BMW 328i GT
We get behind the wheel of the UK-spec BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo to deliver our verdict
The 3 Series GT is a much more complete car than the 5 Series GT. It looks better, it makes more financial sense, and most importantly of all, it still feels suitably sporty to drive despite its size and weight. For some people it will be the ultimate 3 Series and in this respect, unlike its bigger brother, it most certainly isn't a niche too far.
The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo has its work cut out. The 3 Series Touring is such a great all-round car that it's hard to justify spending an extra £1,300 on the GT. And let's face it, the car's bigger brother the 5 Series Gran Turismo has hardly been a roaring success.
But has BMW got the recipe right this time or is the 3 GT another niche too far? We tested a UK-specification 328i Luxury model on a variety of roads to find out.
Externally the GT's noticeably bigger hatchback shape instantly separates it from other 3 Series models. Yet, bar some accents on the door trims, the interior design is exactly the same. It feels different to sit in, though, because the seating position is 59mm higher. This gives you a better view of the road but, on the flip side, the raised driving position instantly makes the GT feel less sporty than the normal 3 Series saloon and Touring. And this is exactly how things play out once you hit the road.
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Throw the 3 GT at a couple of corners and the extra weight and longer body make it feel less agile than the lower and lighter Touring. The higher centre of gravity doesn't help either as you sense the car's mass moving about more. This forces the tyres to work harder to maintain grip and means the 3 Series Gran Turismo doesn't feel as keyed into the road as the estate.
In short, it's not as much fun. But everything is relative. Compared to many other cars, the 3 GT will still provide sufficient entertainment for most people on a twisty road. Plus, how often do you hurl your car along a back route? Chances are you spend most of your time either on the motorway or chugging about in town. And if you regularly do that with passengers, the GT is actually a better bet than the Touring.
Okay, so it costs £1,300 more. But for that you get more. The boot is bigger - by 25 litres with the seats up and 100 litres with them down - and there's also an extra 75mm of legroom for rear passengers. They also sit higher so have a better view out, although the raised seating position does mean headroom is a little tight for those over six-feet tall. At least you can recline the back seats - a feature reserved just for the GT. So too are the coupe-inspired frameless doors, while 18-inch alloys come standard (other 3 Series cars only get 17s).
Our Luxury test model also had a few key options that suit the GT's more luxurious mandate. For £750, the adaptive M Sport Suspension with its comfort mode helps smooth out the ride, while the £250 variable sport steering makes the car feel more responsive.
At £1,660, the eight-speed sport automatic gearbox may seem pretty steep, but it's slick and works well with the 328i's 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Obviously this won't be the most popular model - that will be the 320d. But for those who don't plan to do mega miles, its punchy yet revvy nature makes the GT feel surprisingly quick. Be aggressive with the throttle, though, and you'll do well to achieve half the claimed 44mpg economy.
And this brings us back to the original question. Is the 3 GT a worthy addition to the 3 Series range? Well, while it it may not have quite the appeal of the saloon or the Touring for some people, the superior space will be worth the extra cash.