BMW 3-Series GT (F34)


Debut: 2013
Maker: BMW
Predecessor: No



 Published on 26 Mar 2013 All rights reserved. 


In 2009, BMW introduced the oddball "Gran Turismo" concept to the 5-Series range. It was a larger, taller and hatchback version of the 5-Series, supposed to win new customers from both SUV and luxury saloon segments. However, three and a half years have passed, the 5-Series GT is still struggling to prove its worth of existence. Last year, BMW shifted 21,000 units of this car worldwide, accounting for merely 6 percent of all 5-Series. Despite of its high practicality and good value for money, it was slower selling than niche models like the 6-Series, 7-Series and X6. What's wrong with it? In my opinion, its biggest weakness is an uninspiring look – too tall and fat, plus an ugly face. The conservative taste of high-income buyers is also likely to be a reason. Besides, the conventional 5-Series Saloon / Touring and X5 are already accommodative enough to most people, why bother about an odd-looking alternative?

However, when the same concept is downsized to the 3-Series, it could be very different. Buyers at this price range are less likely to have multiple cars in their garages to serve for different purposes. If one car serves the tasks of a graceful executive car as well as a versatile people/cargo carrier simultaneously, it may have a better chance to be favoured. Moreover, at this price level (i.e. midway between the 3 and 5-Series saloon) most premium-brand rivals struggle to provide the same kind of passenger space and luggage convenience as the Gran Turismo concept can offer. This mean the new 3-Series GT can monopoly a new segment it pioneers.



Most important, the 3-Series GT is a lot better looking than 5-Series GT. It looks more streamline and less bulky. The 3-Series-inspired double-kidney grille and headlamps are more stylish, while the sculpted front bumper / intakes / air dam improve aesthetic by the same degree. The rear hatch still looks a bit heavy because it needs to enclose considerable volume, but the visual bulkiness is already reduced by a triangular rear quarter window and a slimmer D-pillar. Aerodynamic drag is pretty good at 0.29. A small tail spoiler can pop up at the trailing edge of the tailgate once speed exceeds 68 mph.

The GT is longer than the 3-Series saloon by 200 mm, wider by 17 mm and taller by 79 mm. Its 2920 mm wheelbase is taken straight from the Chinese LWB version 3-Series thus is 110 mm longer than the regular version. On the one hand this means a weight penalty of 140 kilograms, on the other hand it brings more interior space – good enough to match or even exceed the 5-Series. The rear passengers enjoy a boost of 70 mm legroom. Both front and rear headroom are more generous, too. Moreover, the driver sits 60 mm higher to have a commanding view of the road, just like driving an SUV. The dashboard and most equipment are carried over from the 3-Series, which means it inevitably lacks the quality feel of 5-Series GT, but it is practical and solidly built nonetheless.



The large hatchback gives easy access to a 520-liter boot, which may expand to 1600 liters with the 40/20/40-split rear seat fold down. It doesn't get the 5-Series GT's double-acting tailgate, as it is too expensive to the smaller car, but the tailgate is electrically operated. Luggage loading is easy. You can stow the parcel shelf under the boot floor, fold the rear backrests by accessing a pair of handles in the boot rather than going back to the cabin. The rear backrest can be adjusted by a range of 19 degrees. On the downside, the rear seat doesn't tumble forward like those in MPVs, so the load bay is neither completely flat nor deep enough. That said, for a premium executive car it is already very versatile.

In the dynamic side, the GT is inevitably not as quick and agile as the 3-Series saloon owing to its extra weight, longer wheelbase and higher center of gravity. However, the good ingredients of 3-Series still gift it good performance and handling. There is a range of powerful and efficient engines on offer, especially the 245 hp 2-liter turbo of 328i and 306 hp 3-liter straight-six turbo of 335i (needless to say any more, they have always been great engines). ZF 8-speed automatic matches them perfectly with quick and seamless gearshifts. Moreover, even with the weight penalty the car is still lighter than an Audi A5 Sportback, thanks to the outstanding lightweight engineering of the 3-Series. As a result, the GT is still pretty quick. A 328i GT can sprint from rest to 60 in 5.8 seconds and top a regulated 155 mph. Who says versatility has to come at the price of performance?


The chassis is similar. The suspension setting is slightly softer than the case of saloon, but optional electronic adaptive damping is good enough to mask most of its bulk, resulting in decent body control and smooth ride. The 50:50 weight distribution still plays a decisive role in its unusual agility, as does the quick and well weighted steering. There is a bit more understeer than the saloon, but you can induce power oversteer easily. An A5 Sportback can't be that fun to drive on twisty roads. Neither can it be as spacious and versatile.

In the UK, the 3-Series GT costs £2600 more than an equivalent 3-Series saloon, which is quite a bargain considering the extra rear seat accommodation and luggage carrying capability it offers. If you need those benefits, this car will be a tempting choice. There is nothing quite like it on the market, and no direct rivals to arrive in the foreseeable future. Therefore I believe this time it will be a sales success. To buyers that don't need the extra space and versatility, however, the normal 3-Series saloon is still recommended, because it represents the most entertaining drive you can have in an affordable passenger car.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
320d GT
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Steel
4824 / 1828 / 1508 mm
2920 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1995 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
184 hp
280 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/55VR17
1575 kg
140 mph (c)
7.5 (c)
-
328i GT
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Steel
4824 / 1828 / 1508 mm
2920 mm
Inline-4
1997 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
245 hp
258 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/55WR17
1595 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.8 (c)
-
335i GT
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Steel
4824 / 1828 / 1508 mm
2920 mm
Inline-6
2979 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
306 hp
295 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/55WR17
1650 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.1 (c) / 5.3*
12.8*




Performance tested by: *C&D




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