Luxury and room for the knees

BMW 3-Series GT What does an entry-level luxury sedan, like the BMW 3-Series, offer? Pulsating pleasure while driving, plus rich features. So what's the drawback then? These cars have always lacked comfortable cabin space, especially for the rear passengers. It's not exactly a sardine can, but yes you cannot escape the slight feeling of claustrophobia. Of course, the solution to this problem rightly would have a station wagon, but Indians have already shown that there is little love lost between them and the two-box formula. Bugged by this botheration, the guys at BMW strained their grey cells to try get the correct balance between a sporty drive and adequate space. Their fix: the new BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo.

The BMW 3-Series GT hits a home run when it comes to cabin space. This has been achieved with the wheel base being lengthened to free up 70mm of knee room. The extra acreage makes the 3-Series even more spacious than its elder sibling, the 5-Series. The 3-Series GT has also been given bigger and higher seats, affording a commanding position for the passengers. The stance of the car has also been increased and you peer down at everything on the road in front of you. This makes it easier to step in or out of the cabin. The seats are comfortably low.

BMW has also designed a swooping roofline that is cleverly done so as not to reduce headroom in the rear. The 3-Series GT also has the largest boot space of 520 litres in the 3-Series family. Loading luggage is an effortless exercise as the tailgate has a huge opening. And to ease things, all you need to do is press a button for the boot to close by itself. The versatile rear seats not only provide great back and thigh support but they also recline for an added comfort option. They can be automatically folded flat by using a pair of levers mounted in the boot, enabling a mindboggling 1,600 litres of storage space.

Extra space means extra girth, 145 kg to be precise. But the incremental weight of the car does not dampen the driving dynamics. The eight-speed automatic gearbox offers instantaneous pick up with smooth shifts ensuring that the 3-Series GT is quick off the blocks even if it seems to lack the agility of the regular 3-Series saloon. Though the 2-litre diesel churns out a healthy 184PS of power, you will realise that the GT takes a cautious approach when it comes to taking on corners. Don't get us wrong, it is far from being lazy, but it isn't a Usain Bolt either. The 3-Series GT is built for comfort, so the soft suspensions provide excellent ride quality, cushioning as they do the drives over rough macadams.

The 3-Series GT comes in three driving modes - Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. In the first two modes, the steering wheel is fairly light and when you step on the gas, it becomes all about taking it easy and unwinding. In the Eco Pro mode, the start/stop technology enhances the fuel economy. The last option is more about a sporty garnishing to your driving. You can drive fast, though be warned, this doesn't really take your breath away. The car is not as planted on the road and as well-controlled as the regular sedan due to its relatively high centre of gravity. So, it is better to leave the suspension set-up in the Comfort mode. That way you get to enjoy a smoother ride.

This Gran Turismo model can easily be mistaken for its sedan avatar which completely works in its favour. It has the original, gorgeous-looking kidney grilles and the edgy nose, and now has got sporty bumpers to improve the aerodynamics with air curtains. The sloping roofline gives it a proportionate look, especially at the rear, quite in contrast with the 5-Series GT, which looks uninspiring and bulky.

The 3-Series GT is not the most attractive looking car out there. Some would even say it lacks snob value. However, we loved the look and feel of the 3-Series GT and felt the car offered a lot. It also might not have the typical razor-sharp BMW handling trait, but it is still way ahead of the rest of the pack. If you can go beyond looks, then there is no other practical luxury car in this range.
Engine: 1995cc
Power: 184hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 380Nm @1750 rpm
0-100km: 7.9 seconds
Price: Rs 42.75 lakh
(Ex-showroom, Delhi)