BMW's Gran Turismo take on a roomier, more useful vehicle somewhere between a sedan and a wagon wasn't all that well received, at least aesthetically, when it first showed up as a conceptual variant of the 5-Series in 2009. Now, the 3-Series has its own Gran Turismo.
Does it work any better in this form? For the most part, yes, but it still won't suit everyone. The smaller proportions of the 3-Series give the hatchback profile a less massive, bulbous look--from the front 3/4 view, it's almost sleek.
From the rear 3/4 view, the shape is a bit less compelling, but it's well-executed, with all of the BMW shapes, angles, and cues you'd expect.
Like the 3-Series Sedan it shares part of its name with, the 2014 3-Series Gran Turismo will be offered in the U.S. in both 240-horsepower 328i and 300-horsepower 335i forms. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard.
But compared to the 3-Series Sports Wagon, the 3-Series Gran Turismo is rather large: it's 7.9 inches longer, 3.2 inches taller, and has a 4.3-inch longer wheelbase. Those figures push it into 5-Series sedan territory in overall footprint--just as the 5-Series Gran Turismo is closer to the 7-Series in its overall size.
Along with the taller ride height, the seating position of the 3-Series Gran Turismo is also higher: 2.3 inches, to be exact. BMW says this improves visibility as well as ingress/egress--and we think it also lends the 3-Series GT some of the feel of a higher-riding crossover American drivers prefer. In the second row, passengers gain 2.8 inches of leg room, a very welcome extension for full-size adults. Headroom is greater all around.
In the cargo area of the 3-Series GT, BMW has applied all of its engineering powers and creativity to making a space that's as useful and customizable as possible. A 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat can combine gear and occupants, while a two-piece parcel shelf, an array of tie-down points, underfloor storage compartments, and LED illumination make the cargo space that much more user-friendly. Total cargo area is about one cubic foot greater than that of the 3-Series Sports Wagon, according to BMW. (See examples of the configurability of the cargo space in the gallery above).
Subtle visual cues differentiate the 3-Series GT from the Sedan and Sports Wagon as well, even when viewed head-on:a smoother hood, larger headlights, up-sized air intakes, and "blades" inset into the front apron.
Like the 3-Series Sedan, the Gran Turismo is available in a range of standard trim lines, including the Sport Line, Luxury Line, Modern Line, and M Sport. Sport Line models get a black kidney grille with nine bars, black air intakes, interior color accents, and sport seats among other details.
Luxury Line models get an 11-slat chrome grille with matte black accents, chrome exterior details, and a combination of chrome and high-gloss wood accents inside. The Modern Line 3-Series Gran Turismo also gets an 11-slat grille, double trim strips around the air intakes, and a light-colored dashboard inside, with pearl-effect chrome accents.
All models are available with a range of 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels, unique to each trim line.
M Sport models get a new aerodynamic package, including front and rear aprons, diffuser, and side skirts; a high-gloss Shadow Line trim package from BMW Individual; M door sill, leather steering wheel, and driver's footrest; sport seats; and a lowered M Sport suspension.
Sport Line and M Sport models get a special version of the eight-speed automatic transmission, which quickens shift times, and adds shift paddles to the steering wheel.
The 2014 BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo will arrive in the U.S. in late 2013.