2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Introduction
Space, as the saying goes, is the final frontier.
This has certainly always been true of BMW’s 3 Series sedans.
With the 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo and the 335i xDrive Gran Turismo, BMW intends to address this issue. Fans of the 3 Series BMW will readily admit space is one aspect of the cars anybody with adult friends—or older children—will find lacking. Voyages in a 3 Series BMW sedan by more than two full-size adults will discover the experience somewhat compromised by a dearth of same. Try as they might, there’s only so much legroom BMW’s interior team could coax out of the standard 3 Series sedan for back seat passengers.
While we’re on the subject, the same is true for cargo capacity too for that matter.
To that end, the 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is the company’s effort to alleviate these shortcomings. Of course, many people would say this is why the company has the 3 Series Sports Wagon. Frankly, were it not for one “small” detail, we would be among them. Thing is, the 3 Series Sports Wagon only addresses the cargo aspect of the solution.
The legroom situation is still—well—a situation.
To that end, those responsible for 3 Series product decisions at BMW feel there’s room in the marketplace for a vehicle with the overall look, and many of the dynamic attributes of the 3 Series cars—along with expanded cargo space and the raised seating position favored by fans of SUVs.
Yes, you’re absolutely right, BMW has tried this formula before with the 5 Series Gran Turismo, and by all accounts it didn’t go over so well. Company representatives are convinced they’ve addressed the shortcomings of that previous model this time, and are confident the 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo will find a willing set of consumers—hungry for the attributes this new car bring to the fore.
So, does it work?
Let’s find out…
2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Lineup and Prices
Two versions of the 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo are being offered at launch; the $41,450 328i xDrive Gran Turismo, and the $46,850 335i xDrive Gran Turismo. As their nomenclature suggests, the primary difference between the two—aside from the money (of course)—is the engine choice.
Now, within those two model ranges there are also trim packages designed to enable the 3GT buyer to tailor the car a bit more toward their tastes and driving style. These are the $2,500 Sport Line, the $2,100 Luxury Line, and the $3,750 M Sport package. BMW also charges $925 in destination and delivery fees for the 3 Series Gran Turismo.
Sport Line and M Sport trimmed cars get a more aggressive suspension configuration, blacked out exterior trim, a choice of a specific set of alloy wheels, and sport seats. Meanwhile, the Luxury line gets chrome embellishments both inside and out, high gloss interior wood interior trim, and distinctive stitching for the seats. The M Sport package also adds a more assertive aero kit, along with a M steering wheel, dead pedal, and doorsill finishers. Estoril Blue paint is a M Sport-only option.
A number of packages can be applied to the car—ranging from the $950 Cold Weather Package, which includes heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and retractable headlight washers; to the $3,150 Technology Package, which includes Enhanced USB and Bluetooth plus Smartphone integration, BMW Apps, Real Time Traffic Information, Navigation with touchpad input capability, and a head up display.
Other packages offer options such as Park Distance Control, Keyless entry, Adaptive suspension, and variable sport steering.
Standalone options include M Sport Brakes, Harman Kardon audio, Active Cruise Control, BMW Parking Assistant, and automatic high beams.
2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Styling and Interior
Unlike the 5 Series Gran Turismo cars, the lines of the 3 Series Gran Turismo are considerably less exaggerated. As a result, the 3 Series is more attractive than the 5GT. It also looks more like the car it’s based upon, rather than a caricature of its source material as does the 5 Series GT. The characteristic long nose is there, as is the short rear deck, which, in this case is a hatchback.
The profile is quite handsome, with the sloping roofline dominating the side view of the car. The roof transitions nicely into the rear deck, so it looks pretty natural. Not quite a hatchback, but not quite a sedan, if anything, the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo looks like a largish coupe.
At the rear, the distinguishing feature is the automatically deploying tail spoiler, which rises into place at speeds above 65 miles per hour and lowers itself at 40 miles per hour. All in all, the GT is approximately eight inches longer than the sedan with a wheelbase advantage of 4.3 inches.
If you’ve been in any contemporary BMW model, you’ll find the 3 Series GT quite familiar. The layout is focused around the driver and the iDrive monitor is fixed in place as a permanent aspect of the overall design. Traditional circular instrumentation carries on, enhancing the air of familiarity. The iDrive controller, with its new touchpad feature, dominates the center console’s design.
2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Comfort and Cargo
Autobahn breeding goes a long way toward ensuring the comfort of the 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo models. The front seats offer a nice range of adjustability, and all four primary seating positions can be ordered with heating elements. While 2.8-inches of additional legroom might not sound exceptionally substantial on paper, in practice it makes a huge difference. Our six-foot tall reviewer could comfortably sit in the back seat of the 3 GT with the front seat adjusted for his comfort as well.
