When you’re a car company with a perennial best-selling model, it’s logical to try to squeeze as much as you can from the label. Take the BMW 3 Series, for example. What started off with a coupe-only body in the 1970s spawned a convertible, and later generations introduced four-door sedans and wagons to the mix.
But we’re not sure we’re ready for a hatchback.
The 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is just that, however, and it brings with it the largest interior, most rear seat room, most head room, and most cargo space of any 3 Series currently available, including the wagon. That’s because it’s substantially bigger than other 3 Series models. Overall, the 3 Series Gran Turismo is 7.9-inches longer, 3.2-inches taller, and just under an inch wider than the 3 Series wagon. BMW also extended the wheelbase–the distance between the front and rear wheels–by 4.3 inches. The payoff is near-SUV style interior space. The rear seat offers 2.8-inches more legroom than the current sedan or wagon, and all passengers sit 2.3 inches higher than the other 3 Series models. Under the hatch is 18.3 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the rear seats (as measured by European standards), fully one cubic foot more than in the wagon. One dimension BMW didn’t mention was weight, but one doesn’t need to be an engineer to understand that a bigger vehicle weighs more. Design wise, the interior looks pretty much identical to the current 3 Series model, which is just fine with us.
All this extra interior room is wrapped in sheetmetal that BMW says, “ensures that the Gran Turismo appears to cut a similarly low-slung and dynamic figure as its siblings.” OK, BMW, if you say so. Similar things were said about the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo when it came out a couple years ago, along with equally pretty pictures to make the point. However, in person the 5 Series GT looked huge, with tail-heavy proportions…and ponderous driving characteristics to match. Judging by the photos, the 3 Series GT isn’t quite so bad, although the grille is notably taller than the sedan and wagon versions, and the rear hatch definitely gives the GT a rearward visual bias. It’s hard to make a final judgement from a series of white-background studio photos, but it definitely looks bigger than the sedan, and the wagon.
Under the hood is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine you’d find in any other BMW 3 Series. The 240-horsepower 328i and 300-hp 335i GT pack just as much horsepower, and be available with the same eight-speed automatic transmissions, as the standard BMW 3 Series. Also not surprisingly, there is no mention of the 3 Series GT coming with all-wheel drive; such an option would surely tread on the toes of the slightly smaller BMW X1 and slightly larger BMW X3 crossovers. With the expected additional weight, we expect fuel economy to take a hit compared to the sedan and wagon.
BMW of course also mentions that handling was a priority, although there are quite a few mentions of “long-distance driving comfort” as well. Our guess is that, like the 5 Series GT, this new 3 Series GT will be a cruiser first, and a winding-road handler second. We’ll know more when we get behind the wheel.
No word on prices yet, but note that the BMW 535i GT costs about $5,000 more than the sedan equivalent, so don’t be too surprised if the starting price for the 328i GT is somewhere in the $37,000 range. That’s a lot of money, but you’re also getting quite a bit more car, at least dimensionally. The 5 Series GT didn’t exactly light up sales charts here in the U.S., but the model has proved quite popular overseas. We don’t know whether that will be the story for the 3 Series GT yet; for now, consider our judgement withheld until we can see it–and more importantly, drive it–for ourselves.