Well, where can we start? On one hand, we have a brilliant offering from BMW and on another we are confused with a bunch of questions clouding our minds. One can’t be blamed for wondering the exact raison d’être of the GT320d. It’s quite easy to think of it as the “Gran Turismo” version of the 3 series sedan or a scaled down version of the 5 series GT, either ways you are not wrong. However, after studying the dimensions it’s a revelation that the GT320d is actually a niche product that slots perfectly between the 3 series and the 5 series sedans- be it the cost or the dimensions!
The 5 series GT received much unnecessary flak for its proportions as well as its pricing and placement in the market and we did not see many of these on the Indian roads either. The car you see in pictures is the revised and re-positioned iteration of the GT. So how good is this version, will it stop the pundits from criticizing this it time around? We, for sure aren’t the ones to complain at all. Why? Read on..
Hats off to the designers at BMW for penning the lines of the GT; it’s the sheer brilliance of them for having created a new body type while infusing the core character of the brand. Head on, it’s unmistakably a BMW of recent times with the trademark kidney grille with chrome surrounds, the flattened corona rings, the peeled back effect headlight et al. Let the elegant lines not fool you though by its beauty only, what also matters is the seamless and intelligent integration of BMW Efficient Dynamics in the design. The cohesion between the headlamps with the snout-ey kidney grille is just one similarity it shares with its 3 series cousin.
Take for instance the intricately sculpted front bumper. BMW`s design engineers have managed to not only make the car look great but also optimize the front apron and the under body in a bid to reduce drag and fuel consumption. The twin air curtains on either side of the front bumper are designed to channel the air flow in a manner that aids the aerodynamics of the GT. When viewed from side, the long sloping roofline lends the car a sense of unique elegance that was missing in the 5 series GT.
What`s hard to miss are also the boomerang shaped vents, the Air Breathers on the front fender panels behind the wheel arches. The multiple creases along the door sill lines also helps in losing the visual bulk associated with long wheel base-d sedans/estates. The rim-less doors lend this “fastback” of a GT a brilliant character once swung open and windows rolled down.
The rear remains a simple affair with a clever piece of kit – the active spoiler integrated within the hatch door. In the retracted position, it hardly raises any eyebrows. The tail lamps wrap around into the side profile giving them a visual highlight when viewed from rear three quarters. The overall intent seems to give the space and size of a 5 series in an estate package, with handling of a 3 series – brilliant.
The active spoiler is one innovative piece of equipment which is not found on any other BMW car but incorporated in the GT for improving its road holding and dynamics.In Auto mode, it is programmed to protract at speeds above 110 kmph and retract once the speeds drop below 70kmph, it can be manually set to keep it extended.
So how big is the GT over the 3 series, is it any smaller than the 5 series?
Spec to spec, at 4824mm, the GT is 200mm longer than the 3 series falling marginally short of the 5 series by 83mm. The GT has a 17mm wider track than a 3 series while the 5 series spans at 1860mm (Front only). The dimensions merely suggest the expanse of space available on the inside of the GT. A bit more digging and it was a true revelation that the GT has 12mm more headroom at the front and a fraction mm more than the 5 series at the rear!
As they say, the numbers speak for themselves, in the GT`s case – they scream, of space. The roomy interiors are further accentuated by the panoramic glass roof, with the only chink in the armor being the tall transmission tunnel with integrated AC vent console. Further to assert its case, BMW officially announces class leading leg room, `nuff said. All these dimensional measurements apart, the GT`s rear seat remains one of the most sought after places to be cosseted in if a long drive is the order of the day.
The GT is only offered in the Luxury Line trim and comes amply loaded with all the fancy features and more. The interiors are swathed in BMW`s Dakota Veneto Beige leather upholstery, leather wrapped steering wheel and typical dashboard layout which is scores high on form as well as function. The beige interiors take help from the “Fineline” Anthracite Highlights as trim finishers. The 16.5mm screen is mounted above the central AC vents and is controlled via the i-Drive controller, no fancy flipping and folding dramatic electronics at work here. BMW`s i-Drive remains simple yet wonderfully intuitive to use.