In terms of storage, the 3 Series GT offers a generous array of map pockets, cup holders (which can be switched out for an oddments tray), and large door pockets in all four doors. BTW, those door pockets are configured to accept drink bottles of up to one liter in capacity. The rear backrests are configured to fold 40:20:40 for the maximum in flexibility. For longer items, the center section can be folded separately, permitting the accommodation of both cargo as well as four occupants.
In addition to folding flat, the rear seatback can be adjusted for rake to permit the management of more cargo, while still maintaining the BMW’s ability to seat three rear seat passengers. Further, the sidewalls of the cargo area are smooth so usage of the available space can be maximized.
Power operation of the tailgate is standard equipment. Smart opening is available as an option, enabling the user to open the cargo compartment by waving their foot underneath the rear bumper. The cargo compartment also contains four tie-down points to aid in securing items. With the rear seats in place, the BMW offers 18.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity—with the rear seats folded that number goes up to 56.5 cubic feet.
2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Safety and Technology
In addition to the now standard suite of safety features such as ABS, electronic brake force distribution, a full complement of airbags, stability control, and traction control; the 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo cars offer a head up display and adaptive headlights.
Other available safety features include; blind spot and lane departure warning systems, collision warning with a braking function, and an innovative anti-dazzle high beam assistant. This feature allows the BMW to use its high beam headlights even with oncoming traffic, with no danger of blinding approaching drivers.
Park distance control, a rearview camera, and surround view cameras are also available. This camera system offers top and side views of the area immediately surrounding the car. Active cruise control with a stop and go function also incorporates speed limit information. The cruise control system will bring the car to a complete stop if traffic in front of it is not moving. In stop and go traffic, the system will halt the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo and set it into motion when traffic begins to move again.
BMW assist eCall incorporates automatic collision notification and vehicle location information. If the car is involved in an accident, emergency personnel can be summoned with no effort on the part of the driver. The system can even convey information regarding the severity of the crash.
2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Engines and Transmissions
As we mentioned before, two engines are offered to power the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo in the United States. The powerplant motivating the 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four, producing 240 horsepower and 255 ft-lbs of torque. The turbocharger is of a twin-scroll design to minimize turbo lag. Naturally high-pressure direct fuel injection and variable valve timing are employed.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is paired with this engine—as well as the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six powering the 335i xDrive Gran Turismo. This engine produces 300 horsepower and 300 ft-lbs of torque, while also employing high pressure direct injection and variable valve timing.
Sport Line and M Sport models get a sport version of the eight-speed automatic offering faster shift times and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control system, adjustable for EcoPro, Comfort, Sport and Sport + operation advance the transmission's shift characteristics, throttle response, and on models equipped with the adaptive suspension system—suspension settings.
As the xDrive identifier indicates, all 3 Series Gran Turismo models offer all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is rated at 22-city, 33 highway, and 26 miles per gallon combined for the 328i. The 335i is expected to deliver 20-city, 30-hwy, and 24 combined.
2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Driving Impressions
The smoothness and fluidity evident in every BMW model is readily apparent immediately upon setting the 3 Series Gran Turismo into motion. We drove both engines and found their power and torque to be more than adequate for the application. Yes, the 335’s 300-horsepower turbo six delivered more visceral excitement—but honestly, the four does just fine as well. No, it isn’t as fast, but it’s fast enough, by a long shot.
The transmission shifts smoothly, has an uncanny ability to always be in the right gear for the situation and is very determinate. There’s no hunting about, nor are there any gaps in the gearing. You get a near seamless transfer of power to the drive wheels. Further, the steering and braking systems convey complete confidence to the driver.
The GT nicely splits the difference in performance and handling between the sedan and the Sports Wagon, falling neatly in between the tow in terms of its dynamic capabilities and its feel going over the road. Yes the 3GT feels heavier than the 3 Sedan—because it is—and yes the sedan handles a bit better, but the 3 GT still returns a remarkably satisfying driving experience.
2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo First Drive: Final Thoughts
As good as all of that sounds, the question still remains; why would you want this car?
Which essentially brings us back to the first word of this report—space.
The tidy size of the 3 Series, the power, ride and handling of one too—coupled with a more spacious package is quite a compelling argument in the model’s favor. If you’re a product planner at BMW, eyeing the marketplace, you’re also seeing a hole nobody else is exploiting. The 2014 BMW 3 Series xDrive Gran Turismo models have no natural competitors—yet.
If it works though, you can be sure that will change quickly.
On the other hand, shoppers in the premium range haven’t really demonstrated a decided propensity to accept a mega-buck hatchback, so BMW is definitely—once again—taking on a pretty significant risk. However, after driving the 3 GT we can say it’s definitely worth taking a look at. Yeah, it’s a bit on the pricey side, particularly if you start getting into some of the tastier options—but truthfully, what BMW isn’t?