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3 Series GT: BMW's Transformer

2013-06-27 08:25

ONE OF THE BIG THREES: The new BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is a full five-seater with luggage space that, in effect, turns the coupe-styled sedan into a station-wagon. Image: BMW


There are 18 price-listed versions of BMW’s new and rather startling 3 Series Gran Turismo  - not counting the high-performance 335i models - but one could argue that, really, there are 54 because each of these slant-backed, fat-tyred and gloriously well-equipped machines can do three jobs.

And a new 5 Series Gran Turismo is in the works – now THAT should be a real beast!

For some reason South Africans are no longer keen on wheels variously known as shooting-brakes, station-wagons and estates – in fact back in the 1980’s they disappeared entirely from the local scene (the last, if I remember correctly, belonged to Mercedes.

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Certainly there is no longer a BMW 3 Series Touring in South African showrooms (though there's a 2013 version in other countries), a model that first appeared back in 1987 but disappeared from South Africa in 2010 – the current list has a sedan, a coupe, a convertible and, now, the Gran Turismo (henceforth we’ll just call it the GT) and the reality is that this GT is just a slightly longer type of Touring with its tail sliced off diagonally.


It’s 200mm longer than the 2014 Touring at 4.824m, has a 110mm longer wheelbase and is 81mm taller and has 72mm more rear legroom. The 3 Series GT boasts 25 litres more luggage space at 420 litres (with the rear seats erect) and a whopping 1600 litres with them flat despite the sloping, large and heavy powered rear door – the conversion easy thanks to a simple lever/release at each side.

The boot can also be opened by waving a foot under the rear bumper.


From some angles, strangely, the slope is not even really apparent, but I had doubts about rear headroom until I slid on to the three-sectioned and adjustable leather seats – I’m 1.83m tall and my skull was nowhere near the headlining and my knees nowhere close to the rear of the thick front seats. It’s a true five-seater.

But back to that number, 54... the GT is really three cars in one: a family sedan, a station-wagon with a flat and large floor and – best of all – a real sports car, especially the magnificent 335i. The lesser models are the 320i, the 320d and the 328i and each model comes in many variants – Standard, Sport Line, Modern Line, Luxury Line and with an M Sport package (from September 2013).

Each is externally defined by various alloy wheel-rim designs – double spokes, curved “turbine” spokes and sets of triple spokes.

Added to the 54 are a 335i in each range, each equipped with an eight-speed Sport auto with change paddles on the steering-wheel. The others have a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed auto Steptronic. That takes the overall total to an astounding 60!


Standard prices run from R410 500 for the base 320i to R618 100 for the 335i with the Sports Package. There’s an almost infinite number of further options/combinations for all models (see link to BMW SA at the end of the story to go to the full prices/options list).

Essentially, the GT adds about R50 000 to each of the equivalent 3 Series sedans. The four engines are standard for each trim line.

Each of the engines uses BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. The range-topping six-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet of the 335i Gran Turismo (225kW/400Nm) is joined by four-cylinder petrol units in the BMW 328i Gran Turismo (180kW/350Nm) and BMW 320i Gran Turismo (135kW/270Nm) then there’s the two-litre diesel (135kW at 4000rpm / 380Nm 1750-2750rpm).

The first section of our test route was over the Outeniqua Pass from George to Oudtshoorn in a 335i; for all the car cared, that steep and twisting snake of a brilliant driver’s road could have been flat and straight, the eight-speed auto box changing instantly and imperceptibly when asked electronically by the three-litre, turbocharged (5800rpm), 400Nm (1200-5000rpm) straight-six.


Colleague Pieter Oosthuizen took the second challenge, the Robinson Pass through the Ruiterbos Valley heading from Oudtshoorn back to the coast, a much more challenging and narrower road; frankly, I wouldn’t have dared take it anywhere near as fast as the expert Pieter, but it proved out the true sporting character of the GT, the automatic spoiler on the tail fully erect above 110km/h and aiding the car’s already remarkable Cd of only 0.28.

The GT’s wheels are 30mm bigger than those of other standard 3 Series and the two axles split load 50/50.

Then there’s the sheer usefulness of the car’s giant load volume. As BMW’s Edward Makwana said: “It’s truly a unique concept in its class.” Given that the 3 Series has been around since 1975, that’s quite an achievement.

The GT’s shell has four doors with frameless windows, a coupe-style, gently downward-sloping roofline and a large, automatically opening/closing tail door. An active rear spoiler - the first of its type on a BMW - reduces lift at touring speeds.

Head and tail lights differ from other Threes, those at the rear to accommodate the more "hippy" shape.


The cabin uses the same template as the current 3 Series Sedan with a driver-focused layout for optimum access to all driving functions. Circular instruments with a black-panel data display and a free-standing iDrive monitor in contemporary flat-screen design underline the sense of functional elegance.

The iDrive Controller, within easy reach on the centre console, and the optionally fore/aft sliding/folding armrest between the front seats underscore the cabin’s exceptional usability and comfort.

There are three equipment lines, each with its own individual character. A large number of colour and upholstery variants offer scope for a multitude of combinations. Even in the entry-level version three trim colours can be combined with a choice of one cloth or two leather shades. Customers can also choose from three additional equipment lines and the M Sport package, each of which adds individual touches to the car’s looks, inside and out.

Other models still to come shortly from BMW are the X5 (January 2014), 4 Series Coupe and the 5 Series Gran Turismo (October 201).

See more about the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo.
Read more on:    bmw  |  western cape  |  south africa

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