2014 BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo, a hatchback challenge: Motoramic Drives
If there’s one thing we can learn from the plight of Saab Automobiles in this country, it’s that American buyers have fallen out of love with pricey hatchbacks. While the Swedish brand gained a loyal following in the 1980s and '90s among yuppies, the proliferation of SUVs and crossovers basically killed demand for its signature car, the 900/9-3 hatchback, with the company ultimately filing for bankruptcy in 2011. And no one has really been clamoring for the 5-door body style to return, at least with a luxury brand badge on the tailgate.
So what to make of BMW trying to resurrect the luxury hatchback segment with its all-new 3-Series Gran Turismo hatchback. Either the Bavarians see an unmet need, or the GT arrives as part of an all-out drive for sales by spackling any gap in BMW's lineup — in this case, between the 3-Series sedan/sport wagon and the taller X1 and X3 crossovers.
The 3-Series GT starts as a 3-Series sedan that has been stretched 4.3 inches between the axles, with 3.2 inches more height and about eight inches of added length. About half of that length is added behind the rear wheels in the interest of cargo space. As a result, style takes a hit: The tall roof drops all the way back to the upkicked tail in a nice, clean arc, but despite BMW’s best efforts to balance the visual weight of the big rump up front with a taller hood and blunt nose, as well as a stretched window line and sculpted doors, the GT’s proportions come off awkward. Even the large available 19-inch wheels can appear dwarfed by the thick body. This Bimmer’s got “back.”
That said, BMW did capture some interesting design “moments” on the 3-Series GT, including the extra-wide, three-dimensional grille, frameless windows and, for the first time on a BMW, an active rear spoiler. The 3-Series GT also features functional “air breathers” behind the front wheel wells, like those found on the 4-Series coupe and the new X5.
The 3-Series GT range sports two models: the 328i xDrive Gran Turismo ($42,375), powered by a 240-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 255 lb-ft of torque, and the 335i xDrive Gran Turismo ($47,775), with BMW’s vaunted turbocharged inline-6 engine that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Both come standard with all-wheel drive (hence the “xDrive” in their names) as well as BMW’s excellent eight-speed automatic transmission. All models also feature BMW’s nifty Driving Experience Control system that tailors throttle and transmission characteristics, with Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and ECO-PRO driving settings.