road ahead, which BMW hopes will encourage women to get behind the wheel. The GT is also wider, taller and quite a bit longer than both the standard 3-Series and the Touring, resulting in increased interior space and a more purposeful road presence. Styling will be a matter of personal preference but the flared wheel arches, raked roofline and larger front intakes give it a muscular appearance, while frameless doors and chrome accents offer a sense of luxury usually found in the segment above.
>What's under the bonnet?

BMW customers are generally bombarded by engine choice and the story is no different here - 320i, 328i and the range-topping 335i see petrol engine capacity span two to three litres, while the diesels come in 318d to 320d variants (both 2-litre diesels in differing states of tune). Punters can look forward to 320i x Drive, 325d and a full-fat M Sport model coming in July.

What's the spec like?

Not bad really, the cheaper 318d Sport that we drove came fully equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio and all of the exterior glitz that differentiates it from a regular 3-Series. As with many German cars, customers will feel the need to lavish their pride and joy with options, but it quickly gets expensive. The biggest gripe here surrounds BMW's sleek multi media interface with built-in navigation; it's an expensive extra. Something we would fully expect to come as standard on a continent-crossing cruiser like this.

Any rivals?

There are a couple within the BMW range in the shape of the 330d Touring and the larger 5-Series. The former offers a similar amount of interior roominess while the latter ticks the luxury box. Outside of BMW showrooms, customers can look towards the Audi A4 allroad for the closest comparison or the Mercedes C-Class for equivalent luxury.

First drive: BMW 3 Gran Turismo

What's it like to drive?

That depends on what engine and gearbox combination you opt for. The 318d proved distinctly underpowered and when mated to a manual gearbox, it felt sluggish and truly revealed its size and weight. The 328i petrol engine in Luxury trim was a much more civilised affair and when mated to the 8-speed automatic gearbox, it rarely selected an incorrect ratio nor felt flustered or overworked. The 240bhp and 350Nm of torque on tap really helped matters, so if it's definitely a diesel you are after, go for the 320d at the very least. The ride is well judged, wafting over potholes and broken surfaces yet firming up enough in Sport Mode to make swift progress but don't expect an 'ultimate driving machine'. The BMW 3 GT sticks closely to its moniker, it's a solid Gran Tourer in which all occupants will be comfortable but it's definitely not the most exciting thing to pilot and its tendency to understeer around corners will frustrate true BMW chassis fans.

The AOL Cars verdict

Aside from the dividing aesthetics (that rear can be ghastly from some angles) it's clear to see what BMW is doing with this vehicle. It will likely attract customers away from the 5-Series and offer those tired of their Touring something more luxurious to upgrade to. It's quiet, comfortable and breezes along like any good Gran Tourer should- more at home in the Tuscan hills than it is attacking tight British country lanes.

The knowledge

Model: BMW 328i Luxury Gran Turismo automatic
Price: £34,030
Engine: 2-litre, four cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 240bhp 350Nm
Max speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
MPG: 44.1mpg
Emissions: 149 g/km CO2

BMW 3-Series GT

BMW 3-Series GT