by Roger Biermann
The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo takes all of the ingredients of the successful 3 Series sedan and packs in the cargo capacity to match a station wagon, the rear legroom to compete with true luxury sedans, and the loftier seating position you'll find in a crossover. It fills a small but unique niche in the segment; still, the GT gets off to a good start with a pair of exceptional powertrains in the form of the 248 horsepower 330i, or the silky smooth 320 hp, six-cylinder 340i. BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is standard, as is the brand's superb eight-speed automatic transmission. However, the 3 GT is all about enhanced practicality, and the large cargo area is easily accessible thanks to the convenient liftgate. Up against segment competitors such as the Audi A5 Sportback, the 3 GT doesn't have the advantage of the redesign featured on the standard 3 Series and has to work a bit harder to be noticed. However, if you can make peace with the oddball appearance and higher price over an equivalent 3 Series sedan, the GT is a more comfortable, spacious, and equally high-quality alternative.
While not featuring a complete redesign as the 3 Series sedan has seen in 2019, the GT has still received a few updates to keep it fresh. Various accident avoidance features, including lane departure warning, are now part of the standard equipment list. A one-year Apple CarPlay subscription is now also available for the range.
The 3 Series GT cuts a distinctive, if polarizing, figure. However, the GT's hatchback-like design generally works better than it did on the ungainly 5 Series GT released a few years ago. Frameless windows, a sloping roofline, and 18-inch wheels distinguish the GT's exterior and while the rear-end remains quite heavy in its appearance, the 3 GT nevertheless succeeds in standing out from the crowd. 18-inch wheels are standard on all trims with options to upgrade, while LED headlights can be upgraded to fully adaptive LED items through the Executive Pakcage.
Based on the sixth generation of the 3 Series, the GT model is heavier, taller, and longer than its sedan counterpart. Key dimensions are 72 inches in width, 190 inches in length, and 59.4 inches in height. The GT's wheelbase stretches to 115 inches, which is a full 4.4 inches longer than the F30 3 Series sedan's and helps to provide the GT with its more generous rear legroom. Curb weight is pegged at 4,015 lbs for the 330i GT and 4,103 lbs for the 340i GT, making it heavier than the Audi A5 Sportback.
The 3 GT is available with a pair of turbocharged engines: a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder in the 330i, and a 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder in the powerful 340i. The 330i's powertrain produces 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and provides the 3 GT with instantly available power, whether in town or on the highway. The slick-shifting eight-speed automatic hangs onto gears nicely when you want it to and allows one to get the most out of the engine. One step up, the 340i provides genuinely brisk performance along with a classic BMW straight-six howl when pushing on. With outputs of 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, this engine easily conceals the extra weight of the 3 GT when compared to the sedan, and blasting past slower-moving traffic is an effortless and enjoyable experience.
The 3 GT still handles with confidence, gripping well and able to be accurately placed around a series of sharp bends. However, the electric steering system of the F30 generation 3 Series has never provided the same level of feel and weighting as BMW's older hydraulic systems. This, coupled with the GT's taller body, means the car isn't the most dynamic model in the German marque's range.
Fitted with run-flat tires, the GT offers a good, rather than genuinely absorbent, ride quality. Larger bumps are easily dealt with, but smaller imperfections can find their way into the cabin more than you'd like in a luxury vehicle. Optionally available adaptive dampers significantly improve the GT's ride/handling balance.
Despite the power on offer, the GT delivers admirable gas mileage. The 330i's figures are 23/33/27 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. This equates to a range of 426 miles from the 15.8-gallon fuel tank and compares favorably to the Audi A5, which also uses a turbocharged four-cylinder. The 340i returns 20/29/23 mpg, resulting in a range of 363 miles between visits to the gas station. These figures are expected considering the 340i's larger-capacity, six-cylinder engine.
The GT seats five passengers and, generally, is the 3 Series variant you want if carrying passengers at the back is something you'll be doing quite often. Thanks to the longer wheelbase, legroom is excellent and even surpasses what you'll get in a 5 Series. Three passengers will also fit quite nicely at the back - it's only the wide transmission tunnel that can impede foot space for the middle rear occupant. The headroom is average rather than generous, due to the GT's sloping roofline. There are no such issues in front, where the driver and passenger will enjoy the available space on offer; finding an optimal seating position is also easy, thanks to a wide range of seat adjustability.
A long cargo area is easily accessible thanks to the large liftgate. With a class-leading 24.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats in their upright position, the 3 GT offers loads of packing space. Folding down the 40/20/40 split rear seats is a simple affair with easily accessible pull-handles in the trunk area, and doing so expands utility space to a cavernous 56.8 cu.ft. - enough to load a bicycle without needing to remove its wheels. Further adding to the GT's practicality score is a convenient underfloor storage area where the solid parcel shelf can be easily stowed.
Such a useful cargo area may lead you to expect generous small-item storage in the cabin, but here the GT isn't quite as impressive. A tiny bin up front and a small center storage area make up the entirety of storage solutions for keys, coins, and phones, and is rather disappointing, while the basic cupholders don't include an anti-tip feature to better secure beverages.
