Carzone drives the newly-updated BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo
Pros: Sleek styling, exclusivity, added practicality
Cons: Styling not for everyone, handling less sharp than the saloon
This is the updated 3 Series Gran Turismo (GT), a more comfortable and spacious version of BMW’s best-selling 3 Series Saloon that follows in the footsteps of the firm’s 5 Series GT. With a sloping roofline and a roomy hatchback boot, the BMW 3 Series GT has the right elements to compete with the new Audi A5 Sportback and Jaguar XE. Specialising in comfort, the 3 Series GT doesn’t handle as well as the saloon however, and its styling is rather subjective. We spent a week driving the 3 Series GT on Irish roads to see how it compares to the competition.
What is it like?
From the outside, the 3 Series GT seems larger than the saloon and it is, with a sloping rear roofline and increased ride height. Following a facelift in mid-2016, the 3 Series GT gets new LED headlights and fog lights along with reshaped grille surrounds. We think the swooping hatchback styling is well-suited to the 3 Series platform and even more so than the 5 Series. Our test car is the range-topping M Sport model, which benefits from large 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport styling kit and looks stealthy in this ‘Black Sapphire’ metallic paint scheme.
It’s immediately obvious that the 3 Series GT is much more spacious than the saloon when you sit inside. The car sits 59mm higher and there is an extra 70mm of leg room for rear seat passengers, while split folding rear seats are standard and boot space comes in at a total of 520 litres, which is more spacious than certain luxury estate cars. The finish of the cabin is excellent and the dashboard is clearly laid out, with BMW’s iDrive system centre stage. As one of the higher specification models, our test car has full black leather upholstery although base models make do with cloth upholstery.
BMW offers the 3 Series GT with a range of high-power petrol and diesel engines, but we drove what is likely to be the best seller here in Ireland, the 320d. The 320d’s 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine produces 190hp which is good enough for 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds and with a top speed of over 225kph, it’s no slouch. The 320d is a strong performer particularly out of town and cruises beautifully at motorway speeds, with enough torque for easy overtaking. Buyers can choose between a six speed manual transmission and a smooth eight speed automatic, our test car being equipped with the latter.
BMW has built the GT with comfort in mind, so it doesn’t handle as sharply as the Saloon, most noticeably in tight corners where the increased ride height results in more body roll. That said, it still offers an inspiring drive and the optional adaptive dampers allow you to alternate between comfort and sport modes for hardened suspension and improved cornering. The ride quality is very good with strong comfort levels even on bumpy back roads, and those who prefer comfort over style should consider opting for a smaller alloy wheel choice.
In terms of economy, the 320d version performs well. BMW claims over 60MPG when driven with extreme mindfulness, but we managed just below 50MPG during a mixture of motorway and urban driving. Annual road tax is low at €200 for a full year thanks to its low emissions output, even when equipped with the automatic transmission. The 3 Series GT matches its rivals in terms of running costs and the base 318d version offers even better economy credentials than the 320d, so it's also worth considering.
Prices for the new BMW 3 Series GT start at €46,730 for the entry level SE model, which is considerably cheaper (circa €2,000) than its main rival, the Audi A5 Sportback. Standard specification is strong with alloy wheels, LED headlights, split folding rear seats and lots more as standard. There are three additional specifications to choose from with Luxury, Sport and M Sport, although this does propel the 3 Series GT into more expensive territory. Our test car feature additional optional extras inclusing a full Harman Kardon speaker system which is a must-have for audiophiles.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The styling, added space and practicality of the BMW 3 Series GT make it an interesting proposition and a very strong alternative to cars like the new Audi A5 Sportback and the Mercedes C-Class Estate. At this price point, it is considerably more expensive than the standard 3 Series Saloon and it may not handle with the same gusto, but weigh this off against its added quality, style and exclusivity, and the extra investment for the Gran Turismo seems well justified.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo
Prices from: €46,730
Price as tested: €53,438
Annual Road Tax: €200
Engine: 1995cc four-cylinder diesel
Power/Torque: 190bhp, 400Nm
Top Speed: 230 km/h
0-100km/h: 7.8 seconds
Body style: Hatchback
Boot Space: 520 litres