BMW seems to be keen on plugging all the gaps in its range and this 3-series GT does exactly that. It's just been launched in India and tries to find middle ground between the driving pleasure of a 3-series and the space of and practicality of a larger car. How well does it fit into its dual-purpose role?
It may be called the 3-series GT and may be based on one, but there's so much more space inside than a regular 3-series saloon. This expansion of the interiors has been achieved by stretching the wheelbase and by raising the roofline. The ride height of the car has also been increased, so when you open the frame-less doors, it's less of a drop into the seats than a regular 3-series.
Once settled into the supremely well-cushioned front seats, it's a bit too familiar.
There's really nothing to tell it apart from any other BMW
saloon in the range. In fact, this 3-series GT is the 'Luxury' trim but gets a smaller i-Drive screen, it doesn't get BMW's new iDrive touchpad controller. It also doesn't get electric steering adjust. And, there's a distinct lack of cubbyholes - sure, there's the glovebox and the reasonably big door pockets, but there's almost no storage space on the centre console apart from the cup holders. Plus, the storage box between the seats is small.
Typical of a BMW though, the driving position is faultless and there's no complaints with the fit and finish either. At the rear, the higher seating position, the bigger windows and the massive panoramic sunroof combine to give you a bright cabin and a sense of space that a 3-series saloon can't hope to match. The seat itself is very comfortable with good thigh support, headroom and plenty of knee room, courtesy the extended wheelbase.
The rear of the car has also been lengthened, so boot space has gone up to 500 litres and the huge tailgate (that has an electric closing function) facilitates the easy loading of luggage. The 3-series GT will also come with a space saver spare wheel so, on the practicality front, it scores really well.
Thanks to its 181bhp, 1995cc, four-cylinder turbo-diesel, there's a spring in the 3 GT's step. This is despite the extra 145kg this engine has to lug around over the 320d saloon - yes the 3 GT tips the scales at 1575kg versus the 3-series' 1430kg. Part of this sprightliness is because the eight-speed automatic allows the engine to spin in its sweet spot most of the time and part of it is because the engine feels its strongest from a low 1750rpm.
The gearshifts are quick and smooth and the gearbox is ready to respond to downshifts requests for those quick overtaking manoeuvres. The 3 GT comes with three driving modes - Sport, Normal and EcoPro - that lets you choose between sportier responses or dulled throttle response (for fuel economy). There is some diesel growl entering the cabin under hard acceleration, but it is otherwise smooth and refined enough.
In isolation, the 3 GT is quite nice to drive. There's a directness to its steering and there's no hesitation or reluctance when you ask it to turn into a corner. It's just that, thanks to the extra weight, height and size, it doesn't have the same enthusiasm as the saloon. The brakes are phenomenal though.
The ride is also very cosseting. The 3 GT's suspension took the broken roads on the outskirts of
Delhi with little fuss and only the really sharp bumps resulted in distant thuds. The cabin also remains pretty well isolated from the road.
The only real visual link with the 3-series saloon on the 3 GT are the headlights merging with the kidney grille. The rest of the car looks almost nothing like the saloon. It's not particularly pretty, but it's not unattractive either. The nose is fuller, the roofline is like a big arc and the rear is very different too. What you don't realise when you're driving it is how big this car is. At 4824mm, it is 200m longer and 79mm taller than the saloon and you'll be thankful for the standard reverse camera everytime you park it. BMW is assembling the 3 GT in India and will offer a petrol variant in the near future. For now though, the 3 GT diesel is priced at Rs 42.7 lakh and for that price you get a well-rounded, multi-talented and very spacious luxury car. Plus, it rides well and it's also a good performer. It's actually the perfect halfway house between the 3-series and 5-series.