BMW 3 Series GT: Meant for the highways; will price suit pockets?
As a concept gran turismo, the long form for GT, is very alien to Indian driving cycles. GTs have their genesis in Europe where they are stylish, comfortable vehicles that can haul people with all their luggage across cross continental drives. The highways there are flawless and support speeds that enable you to do at least 1,000 km every day for days together.
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In India, we are still some way off that level. To launch a GT here then does not make much sense, except if it can plug a gap or two in a company's portfolio. Which is what BMW is aiming for with the 3 series GT that sits between a regular 3 series and 5 series sedan. But history is against it. BMW's 5 series GT never took off here. Can the 3 GT change that?
Looks: somewhere between a sedan and a crossover
In terms of size, the GT looks and feels like a bigger sibling to its sedan. It is a good 200-mm longer than the sedan, marginally wider and 80mm taller as well. Consequently it is heavier too.
The snout at the front that houses the kidney shaped grille and is becoming something like a BMW signature style is more exaggerated in the GT over the sedan.
The headlamps and tailamps are also bigger and GT also gets a spunky rear spoiler that pops up at over 110 kph and down at below 70 kph. It is not all cosmetic either but enhances aerodynamics of the car. And the greater road presence is not missed when looked at from outside. Further, the chrome highlights over the grille differentiates it with the sedan.
The rear is also re-styled as it has something like a notchback design (like in the Skoda Octavia) where the whole door goes up at the boot instead of just the lid. It is a curious mix between a sedan and an SUV. Though it does not look ugly in India it will need time getting used to such a design.
Inside out: more room but little else
The bigger size of the car translates directly into more room inside and rectifies the cramped rear seats of the sedan. It can easily fit in two people at the back and even a third would have been comfortable but for the pronounced tunnel in the middle on the floor.
The dashboard per say is not much different except that the seating is more upright due to the higher ground clearance. The raised stance gives a more commanding view of the road and it is easy to forget that you are actually in a sedan after spending sometime behind the wheel.
It has a bigger boot too at 520 litres (40 more than the sedan) that makes it lot more practical for up country rides. Space can be further enhanced thanks to various configurations available for folding the rear seat. When completely folded, luggage space goes up to a massive 1,600 litres. For all the space however, a spare tire is still missing.
Ride and handling: less nimble but more comfortable
The 3 GT gets only a singular 320d diesel engine of the sedan while the petrol versions have been tugged away for India for now. Sensible, as anybody buying this car would want to hit the highway and the lower diesel price comes in handy.
The 2-litre turbocharged powertrain makes 187 Ps power and 380 Nm of torque, exactly the same as the sedan. But the latter is much lighter and has a stiffer suspension which means the GT is not as much fun to drive.
The softer suspension however improves the ride quality and it suffers less from the typical bouncy ride that BMWs offer. True to a GT, out on the highway it will gallop for miles on end without straining you and keeping the passengers in good comfort. What is a little disappointing is the lack of a 4-wheel drive option, which would have made the car a lot more fun.
Essentially, 3 series GT is a bigger more roomier version of the regular 3 series sedan. It sits high on the wheels and commands better road presence while also offering way more space for the luggage. It also offers a more comfortable ride and is best suited for long drives though it loses the zest of the sedan in the process.
The bigger question is whether the market is ready to embrace GT's virtues at a premium of 20-30% of a regular 3 series sedan.
At times, the theory of offering the best of both worlds does not work in India and considering there are not many highways in the country that justify a GT in the garage, consumers may be tempted to spend some more and go for a 5 series instead. Or a proper SUV for that matter.