Why did Porsche bring forth the Cayenne SUV and the Panamera sedan? For the same reason BMW is trying to sell hatchback versions – oops – don’t say that out loud! – of the 3 and 5 Series sedans: To draw in potential buyers who love the brand – and love the image – but need just a scooch more in the way of everyday practicality. Four doors, maybe. Or, more room in back.
A bigger trunk.
Purists will cry – sellout! And there may be some truth to this. But it is also true that to keep on making cars at all, a carmaker must make money selling them. This can be done by charging more for each one – or making less on each one, but selling more of them.
The hatchback – oops, GT – versions of the 3 and 5 Series sedans represent the latter approach. An attempt to diversify the menu and thereby, bring in more buyers and sell more BMWs. They are larger, roomier – and more family-friendly – versions of the 3 and 5 Series sedans on which they’re based.
So far, though, the 5 GT has been something of a belly flop. Panned for its looks, its weight – and at least implicitly, for its layout.
Now comes the slightly smaller, slightly less beefy 3 GT.
Will it fly?
We’ll soon see!
Consider it this year’s tribute from the Bavarian District to the annual Hunger Games.
May the odds be ever in your favor. . .
WHAT IT IS
The 3 GT is a long wheelbase, hatchbacked variant of the 3 Series sedan – based on the Chinese-market BMW 3.
It has 4.3 inches more wheelbase, sits 3.2 inches higher and has 4.1 inches more backseat legroom than a 3 Series sedan – and more than twice the cargo room.
It also comes standard with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system (optional in other iterations of the 3 Series) and a pop-up decklid spoiler that automatically deploys at about 40 MPH.
Base price is $41,450 for the turbo four-cylinder-powered 328i xDrive.
The 335i XDrive – with turbocharged straight six in place of the turbo four – starts at $46,850.
Because of the nonexistence of competitive lux-brand hatchback sedans, the BMW GTs are pretty much in a class by themselves.
For good – or bad.
The 3 GT is a new model.
An interesting look.
More legroom in the second row than in the 5 Series sedan – and nearly as much as the 7 Series sedan.
More cargo room than a 3 wagon.
Pleasingly retro-functional analog primary gauges.
Lives up to the GT – Gran Touring – moniker on the highway.
Polarizing looks. Could become BMW’s Aztek.
Hundreds of pounds of additional curb weight – no additional hp to compensate for it.
No diesel engine option.
No manual transmission option.
Overteched drive-by-wire automatic transmission joystick.
UNDER THE HOOD
It seems odd that BMW would diversify the 3 Series in terms of bodystyles but limit the drivetrain choices available in the new (GT) bodystyle. While the regular 3 Series offers three engines and two transmissions, the GT offers just two engines – and one transmission.
At least, here in the U.S.
The U.S.-spec 328i GT comes with the same 2.0 turbo four as in the 328i sedan – rated at 240 hp and 258 ft.-lbs. of torque. The U.S.-spec 335i has the same turbo in-line six as the 335i sedan – offering 300 hp and 300 ft.-lbs. of torque.
However, in the GT, both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic only.
There is no manual transmission option.
And there is no diesel engine option.
BMW’s decision to not offer the GT with the six-speed manual that’s available in the 3 Sedan kind of makes sense in that the GT is a bigger, heavier car designed mostly for highway work.
And for the typical American driver – who prefers to text and talk rather than shift and drive.
But the decision to not offer the 2.0 liter turbo-diesel engine that’s available in the U.S.-spec 3 Series sedan (and European market 3 GTs) seems odd given the GT’s putative role as a more practical version of the 3 Series. And not merely fuel efficiency-wise (though 45 on the highway is an appealing prospect in its own right). The diesel’s healthy low-and-mid-RPM torque output (280 ft.-lbs. at 1,750 RPM – maintained almost to redline) would help mask the GT’s 4,010 pounds of curb weight – vs. 3,295 pounds for the RWD 3 Series sedan.
Part of the reason for the GT’s well-marbled beef is of course the standard AWD set-up. The xDrive system fattens up the 3 sedan by 300 pounds, to 3,595 lbs. But the GT is also a bigger – and so, even heavier – car.
Not surprisingly, it’s also a less-quick car.
The 328i GT takes more than eight seconds to get to 60 – two seconds off the pace of the RWD 328i sedan.
For a high-end car, this is slow.
The 335i gets there in a more class/price-appropriate 5.4 seconds – vs. 5.1 for the RWD 335i sedan.
Gas mileage with either engine is solid: The 328i GT’s 22 city, 33 highway is actually only slightly less than the RWD 328i sedan’s 24 city, 36 highway. And somehow, the bigger/heavier 335i GT achieves exactly the same 20 city, 30 highway EPA rating as the RWD 335i sedan with the manual transmission. (Equipped with the more fuel-sippy eight speed automatic, the 335i sedan does better, but not a whole lot better: 23 city, 33 highway.)
Both the 2.0 liter (gas) and 3.0 liter engines require premium fuel.
This is not a numb or evil-handling (or even un-BMW) riding/handling car. It’s not as quick – being heavier. And – because of the extended wheelbase and higher center of gravity – it’s not quite as lithe in the curves. But it still corners better than any other lux-brand hatchback sedan… of which there are none. And the ride quality is very much BMW – firm and smooth as a 20-year-old cheerleader’s belly.
I disliked just one thing about driving the GT: The joystick thing BMW uses in place of a gear selector for the eight-speed automatic.
It is a cold, soul-less interface with absolutely no tactile feedback. You sort of tap/pull it forward (or backward) to access rather than engage Drive or Reverse. Then depress the top button to engage Park. Numbness personified. It is like dragging and clicking an icon on your desktop.I can’t argue with the function of it – but I hate the feel of it.
Or rather, the lack of any feel whatsoever.
You have to watch the dashboard digital display to confirm you’re in Drive (or Reverse) or Park. The toggle is clean and high-zoot looking, in an IKEA-esque sort of way. But I’d much prefer a gear selector that gives me the the physical sensation of selecting a gear – and without having to visually confirm what I think I just selected.
Thankfully, BMW provides excellent driver-selectable shift programming as well as accessory paddle shifters for manual/driver control of each gear change. Select Sport Plus and the eight speed drops down two gears – and you are ready to rock and roll. And unlike many other automatics with manual paddle controls, it will automatically revert back to steady-as-she-goes when you’re done rocking and rolling. If you, for instance, blast through the first four or five speeds at full-tilt to get up to highway speeds, but then back off the gas once you’ve slotted into traffic, the big-brained automatic will take note of the chilled out situation and automatically kick up to seventh and eighth – even if you forget to. And, of course, it will prevent you from inadvertently overspeeding the engine (and possibly breaking something very expensive) by limiting manual downshifts in accordance with your road speed. No dropping to second at 70 when you really meant for third.
Given all those gears to play with – and keep track of – this is a good thing indeed.
The GT’s handling has been compared – unfavorably and arguably unfairly – with the regular-wheelbase (and much lighter) 3 Series sedan. Yes – of course – the 3 sedan is nimbler, more of a ballerina pirouetting through the apexes. It ought to be. It’s a more focused car.
Which inevitably means, a more compromised car. Its shorter/sportier wheelbase means a cramped back seat not really fit for adults – and a Miata-sized (13 cubic foot) trunk. The 3 sedan is just the ticket for a single dude – but not so great for a dad (or a mom). Now – also of course – purists while howl about considering such breederific things when designing a BMW. But BMW’s gotta earn a dollar – and if you want ’em to keep on making light and tight 3 sedans and such like, it’s probably inevitable they’ll also have to make more stuff for the kid-encumbered, too. The people who want to buy BMWs – but need them to be at least plausibly practical BMWs, too.
Given BMW already sells a wagon version of the 3, why the hatchback GT?
Simple: Americans – as a rule – do not like wagons much. Mind, they like the idea of extra space for people and stuff. They just don’t want it to be in wagon form. BMW figures they can sell the idea – the space – if it’s wrapped in a less overtly wagony package.
Hence the hatchback. These do sell well here.
Wait, check that. They sell well – when they’re Mazdas and Hyundais. It’s debatable whether a BMW (or any other lux-brand) hatchback sedan will get the same traction. As mentioned earlier, the 5 GT has been spinning wheels thus far.
Time will tell as regards the 3 GT.
Personally, I like the way the car looks. It’s not disproportionate or heavy looking – and a sense of lightness and spaciousness is effectively created by the frameless door glass and the comparatively low height of the doors themselves. This car is one of the few new cars that doesn’t make you feel as though you’re sitting low in a bathtub, your eyes just about level with the edge.
BMW worked hard to sex up the car, too. Or at least, de-wagonize it. The back seats, for instance, are not a utilitarian bench but a split deal, with 15 adjustment positions. There is also the usual assortment of M (Motorsports) upgrades, such as high capacity (and contrast color powder-coated) brake calipers, fatty steering wheel and polished/brushed metal trim bits.
Styling touches specific to this car include functional lower front quarter vents (these duct air out of the wheelwells, improving aerodynamic flow) and the discreet pop-up decklid spoiler that you never see unless the car is moving faster than 40 MPH.
But the major draw is the stretch job – from the 3 sedan’s 182.5 inches of overall length and 110.6 inches of wheelbase to 189.9 inches overall and a 115 inch wheelbase. The result of which is 39.2 inches of backseat legroom vs. 35.1 – and 25 cubic feet of cargo capacity vs. 13 for the sedan. The GT also has more cargo room than the 3 series wagon: 56.5 cubes, total, with the second row seats folded down vs. about 50 (not to mention the GT’s second-row legroom advantage).
Peripheral plusses include about an inch or so of additional front and second row headroom – and a higher-up/more commanding view of the road.
Interesting fact: The GT’s interior dimensions actually exceed those of the 5 Series sedan – and approach those of the full-size 7 Series sedan.
Which arguably confuses things a bit.
The nominally mid-size 3 Series becomes almost full-sized when hatchback-ized. Theoretically – assuming people like the look – buyers who would otherwise go for a 5 (or 7) on account of the more spacious interior could go down – price-wise – to a 3 GT and get a comparable car for less bucks. The base 5 sedan – less roomy, remember – and in base form, powered by the same 2.0 liter, 240 hp turbocharged four as in the base trim 3 GT – and lacking AWD – starts at almost $50k vs. just over $41k for the much roomier, AWD-equipped 328i GT. And you can get into the 335i GT – with 300 hp six – for about $3,300 less than the base trim/240 hp/RWD 528i sedan.
Someone at BMW might want to consider this.
I mentioned the almost-retro feel of the frameless door glass – rare these days – and doors that don’t rise to the level of your shoulders. I also want to mention the equally straightforward main gauge package – a welcome counterpoint to the overteched joystick toggle gear selector. BMW has also simplified the workings of the mouse-input controller for the audio and GPS – located on the center console. User experience-wise, it’s more Mac now than Microsoft – and better than most, in terms of a non-teenager being able to comprehend its function without poring over the owner’s manual.
If I can get in and go, probably, so can you.
There is also a hidden storage area under the cargo floor – with several decent sized cubbies that can be used to stash things like cameras and purses and other stuff you’d like to keep out of sight.
The GT, like all new BMWs, comes with Auto Stop – a fuel-saving gadget that shuts down the engine automatically whenever the car is stationary (as when waiting at a red light) and then restarts it just as automatically when the driver applies pressure to the accelerator pedal. I have dumped on the system in prior reviews of new BMWs because the default setting was always on rather than off unless the driver deliberately engages it. The ’14 GT I tested appeared to have changed that to the way it ought to be: Off – unless the driver turns it on. The only reason for this gimmick is to eke out a literally fractional potential increase in MPGs – important to BMW in terms of its Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) numbers, but largely irrelevant to the individual people who will be buying – and driving – these cars.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Diversification worked for Porsche.
We’ll soon see whether it works for BMW, too.
Throw it in the Woods?
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It used to be only Saab made a luxury Hatchback.
Once they stopped making them and cars altogether,
We now have-
Porsche Panamera (Hatchback)
Audi A7 (Hatchback)
BMW 5 Series GT (Hatchback)
BMW 3 Series GT (Hatchback)
While most journalist are against the idea of a body style in-between the sedan and stationwagon/ SUV, it seems several German luxury automakers are giving it a chance.
I’m one of the few not-haters among the car press!
But then, I have always liked hatchbacks, luxury and not….
Comparing it to the Aztek is appropriate – both are 5-doors that focus more on practicality than appearance. Both have very polarizing looks.
BMW is likely hoping for high margins off the GT as the engine + drivetrain are mostly carryovers from their donor cars (longer drive shaft on the GT because of the additional wheelbase). The electrical system is likely 100% carryover. The software has likely been tweaked. The major difference is in the sheet metal, and investment there is not that bad. It appears the hood, front fender, and doors are carryovers?
For me, a hatchback is an immediate “no”, no more investigation needed (I don’t care if it is even a Rolls Royce, and for all I know, even THEY now have a hatchback model). I’ve had thousands of dollars worth of equipment very easily stolen out of hatchbacks, but I’ve travelled extensively across country (somewhere around 50 trips) and never ever has a person managed to break into a trunk of mine in any neighborhood. I even was stuck for a week in one of those awful blue-collar pure-military Virginia cities, Newport News, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Hampton Roads, I forget which one it was, and there was this black man hanging around the motel who tried his utmost damnedness to break into that trunk. Day after day I’d find a new mark he made, some scratches, a messed up lock, a crow-bar bent section, but he never managed to break into it.
On another occasion, in Milwaukee, I’ve had the windows smashed and the thief even tried to rip out the back seat to crawl his way into the trunk, but never ever was able to get into it (a different car from the Virginia experience). Of course, on my General Motors cars, I’ve had to have the trunk and glove compartment locks rekeyed so that when I use valet parking attendants, I can take off the trunk key and they can’t use the door key to get into the trunk. Suffering as many theft losses as I have in my life, and with low-lifes on every street corner, all cars that I own have to have a TRUNK.
If I’d had to deal with all that, I’d share your view!
Having lived (and worked) in some sketchy areas, my rule in re cars is this:
Never, ever drive (much less leave parked) a car that you give two shits about in a sketchy area. What you want is a beater. A car with dents and dimples and mottled-faded paint. You won’t notice – much less care – whether you find another dent or dimple, or a new scratch.
I did this for several years – drove a ’73 Beetle – when I worked in downtown DC. Not the nice part of DC. The part way down New York Avenue (for those who are hip to the area) where white skin after dark is as rare as Clover in the starting lineup of this year’s Indy 500.
Might be time to make a visit to D.C.
Lots of changes.
Many of what you would refer to as “bad” neighborhoods
are now safe, lilly white and very expensive.
Even “those” parts of New York Avenue.
But on point, Hatchbacks, SUVs and Minivans
all are limited by not having a traditional trunk.
The rule of driving a beater when parking in a bad neighborhood definitely made sense.
As for the guy who never had anyone get in his trunk, I would have to say they were either ” bad” criminals or didn’t want to get in very badly. A “good” criminal could have taken the entire car and just looked in the trunk later, or looked through the entire car in 60 seconds.
I just wish BMW made the back of their GT’s a little nicer/more pleasing to the eye. The 3 Series GT would serve my needs quite nicely (especially as I am not looking to park in any bad neighborhoods anytime soon).
Caddy CTS-V Wagon vs Porsche 911 Twin Turbo
“There is no substitute.”
For cubic inches!
Yes indeedy. Good times in the sleeper wagon.
A Big Truck Leaving Las Vegas
Another Big Ass Truck
Lawsuit Charges NYC Cops With Stomping a Parakeet
I always thought the looks of the BMW sport wagons weren’t too bad despite the fact it was, well, a wagon. Certainly a little better than these hatchbacks.
I suppose having young kids and facing a serious of compromises in my life is clouding my judgement though.
Edit: “series” instead of serious…although it’s serious too.
Being the contrarian I am, I like both hatchbacks and wagons – more so than sedans. One of my current favorites is the CTS-V wagon. It’s a supercar in mufti. Only “car guys” have a clue. And, as a guy who drives just about everything, I’ve learned to appreciate hot cars that don’t broadcast their capabilities to every cop and teenage kid with a fart-canned ’89 Civic. A 911 turbo or a new Stingray Corvette might be a great track car, but good luck regularly (or even occasionally) using the thing much on the street. Drive a car like that significantly faster than traffic and you will be noticed and each moment you keep the hammer down the odds of a serious piece of payin’ paper increase. It’s just not much fun. Makes me feel like Hef these days. What good is a 20-year-old hard-body on your arm when you can’t get hard anymore?
I’d rather have a car I can make use of. Which means, one that fades into the crowd – and which (if the need arises) can get lost in the crowd a helluva lot easier than a red 911 or sunburst yellow Corvette!
I love the CTS wagon, I have my eye on it as used purchase(budget) as a sneaky hauler for me & the family, but I look the Magnum wagon’s too…they are far less but I hear less reliable.
I agree that it’s really hard to practical use all the performance in sport cars today on the street.
If they would have referred to it as a “fastback” the critics would be drooling over how retro it is.
I don’t dislike the look, but they could have done a better job designing the rear of the car.
“Fastback GT” has a certain ring to it….
If a Bimmerphile were willing to take on a jacked up suspension and more ponderous weight for the sake of “utility,” why would he/she ever buy this thing instead of an X1 or X3?
The only reason BMW doesn’t have to worry about the 3 Series GT cannibalizing their CUV and sedan model lines is because nobody is going to buy it.
And I want to modify my previous comparison to the Honda Crosstour………
If BMW wants to become the undisputed champion of “oxymoronic compromise” vehicles, they should have made the 3 Series GT’s styling a little more garish. Then, it could face off directly against the Acura ZDX. 😉
Valid points – though the GTs are more agile/grippy in the curves than the X1 or X3/5. But I agree, they’re slicing things awfully thin.
Then again, Benz seems to be doing ok with its arguably over-segmented/overlapping model lineup.
That said: I, too, would like to rewind to the days when BMW sold cars – and driver’s cars – only.
“Given BMW already sells a wagon version of the 3, why the hatchback GT? Simple: Americans – as a rule – do not like wagons much. Mind, they like the idea of extra space for people and stuff. They just don’t want it to be in wagon form. ”
“… they’re slicing things awfully thin. ”
And socialist critics of the free market think manufacturers have it easy!
Personally I see no reason consumers shouldn’t simply go for the 1, 3, and 5 Series 5-door wagons. But for survival, the car makers feel compelled to pander to irrational consumer attitudes about “image.”
I’ve always been a form follows function person. Don’t start out worrying about “image.” Take care of the function first. Let “image” catch up to and fall in line with function. Don’t be afraid of looking “uncool.” Remember that what counts in the end is what works.
Ugh 4 doors and a hatchback? Why not 2 doors and a hatchback. I’d likely dig that.
Wow, BMW has finally managed to turn a 3 Series variant into a true “DorkMobile.” Guess they decided to steal the dumbest page out of the Honda Accord Playbook, and build a Bavarian Crosstour.
And now evidence is emerging that diesel exhaust could cause lung cancer. http://green.autoblog.com/2013/12/09/diesel-exhaust-causes-6-percent-lung-cancer-deaths/ This makes me wonder if you are actually a cleverly concealed member of the globalist elite, trying to reduce the world’s population in accord with Agenda 21.
So far, I am the only journo I’ve encountered who likes the BMW GT!
I am not a fan of the Crosstour – it’s a big-assed, overweight, blind-spotted turducken of a car.
But I think the GT looks nice (maybe because I like hatchbacks). It definitely does not have Stevie Winder-esque blind spots – and it handles/drives up to BMW snuff (try one yourself and see).
I really like that it’s not over-teched (for the most part) and also that it’s practical without being – as you put it – a DorkMobile.
But probably, it’ll flop.
Hell, I kinda liked the Aztek, too.