3GT is as pleasing to look at as a gaping wound.
This is BMW’s second effort at turning their humble 3 Series into a capable, luxurious and comfortable Grand Tourer. Grand Tourer? Is that a euphemism for some sort of travelling salesman, you wonder.
Well, the answer is: Not at all. After the 1950s had given the idle rich a new moniker — the Jet Set, the world’s luxury car makers of the sat up and took notice of the fact that they could give this lot the option of making such journeys by road. The technology of the time meant that such journeys could be made faster, easier and infinitely more pleasurable than they had ever been. And thus the Grand Tourer car was born.
The idea was really simple.
A Grand Tourer had to be a great-looking, long-legged, luxurious long-distance cruiser that felt sporty, was manageable and could sit comfortably at high speeds all day. There was another tiny little fact that we can’t overlook entirely. They were the most expensive cars money could buy in their day.
Ferrari, Aston Martin, Maserati and Bentley are specialist manufacturers of Grand Tourers. They’ve been doing it since the genre kicked off and they’re still on top of their game today.
Q But don’t these cars cost several crores? I’m not paying that kind of money for a BMW.
As well you shouldn’t. The BMW costs just around half a crore.
Q Still not convinced, don’t like the way it looks.
We agree. It doesn’t look particularly good. What made it worse was that my test car had lovely blue paint that drew a lot of attention to it. Let me put it this way. The reactions I got to it were ‘Wow!... Oh…oh dear. It appears to have been styled by a group of people that were falling out during the very process of styling it.’
Someone wanted a coupe, another wanted an estate car and someone else wanted a fastback. The end result is something that is all of these things.
Q Presume that ‘bombo’ back-end must have a point!
It does. You’ll find evidence of that in the interior. While the front half of the cabin is the same as the regular 3 Series, the rear is huge. It’s easily big enough for two properly strapping adults and a child.
The boot is vast as well. Four large suitcases and a few other bits and bobs? No problem. Just remember to push the button that closes the tailgate when you’re done.
Q For those who live in a city which has typical Indian roads, is this thing any good at bumps and ruts?
Let me put it this way. I picked this thing up from the BMW service centre which is situated in an industrial estate outside Mumbai. The road leading out of there was shocking, if not non-existent. That’s when it hit me! The ride quality was better than it is in the normal 3 series and because of this car’s heavier rear end, it bounces around a lot less. It's much better at dealing with rutted roads and gravel tracks. But a heavy rear end generally means a nauseating pendulum effect at high speeds.
Q Okay. But it’s still a BMW. They’re supposed to be good to drive, aren’t they?
This one has a relatively small two-litre four-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol engine and not BMW’s signature three-litre straight six, but the way it made its 256 horsepower and 350 torques was smooth, progressive and very predictable. You can converse with it at the intensity you’d like through the 8-speed automatic gearbox and it will never try to start an argument with you.
Q Is it any good at being a Grand Tourer as you ‘car people’ call it?
Oh, it’s good. Really good. There is an effortlessness with which the 3GT cruises. It has an inherent sense of calm that so far has been the forte of Mercedes Benz. But it still feels like a BMW somehow; only more relaxed. You can barely hear the engine.
You have very little idea of what’s going on in the world outside. But you’re still enjoying the drive. If you’re not careful, the head-up display will inform you that you’re doing well over twice the speed limit. You won’t feel this in any way, but that’s the GT side of this car shining through.
Q Still not clear though. Break it down for the common man.
Right, so we’ve established that the 3GT is as pleasing to look at as a gaping wound. It is spacious, commodious, comes with a super-smooth power train, cruises well enough to justify the GT badge and deals with Indian roads rather well. But while we’re stating facts, it must be said that the stereo isn’t great, the rear windows only go halfway down, which is a questionable oversight because all four windows are frameless and therefore draw attention to the design fault.
Q What exactly am I buying for about 50 lakhs? Apart from a travelling salesman, obviously.
You’re buying a car that can do the cut and thrust of city life like the best of them. But like supercars and great SUVs, the 3GT has another complete set of skills. Sure, it doesn’t follow the typical Grand Tourer recipe, but what it offers for about 50 lakhs plus of your hard-earned rupees is two cars in one — an everyday family car and a proper Gran Turismo.