Encompassing an array of features as well as vehicle information. The controller itself is placed next to the gear selector joystick with built in gear indicator display and electronic park button. The GT also receives BMW`s ECO Pro function and the selection can be made via a button conveniently placed near the gear selector stick along with the rear camera, parking assist switches.
BMW cars are known to be driver-centric regardless of the “number” prefixed to a certain series, and the GT is no different. To be driver centric the seat-pedal-steering interplay plays a crucial role, and to perfect this – the front seats offer great support at the right places for average sized adults, taller occupants may miss a bit of under thigh support though. As mentioned earlier, the leg room at the rear is enough to make the 5 series go green with envy of this `3 series` GT. The transmission tunnel discourages a third occupant, means unadulterated comfort at the rear.
Pop the trunk, and the GT`s luggage compartment suggests its readiness to swallow anything that you may want to carry. By folding the 40:20:40 split-able seats down, the luggage capacity can be increased to a humongous 1600 litres! Unfortunately, the space saver spare (neatly covered in a zipped case) held in place by adjustable carabiner straps, and robs a bit of space which is on offer.
Powerplant, powertrain and the drive:
Powering the 320d, is the trusty and tech laden; efficient yet punchy BMW`s 1995 cc 4 pot TwinPower Turbo diesel. This develops 184bhp@4000 rpm and 380Nm of max twist between 1750-2750 rpm. This engine is constructed from light weight aluminum, topped with common rail direct injection, variable performance control and a variable geometry turbo charger. This poke is good enough to propel the GT from a naught to 100 under 8 seconds which is impressive considering its 1.6 tonne kerb weight.
The oil burner is mated to BMW`s Steptronic 8 speed automatic transmission. While in D, the shifts are seamless and work in conjunction with the supplementary efficiency enhancing ECO Pro mode as well as Sport/Comfort modes.
While driving with the ECO Pro mode enabled, the box swaps cogs swiftly, and every dab on the brake pedal activates the brake energy regeneration to charge the battery which reduce the load on the alternator which in turn reduce the load on the engine thereby aiding fuel efficiency. Since the focus in this mode is to reduce the carbon foot print and not to laying tyre streaks on the tarmac, the response from the transmission is a bit lethargic.
Switch it into comfort mode and the GT transforms itself into a genuine turismo with the ability of wafting over undulations all day long. The ride quality is a departure from the typically sharp BMW-esque road manners. The Comfort mode loosens up the dampers as well as lightens up the steering wheel and the edginess of the gearbox is blunted transforming the GT into its roll happy state. The GT rides taller than the 3 series sedan and has its own share of body roll evident, which remains the most controlled in the Sport mode. The Comfort mode should be left for high speed cruising where minimal quick overtaking manoeures are expected, if any are called for, a quick flick of the switch in the Sport mode is enough to get things sorted in a jiffy.
So while the 2.0 litre oil burner look small on papers for a car of these proportions, its brilliance lies in its driveability when coupled with the 8 speed automatic gearbox. The GT consistently delivers double digit fuel economy figures which are genuinely impressive, while the performance of the engine is never a handicap whatsoever.
Images of details and features with captions
Parking assistance with Red lines depicting the trajectory at full steering lock
Gear shifter with the Drive mode switch and Parking assistant switch.
The 3 Series GT Luxury Line will set one back by approx INR 43 lakhs (Ex showroom Delhi). This sits bang in between the high spec 3 series sedan and the few lacks shy of the 5 series sedan which retails just under INR 50 lakhs.
The question remains whether it is enticing enough to lure the buyer or is it so good to confuse the potential proud BMW owner between a 3 series and a 5 series. The GT320d per se, offers the solution as the golden path while being a niche product which virtually has no rivals near in sight. It`s the GT`s silhouette, standalone image, space and price (in that order) which makes it a tempting proposition and could help BMW achieve what it could not from the 5 series GT.
Whether it’s the panoramic sunroof, or the rimless doors we are smitten!
BMW 3 Series GT 20D Technical Specifications
Images: Hanoz Patel and Amit Chhangani