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Car reviews - BMW - 3 Series - GT

Our Opinion

We like
Stellar engine and automatic combination, cavernous rear legroom and boot space, excellent chassis balance and ride quality
Room for improvement
Interior feeling its age, lack of rear headroom jars with spacious cabin, handling not as agile as 3 Series sedan

Gallery

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BMW logo23 Feb 2018

By DANIEL DeGASPERI

Overview

SOMETIMES calling a spade a spade just will not do. The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is ostensibly a long-wheelbase version of the 3 Series, also with a liftback rather than sedan bootlid. But of course calling this model grade the 330i GT sounds nicer than 330i LWB, for example.

There is no entry-level 318i or 320i version of the Gran Turismo, which starts with the diesel 320d. At the other end of the range, there is no six-cylinder 340i model grade, either, only this four-cylinder turbocharged 330i that sits a few thousand dollars above its sedan stablemate.

To make matters even more confusing, the 330i GT five-door liftback rubs into the pricing zone of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, specifically the 430i GC five-door liftback. The GT is meant to be roomier and more pragmatic, the GC swoopier and sporiter, running the shorter wheelbase.

Yet the 330i sedan, wagon and GT, and 4 Series Gran Coupe, all sit within $10,000 of each other using the same 2.0-litre petrol engine. So allow us to call a spade a spade on which is best.

Price and equipment

Priced from $77,900 plus on-road costs, the 330i GT costs $7500 more than the 320d GT. Beyond the switch from petrol to diesel power, this loftier model grade adds 19-inch alloy wheels (replacing 18s), keyless auto-entry, proper leather trim, electric driver’s lumbar, and an 8.8-inch screen (replacing a 6.5-inch unit) and 205-watt nine-speaker (replacing 100W six-speaker) audio.

There is also a panoramic sunroof that becomes standard, whereas it is optional on both the cheaper $70,900 330i sedan and even the pricier $79,900 430i Gran Coupe. What both Gran Turismo models share with only the latter is an electric tailgate unavailable in the sedan.

Otherwise a head-up display, surround-view camera, satellite navigation with voice control, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning and electrically adjustable front seats. A $2000 M Sport pack then adds sports seats, a racier steering wheel and bodykit.

More disappointingly, a should-be-standard $3500 Innovations pack is required to snare active cruise control, automatic reverse-park assistance and a 600W Harman Kardon audio system, while a $1730 Comfort pack is needed to add heating to the front seats, rear seats and steering wheel, taking the 330i GT to $85,130 with the above trio of package options.

Interior

A comparison of figures is first needed to properly understand the 3 Series Gran Turismo. With a body length of 4824mm, it stretches a massive 191mm further than a 3 Series sedan to become an ‘upper’ medium-sized car. Put it this way, a new Toyota Camry measures 4885mm. With height of 1508mm and width of 1828mm, this 330i GT also stretches out by 79mm/17mm over the sedan.

What that obvious bias towards extra length does, however, is create long and skinny proportions that will not suit everyone. If some can get past that, then the ‘plucked up’ roofline and larger daylight opening might offend them, although it does provide great visibility for the driver and it shares the same elegant frameless door design with the 4 Series Gran Coupe.

There is less argument about the huge 520-litre boot that shifts up by 40L compared with the 330i sedan and 430i Gran Coupe, while even emerging 25L larger than a 330i wagon. With the practicality of glass that raises, and the enormous amount of rear legroom available, this particular bodystyle cannot be called anything other than roomy and practical.

The only disappointments include a slight lack of rear headroom, the fact the rear bench does not slide as it did in the now-defunct 5 Series Gran Turismo, and the lack of a third climate control zone for rear passengers, as is standard on an Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro.

That fellow German rival also includes a full-colour driver display with Apple CarPlay as standard, which places further pressure on an ageing 3 Series/4 Series dashboard design that lacks the former feature and places the latter as an optional ($623) extra.

The front seats are comfortable and infotainment ergonomics are fine, but the dated design gets little boost from an equipment level that should have seen several options migrate to the standard kit list by now – and that is a criticism also shared between all 3 Series/4 Series model grades.

