Snowboarding, mountain-biking and kayaking families need look no further. BMW revealed its most practical 3 Series ever, and no, it's not the new Wagon. BMW has expanded the 3 Series range in every sense of the word by adding the all-new Gran Turismo to the line-up.
Described as a more practical and spacious 3 Series, it has a higher hip-point that purports to retain all the dynamics of its sedan, while adding more practicality. Lots of it. Or so BMW tells us. Although in reality it's not so straightforward since the 3 Series DNA is somewhat unrecognizable.
In the flesh it looks as big as it feels. The 3 GT's swollen dimensions add gravitas as well as awkwardness to its lines. It's a fastback that looks SUV-lite in its stance.
Best seen in the M Sport trim, it has more aggressive front intakes, larger 19" wheels and a revised rear bumper. The flanks have an additional feature line to break up what might otherwise be slab sides, and the boomerang-shaped 'breather' behind the front wheel isn't just a visual trick, but is claimed to smooth turbulent airflow over the front wheels to benefit economy.
Key to the increased scale is the wheelbase stretch that adds a whopping 4.3" over the sedan, resulting in rear legroom to rival its big brother, the 7 Series.
The trunk can swallow more than the 3 Series Wagon, although the tapering roofline might be a hindrance. Yet it's undeniably capacious, and it feels big; the cabin is similar to the Sedan but with more head-, shoulder- and legroom. And the occupants are perched higher, too.
BMW reckons the additional space comes without any loss in driving dynamics. At least, that's what it says publicly. Privately they admitted its extra usefulness brings a softer side but the M Sport version we drove was able to mask it. The 19" wheels, M Sport adaptive suspension and stiffer anti-roll bars made it feel decidedly sporty. The car also sat 10mm lower than a regular GT, which normally sits 25mm higher than the sedan...
No amount of suspension could disguise the GT's additional bulk, and the stretched wheelbase slowed its cornering turn-in response. However, the 335i's familiar N55 3.0-litre turbo engine countered our misgivings. The smooth yet ferocious delivery was addictive, and loosening the electronic safety net allowed the rear wheels to help the fronts find their cornering angle.
We were almost surprised that you can drive the GT in extremis, but it's best enjoyed as its name suggests - as a grand tourer. The refinement and extra interior space creates a relaxed attitude and the eight-speed automatic transmission ensures the engine remains quiet unless it's prodded.
Whether there's a gap in the market between the 3 Series Sedan and Wagon remains to be seen, but active families who are looking for versatility, comfort and performance might want to consider the GT over some of the crossover competitors.
The 3 Series Gran Turismo arrives this summer as both a 328i and 335i.
2014 BMW 335i Gran Turismo M Sport line
Engine 2979cc inline-six 24v N55 TwinPower Turbo with twin-scroll turbo, direct injection and fully variable valve control
Transmission eight-speed ZF automatic
Suspension strut and wishbones f, five-link r, adaptive M Sport suspension
Brakes single-piston calipers f & r, 340mm rotors f, 330mm r (optional 370mm f, 345 mm r M Sport rotors)
Wheels & Tires 18x8", 225/50 R18 (optional 19x8" f, 19x9" r, 225/45 R19 f, 255/40 R19 r)
Power 300hp at 5800rpm
Torque 300 lb-ft at 1200-5000rpm
Top Speed 155mph (limited)
Weight 3802 lb