Both GT variants are reasonably, rather than lavishly, specified, with standard features including dual-zone climate control, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, power front seats with a memory function for the driver, power-folding and heated side mirrors, cruise control, and keyless entry. The seats are trimmed in synthetic leather upholstery, with full leather being optional. The 340i also gets power lumbar support as part of its standard Convenience Package (optional on the 330i). Optionally available comfort and convenience items include heated seats (front and rear), wireless charging, a head-up display, navigation, adaptive cruise control, and automatic parking.
BMW's familiar iDrive interface is standard on both models and uses a 6.5-inch color central display screen. Despite a rather steep learning curve, the system is mostly intuitive to operate using the centrally mounted control knob, while the graphics are crisp and responses fast. HD radio, Bluetooth connectivity, smart device integration, an auxiliary input, and an MP3 player are all included. Neither Android Auto integration or Apple CarPlay are fitted as standard, although the latter is optionally available. While the 330i's standard, nine-speaker audio system is decent, the 340i's 16-speaker Harman Kardon unit provides rich sound reproduction and is a worthwhile upgrade for the 330i. Optional additions for the infotainment system include a larger, 8.8-inch screen with navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a hard disk drive with media storage.
As a range, the BMW 3 Series has an average J.D. Power predicted reliability rating of three stars. While the 3 Series range has not had any recalls for the 2019 model year, there were three recalls issued by the NHTSA for 2018 models. One of these (a crankshaft sensor firmware issue which can cause stalling), affected the 330i GT. Overall, however, the 3 Series' mechanicals are well proven. Both GT variants are covered by a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a three-year/36,000-mile drivetrain warranty.
The 3 Series GT boasts an overall five star NHTSA safety rating, mirroring the strong safety scores achieved by its sedan stablemate. Accident avoidance technologies, like forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, further enhance the GT's safety score, while standard passive safety features include eight airbags including dual front knee airbags, as well as ABS brakes, traction and stability control systems.
With the 3 Series sedan remaining a ubiquitous sight on the road, the Gran Turismo hatchback offers a higher level of exclusivity to go along with that vaunted BMW badge. However, the GT is about more than just its unique design. It offers appreciably more passenger room than the sedan and significantly more utility space. Dynamically, it lacks the sharper feel of the sedan and is now a good few notches below the all-new 3 Series, while the ride quality is firmer than it should be. While the addition of extra safety features is welcome, the GT is rather sparsely equipped for the price, with the Audi A5 Sportback offering more features as standard. The interior has also aged, with some middling materials and a plain layout. However, with BMW having no plans to produce a GT version of the brand new 3 Series, this is likely the end of the road for the spacious, but dynamically mediocre, Gran Turismo.
The 3 Series GT range comprises two models and starts off with the 330i xDrive at an MSRP of $45,400. This excludes a destination and handling fee of $995 and is exclusive of tax, licensing registration, and incentives. The top-end 340i xDrive has an MSRP of $51,250. At the end of its lifespan dealers may be willing to negotiate bargain deals a little more freely, so it pays to shop around.
While the 330i offers more than adequate power and performance, stretching to the 340i brings with it BMW's fantastic six-cylinder turbocharged engine, a unit that is a delight to operate in every model in which it appears. The 340i also enjoys a slight advantage in terms of standard equipment, although the truly appealing features are to be found in one of BMW's optional packages. For instance, adding the $3,000 Premium Package to the 330i means you can still undercut the base 340i by almost $3,000 while enjoying features such as a head-up display, heated front seats, and a navigation system. Unless you can't resist the temptation of the 340i's brawny engine, a lightly optioned 330i is the smart choice.
Offering a similar lift-back body style to the 3 Series GT, the A5 Sportback does, however, lag behind in terms of rear-seat legroom and cargo capacity. However, it remains more practical than the Audi A4. Priced similarly to the GT, the A5 is the sleeker-looking of the two cars and also has the edge for interior quality. While the A5's 2.0-liter, 248 hp turbocharged engine is a good match for the 330i, it is trumped at the higher end of the range by the 340i. The Audi provides a smooth, highly refined drive and model-for-model is better equipped than the GT. If carrying a full complement of passengers will be a regular occurrence, the GT wins this battle thanks to its larger interior. However, the svelte Audi is a formidable and stylish competitor.
Higher up the price and luxury scale is the BMW 6 Series GT (previously, it was called the 5 Series Gran Turismo). At over $70,000 for the 640i, the 6 Series GT offers a level of comfort and luxury that is comparable to the 7 Series. The increase in size means it looks more ungainly than the 3 GT, but the interior provides a vast amount of space and is crafted from exceptional materials. While handling is average in the context of BMW's array of sporting driver's cars, the 6 GT significantly trumps the 3 for ride comfort and refinement and is magnificent on the highway. While the price gap between the 6 GT and the 3 GT is sizeable, so too is the step up in quality and refinement. Both at the end of their lifespans, the 3 GT is the more inconspicuous option, but the 6 is overall more luxurious and better to drive.