This is the BMW 3-series GT, which starts from £28,835. Cast in the same (albeit smaller) mould as the unloved 5GT, the 3-seres Gran Turismo offers estate-beating versatility, but does it still drive like a proper BMW? We drove the 320d and 335i models model to find out.
So, what’s the point?
Is that what you’re thinking? Us too. We asked this question previously of the simply unfathomable 5-series GT and now here we are, asking it again of the 3-series. Here’s the pitch: the 3GT’s back bench is roomier than that of a 5-series, its loading deck eclipses a 3-series Touring, and its panoramic visibility is on par with X1 and X3. You sit higher up than in a classic saloon, the wheelbase virtually matches the X5, and the rear-seat layout is almost as accommodating as in the much more expensive 5-series GT. Persuaded?
Time to get behind the wheel…
If you’re not convinced, driving any BMW usually sorts it out. But sadly, not in this case, because the dynamic parameters have been compromised. The GT carries a 145kg weight penalty over the saloon, courtesy of a hefty, complicated boot lid no roll-on/roll-off ferry would be ashamed of and that, coupled with an elevated centre of gravity, makes the handling a little less enthusiastic. Responses to steering inputs are a touch more ponderous than in the saloon, the poise through fast S-bends is less determined and there’s more pronounced body roll. Sounds like a bad thing but, when looked at in context, not necessarily so.
You see, the 3GT rides with an extra dash of compliance, it protests less against B-road ruts, and even the 19-inch wheels no longer relay the excessive stiffness BMW’s runflat tyres were once notorious for. If you regularly travel four-up, the other three occupants will tell you it’s the best 3-series you can get. Speaking as the driver, though, I can’t agree.
Which are the most important engines?
I drove two variants, starting with the 320d, which BMW says will be the best-seller. The 2.0-litre diesel is neither quiet nor refined, but will reward deft-footedness with 56.5mpg and still achieve 8.0sec to 62mph. It’s actually as good in the rain as the beefier straight-six-powered 335i, the two of them being so close on torque (280lb ft vs 295) that they feel almost matched in the cause of hauling this beast around corners and up hills.
Of course, if you get sorted into Sport Plus mode, crank the eight-speed auto controller into Manual and give it a real bootful, the 302bhp 335i is still a plaything to knock spots off many a more sport-minded rival. But even I must acknowledge that this isn’t what the 3GT is built for (especially when you see the simply calamitous effect such behaviour has on the mpg).
Often the true intent of a model can be found in the marketing message or the price guide, but again the 3GT won’t give up its secret. It’s inexplicably pricier than the Touring, which costs more than the saloon, so they’re asking you to pay extra for a smidge more rear legroom and less of everything else. Sorry, but you just wouldn’t. You’re looking at the Ultimate Pointless Driving Machine.