BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo

Roomier and more comfortable 3 Series is good for passengers

7.3
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 13 reviews
  • Spacious cabin
  • Compliant ride
  • Practical hatchback boot
  • Looks a little bloated
  • Saloon and estate more fun
  • Quite heavy
 

£30,405 - £44,315 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

41 - 64 MPG

Review

BMW’s larger 5 Series Gran Turismo wasn’t universally praised at launch, but reviews have been respectable even so. The same can be said for the marque’s latest extended-hatchback Gran Turismo, based on the 3 Series. The styling is marginally more successful here, but to our eyes it is still rather awkward looking, particularly at the rear.

While testers don’t doubt the practical aspects, it only takes a glance at how highly-rated the regular 3 Series is in comparison to see that the 3 GT is still an acquired taste.

It’s much like a 3-Series saloon or Touring in here, albeit probably the most practical of the bunch. Room for passengers is certainly improved, the car’s main reason for existing. The wheelbase is longer, rear legroom is similar to that of the 5-Series and the rear seats recline for greater comfort. Conversely, a higher seating position means some find headroom a little cramped.

The boot space is actually greater than that of the Touring at 520 litres, and it’s bigger with the rear seats folded flat too. Overall comfort is good and reviewers call the 3 Series-sourced dashboard “handsome”. It’s also “clearly laid out” with excellent build quality and “classy” materials. There’s very little to complain about in the GT’s cabin.

The same can’t quite be said for how it drives. Based on the excellent 3 Series there’s a limit to how bad it can get of course, but the extra weight and taller body does have an affect on how the 3 GT turns. It’s a little less agile than the saloon and not quite as well balanced, while one reviewer describes it as feeling “ponderous”.

On the plus side, body roll is kept in relative check, the steering is smooth and precise – particularly when Sport mode on the £750 optional adaptive dampers is selected – and it rides well. Genuinely well, too, with none of the crashing you occasionally find in other BMWs.

“Not pampering, not cosseting, not a major comfort breakthrough. Just completely acceptable” is how Autocar puts it. It’s even good on some of the larger wheel options. Not as sporty as a regular 3 then, but still pretty good.

It’s the usual wide range of power units here, from frugal diesels to punchy petrols. Most will opt for the 318d and 320d diesels, both of which have attracted general positivity from testers. Both engines – and indeed most of BMW’s four-cylinder diesels – can be a little rattly at idle. But this soon settles down and while the GT’s weight blunts performance, each is relatively brisk with economy near or above the 60 mpg mark.

The petrols are good too, and generally more pleasant to use than the diesels. There are no refinement concerns here, just strong performance and in the case of the six cylinder 335i GT, “silky smooth performance”. Of course, economy drops as you move up the performance ladder, but even the least frugal still manages mid-thirties mpg.

However, you’d really need to have your heart set on a petrol when you consider the fact that the most potent diesel, the 335d, will not only reach 62mph 0.5 seconds quicker, but is also 15mpg more frugal.

There's only one review of the Gran Turismo in 318d format so far, but its one appearance is enough to win it a group test against two tough rivals. Its 141-horsepower output doesn't quite match its competitors here, but performance is good even so - 9.3 seconds to 60 is respectable enough for 60 mpg-plus economy.

The engine is "eager" according to testers, and "refined on the move", even if it can be a bit rattly at idle. It's apparently at its best between 2,000-3,500 rpm. Throw in 119 g/km CO2 emissions and the 318d is a worthy choice.

An expected high-seller in the range, the 320d GT nevertheless gets mixed reviews. In fairness to BMW's punchy 2-litre turbodiesel that's mainly due to concerns with the car itself, rather than the engine - it certainly isn't a power unit you should shy away from.

Some testers call it "gutsy" and "punchy", a nod to its 7.9-second 0-60 sprint and 140 mph top speed. There's a hefty 280 lb-ft of torque too, but more than one review suggests the engine may be a bit overwhelmed by the heavy body at times - and when you extend it, it can be surprisingly noisy. While the 8-speed auto is smooth too, it does have a habit of optimising economy and picking high gears, at the expense of readily-available thrust. The payoff, though, is economy of nearly 60 mpg.

Not for a while has '28i' signified a 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine in BMW's terminology - nowadays, it's a four-cylinder turbocharged unit. And not much worse for it, as the 328i GT reaches 60 mph in little over 6 seconds and tops 155 mph.

One reviewer says the engine and drivetrain "want for nothing", praising the swift and seamless 8-speed auto and strong power. Another calls it "punchy yet revvy". The auto is also most efficient, at over 44 mpg - not as frugal as the diesel, but plenty for drivers doing lower mileages.

Packing six cylinders, three litres and 302 horsepower, the 335i GT is a very brisk means to a practical end. 0-60 takes 5.4 seconds and you'll top out at 155 mph, with a "sweet-sounding exhaust" to entertain you along the way.

That power gives it a "hooligan element" according to one tester, particularly in M Sport trim that sharpens up the drive - though it still isn't as fun as the regular saloon. Refinement is good though, and the 8-speed auto slick. Only economy of 36.7 mpg may deter some.

These are general, non engine-specific reviews of the BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo. They give you a good idea of what the car is like without going into detail on one particular engine.

The Gran Turismo comes well-equipped with a whole heap of safety features, most of which involve controlling one thing or another: Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Dynamic Brake Control… the list goes on.

Every model comes equipped with six airbags as standard, so there are more than enough to share. It should be very safe should the worst happen, too: although the Gran Turismo hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, the regular 3-Series achieved a five-star score.

The 3 GT may be the most practical 3-Series, but it’s also the most expensive. Pricing puts it half way between a 3-Series Touring and a 5-Series Touring, both of which are as much a rival for the GT as anything from other manufacturers. Actually choosing a true rival is difficult – only Audi’s A5 Sportback is really comparable, and it’s the cheaper car to buy.

The Audi is a touch more frugal at its most extreme too, and unlike the BMW has a true range-topping performance model in the RS5. The 3 GT’s lofty pricing does seem a little steep, though as with all BMWs residuals should be strong – particularly on diesels.

The 3 GT’s optional adaptive dampers are worth going for, blending the option of sharper handling with a compliant ride even on large, stylish wheels. It’s a bit more fun in M Sport spec, too.

Conclusion

Opinion on the 3 Series GT is somewhat divided. Some consider the GT a niche too far, with one tester goes as far as calling it the “Ultimate Pointless Driving Machine”, scorning BMW’s decision to charge more for it than the better-driving saloon and Touring.

Others are more positive, applauding the extra accommodation in the rear and its comfortable ride. Generally, we’d say that the GT has more fans than foes. If you’re happy to spend more for the better rear accommodation and larger boot (and put up with the slightly ungainly looks) then you’ll find much to like.