Engine and transmission

All those extra millimetres over the 330i sedan unsurprisingly results in extra flab with the 330i GT. Despite sharing the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 185kW of power at 5200rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1450rpm until 4800rpm, its kerb weight moves up by 150kg to 1620kg. That results in 0-100km/h performance that is three-tenths slower, at a claimed 6.1 seconds, while combined-cycle fuel consumption takes a 0.4L hit to a claimed 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres.

In the real world, however, there seems to be little difference in outright punch, very likely thanks to a superb eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers smooth and slick shifts at all times, and yet is assertive in manual mode it permits the tachometer needle to be hurled towards redline after the steering wheel’s left paddleshifter is pulled multiple times to downshift when entering a bend.

A short first gear successfully disguises any turbo lag, allowing this 3 Series Gran Turismo to leap from the line with only a small amount of throttle. At the other end of the ratio set, the engine has enough torque to effortlessly let the auto slip into a tall eighth gear and stay there on the freeway.

The effervescence of this four-cylinder auto combination draws a driver in, and leaves a question mark for a driving enthusiast over whether six cylinders and/or a manual transmission are really necessary. The downside to this enthusiasm is thirst – with an on-test 11.4L/100km, the 330i GT almost doubled its claim on an admittedly urban-biased test loop. Work it, and the engine will drink.

Ride and handling

While sharing its multi-link front and rear suspension set-up with the 3 Series sedan, the GT also gets a wheelbase stretched by 110mm to 2920mm. Forget the earlier body length comparison with a Camry, because that measurement between front and rear axles is only 44mm behind that of a Holden Commodore in outgoing VF Series II specification.

With two-mode adaptive suspension as standard – including Comfort and Sport modes – the 330i GT does have more of a plush and measured approach to its body movements than its sedan sibling.

On 19-inch wheels there is some surface intrusion, and the cabin suffers from too much road noise on coarse-chip surfaces. However, comfort and control are generally well balanced in either mode.

The steering similarly seems to have some lost movement just off the centre position, and whether navigating city streets around town or turning with enthusiasm into a country-road corner, there is not quite the same fleet-footed feel a driver gets in the notably more nimble three-box four door.

Depending on the perspective, the 330i GT can seem too nuanced compared with that sedan, as though it is not quite plush enough and pampering enough to transform its character into something befitting the Gran Turismo badge.

Or, on the other hand, it really has not lost much of the 3 Series driving spirit despite the additional millimetres and kilograms atop the rear-wheel-drive chassis. In handling terms, the same lovely, fluent handover between front-end grip and rear-end push remains.

Safety and servicing

Six airbags (including dual front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with surround-view camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assistance, and low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are all standard.

ANCAP has not tested the 3 Series Gran Turismo.

BMW includes a five-year/80,000km service package for an up-front $1495.

Verdict

The 3 Series Gran Turismo remains a bit of a curio, however that is not necessarily a bad thing. While the size-larger 5 Series sedan previously started from around the price of this 330i GT, the latest generation 5 kicks off beyond $90,000 – leaving space for a medium car with more legroom.

And that is essentially what the Gran Turismo is: more boot space, increased practicality, extra rear-seat space (if not headroom or seat comfort) and with a ticket only a few thousand dollars above the sedan once the standard panoramic sunroof is taken into account.

The 330i is also the pick of the duo, more for the fact that the petrol-turbo and eight-speed automatic combination are flawless than anything wholly wrong with the cheaper turbo-diesel. That same-sized 2.0-litre is slower, but thriftier, for those premium buyers who want to save thousands.

Just remember, the GT asks more coin for a 3 Series that is less sweet to drive, and its interior feels dated especially as the price soars higher with each bodystyle. And we have to call a spade a spade – a sedan with options would arguably be a better way to spend $80K unless legroom was crucial.

Rivals

Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro from $81,500 plus on-road costs
Slick interior with more equipment, and an equally sweet drive but with less cabin space.

BMW 330i sedan from $70,900 plus on-road costs
More affordable and better to drive than 330i GT add $7500 in options and a buyer is laughing.

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