Not too far in the past, BMW came up with an unconventional approach of merging multiple vehicles into one, starting off with the X6 and followed by the X1 and the GT series. The GT line-up is technically aimed at providing the driving experience of a sedan, space of a luxury vehicle combined with a bit of crossover flavour, which in itself is a combination of two vehicle styles. Now that puts many variables in the equation. To unravel that, we drove the BMW 320 d GT.
The 320 d GT is the only variant from the Gran Turismo line-up in India and is available only in one variant, which is loaded to the brim. Given the plus size dimensions of the vehicle and the GT moniker, one would naturally expect to have more space and comfort, and unsurprisingly it does. The BMW 320 d GT offers almost the legroom of a 7 Series and headroom of a 5 Series, while being externally smaller than both. This then brings up the expectation of driving dynamics similar to the 3 Series sedan.
The standard 3 Series is a well-proportioned and good looking car, which on first sight is in contrast with the way the GT looks. The bulbous rear takes away the sleekness one expects from a GT and somehow doesn't mesh completely with the front. The designers have made changes to the front as well to gel with the large rear by increasing the headlamp size and changing the bumper design.
The sloping roof gives a coupe-like look to the rear section and the long tail gate adds a bit of a fastback look to the vehicle, adding a fair bit of dynamism. It's this design, which lends the GT a more dynamic and distinctive presence on the road than the standard sedan, somewhat compensating for the lack of sleekness. What the GT retains in terms of design from the 3 Series sedan is the forward-looking kinetic design.
Pull the door handle and one is greeted to frameless windows, making it clear that this isn't a mildly reworked version but a proper premium vehicle line in itself. The rear also features an integrated active spoiler, which can be activated/ deactivated from the power button window console on the driver side. When open, the spoiler does accentuate the design appeal in line with the GT moniker and also reduces lift at high speeds.
The GT may not be a design one could love from the first sight but after spending hours and days with the car, the advantages of this design become clear, which have been discussed further on in the story.
The 320 d GT is powered by a 2 l four-cylinder engine, producing 184 hp and 380 Nm of torque between 1,750 to 2,750 rpm. Inclusion of BMW's well-known TwinPower Turbo technology means that right from the start and through the rev band, there is almost no lag and throttle response is quick. The GT is equipped with three driving modes – Comfort, ECOPRO and Sport, all of which alter the powertrain and suspension behaviour as their names suggest. In the ECOPRO mode, one can feel some lag but that is more down to the slow throttle response in favour of efficiency.
Overall performance of the GT is appreciable and the healthy amount of torque makes the experience better. During our test, the GT accelerated from 0 – 100 km/h in 8.3 s, which isn't special but does the job well. The good thing about the engine is the way it delivers the power, which makes the car feel slightly quicker than it actually is.
Helping the engine extract better performance and efficiency is the ZF-sourced 8-Speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The unit has well spread eight ratios aiding efficiency and shifts quickly up and down through them to enhance the performance. In Sports mode, the gearbox doesn't hesitate to downshift, making the car more involving to drive. On the efficiency front too, the GT fared well and we achieved an indicated average fuel economy of 12.1 km/l, with a split of about 40:60 between highway and city.
The 3 Series' platform has traditionally focussed on driving dynamics and the F30 carries forward the legacy of the brand. The GT though despite being from the same platform has significantly altered ride & handling owing to the longer wheelbase and added weight.
Keeping the same in mind along with the touring nature of the vehicle, engineers tuned the suspension in favour of straight-line stability and a more comfortable ride quality. The 2,920 mm long wheelbase, coupled with 17-inch wheels, provide the GT with commendable stability at high speeds. The lightweight suspension architecture comprising of aluminium lowers unsprung mass and aids directional stability.
Going over turns, the GT behaves differently to the standard 3 Series and one can quickly notice the additional body-roll due to the added weight, increased height and softer suspension set-up. Still, the GT is a confident car to take curves in, at high speeds and its directional stability remains quite predictable, owing to the good grip from the tyres and the optimised five-link rear axle and the double-joint tie bar front axle. The electromechanical steering system on the GT varies its drive force well according to traffic and highway driving cycles. The unit weighs up nicely at speeds and offers good feedback, but lacks the sensitivity of the hydraulic steering on older BMW models. It does however aid fuel-efficiency by regulating assistance power according to requirements.
One thing which needs a mention here is the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system, which can be turned off using the DSC off button. The catch to turning it off is that it never switches off completely, which means that the system will allow one to make the tail break traction and slide, but only to a certain extent. Beyond a certain limit, the system will kick in, stopping the rear wheels from spinning.
Overall, the GT is a good balance between comfort and performance, with the former getting more focus.
The cabin of the GT is impressive in terms of space availability, both in front and the rear. The occupants at front sit higher than the sedan and also have more headroom available. The front seats offer good support all round and are apt for long distances.
The rear seat is undeniably the best in the 3 Series range, not only in terms of legroom availability, but also in areas such as headroom and back support. The generous legroom at the rear is almost at par with that of the flagship 7 Series, making the GT a perfect vehicle to carry out the duties as its name suggests.
Infotainment is taken care of by BMW's iDrive system, which offers a colour display and connectivity options such as Bluetooth, USB and CD. Standard navigation in the system worked well on the streets and highways around Delhi and should come in handy, when exploring new places. Boot space is rated at a generous 520 l, further complemented by a low-loading lip and high-opening tailgate. The space can be further increased by making use of the rear seat's 40:20:40 split, making the GT an ideal vehicle for long trips.
The BMW 320 d GT Luxury Line is priced at close to Rs 43 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, making it cheaper than the 520 d Luxury Line only by about Rs 600,000. The decision between the two though shouldn't be hard to make as the 520 d is a standard luxury vehicle, while the GT is more of a unique lifestyle vehicle.
There's a lot that the 520 d can do as well as the GT can, but those on the lookout for exclusivity might incline towards the GT. Besides, the GT offers all the kit that the 520 d does and additional space at the rear. BMW has other cars such as the 6 Series Gran Coupe, which are more in line with the character associated of a GT but the 3 GT at the end of the day successfully manages to deliver what it promises – a GT experience at a significantly lesser price. If one likes the styling, which might have mixed reactions, the GT makes a good and comfortbale driving machine on account of technology excellence.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay