If it’s space you are looking for in a high-end car, Shapur Kotwal suggests the BMW 3-series GT

Among the new cars that German auto major BMW will launch at the upcoming Auto Expo in Delhi will be the new 3 GT. The grand tourer is a version of the 3-series saloon with more space and better comfort levels. It is expected to be priced at around Rs. 43 lakh but what do you get for the extra amount over the regular saloon? We spent a day behind the wheel to find out. It’s not a traditional BMW for sure, but its strengths are so well matched to the requirements of Indian customers, BMW could be on to something here.

It’s called a 3-series GT, but it looks very little like a 3-series from most angles. The handsome nose is fuller and more exaggerated, the roofline that leaps over to the rear is a big, bulbous arc and the elongated rear of the car is completely different. It’s not strictly attractive to look at from most angles, but then neither is it unattractive. What BMW has done well is disguise how big this car is on the inside.

There’s more space up front, much more legroom in the rear and, to top it off, it has a massive 500-plus-litre boot. To give you this additional space, BMW has had to lengthen the wheelbase of the regular 3-series. The GT is considerably longer than the regular car and heavier too. Also, it has a lift back or a hatch at the rear, just like a Skoda Superb, which makes getting luggage in and out extremely easy. BMW has raised the GT’s ride height for added practicality.

So is it much more comfortable on the inside? First impressions, especially from the front seat, are a bit confusing. You are sat more upright and vertical space has been used well to deliver more legroom, but because the dash is similar to a regular 3-series, it doesn’t feel so different. However, in the back, where it really matters, there’s much more of a difference. There’s plenty of additional legroom, the more upright seat has better thigh support and you can recline the backrest as well. What's also nice is that ingress and egress is easier, due to the higher seating position. The big central tunnel does make it difficult for the centre passenger to get comfortable though.

Of course, nothing good comes without a cost, so this car doesn’t really drive like a 3-series. In isolation and in comparison to the competition, it will still be very competitive, but it just doesn’t steer as sweetly as a 3-series sedan. And that ‘connected BMW feel’ you get from behind the wheel of a regular 3 is missing. Still, the steering is really accurate and there’s no hesitation or reluctance when you ask the car to turn into a corner. Also impressive are the brakes. Pedal feel is good, there's plenty of bite and that gives you a lot of confidence. It’s just that the rear of the car doesn’t feel as locked down and as secure. The additional weight, higher ground clearance and long wheelbase rob it of the extra agility. It’s clear the setup is more for relaxed driving and straight-line stability.

As a result, the suspension feels surprisingly comfortable. There’s a degree of suppleness that’s quite welcome and the cabin remains pretty isolated from the road as well. Only large bumps and really bad craters register as a thud.

BMW will bring the GT 320d first to India and that will be followed by the 328i. We drove the latter and are happy to report that BMW’s large hearted petrol four felt as zesty and as punchy as ever. The additional torque of the turbocharged direct-injection motor helped handle the extra weight of the GT pretty easily and the 328i never felt lacking in grunt. It doesn’t feel as quick as a regular 328i for sure, but cleverly chosen ratios on the superlative eight-speed gearbox help you access the power in the mid-range and top-end so easily, you almost never miss having a large capacity straight-six under the hood. The 3-series is very well-suited to the Indian market, especially if you prefer sitting in the back over driving yourself. The GT has more room on the inside, is more comfortable and is almost as nice to drive as the regular saloon. So, if its more space you want and don’t mind paying a little bit extra, this is a great choice.