The all-new 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo hatchback has its share of detractors, and we're guessing that doesn't bother BMW one bit. After all, the company's current strategy is to fill every available market niche with a product, and when you do that, you're bound to rub some people the wrong way. In the 3 Series GT's case, the sticking point for critics tends to be its somewhat awkward styling, but hey, not everyone thinks of cars as works of art. For those who take a more pragmatic approach, the 3 Series GT could make a lot of sense.
Having said that, one thing that doesn't make much sense is the Gran Turismo label itself. We typically associate this phrase with exotic sports cars, not luxury hatchbacks with standard all-wheel drive (AWD). But there's a precedent: The 5 Series Gran Turismo hatchback has been around for a few years now, having carved out a little niche of its own as a versatile 5 Series alternative. The 3 Series Gran Turismo is simply a smaller, more affordable application of the same basic concept.
Other than being a relatively high-riding AWD hatch, the 3 Series GT is pretty much like any other 3 Series. Power comes from either a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (328i) or a turbo inline-6 (335i), both borrowed from the sedan, and the equipment roster is similar, as well. It's just a matter of whether the GT's unique blend of attributes strikes your fancy. Haters gonna hate, but as long as you're cool with the styling, it's hard to go wrong with BMW's latest GT creation.
What's New for 2014?
The 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is an all-new model.
What We Like
Excellent engines; laudable fuel economy; lots of standard equipment; noticeably larger back seat; handy hatchback cargo area
What We Don't
Costs more than a 3 Series sedan and isn't quite as sharp
The base 328i xDrive Gran Turismo is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is an 8-speed automatic. Fuel economy checks in at a frugal 22 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
The 335i xDrive Gran Turismo upgrades to a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine that churns out 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. An 8-speed automatic handles the shifting duties here as well, and fuel economy is a still-respectable 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.
The xDrive part, by the way, is BMW-speak for all-wheel drive. As noted above, it's standard on every 3 Series GT.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 3 Series Gran Turismo is offered in two trim levels: 328i and 335i.
The 328i ($42,375) comes loaded with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, a power lift gate, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear outlets, 8-way power front seats with driver memory, synthetic leather upholstery, paddle shifters, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and the iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-in display.
The 335i ($47,775) adds the 6-cylinder engine, 18-in alloy wheels and xenon headlights with LED accent lights.
Options start with three lines that are designed to add some character to your GT. The Luxury line includes flourishes such as interior wood trim, while the Sport line boasts a lower ride height, enveloping sport seats and high-gloss black exterior accents. The most elaborate is the M Sport line, which includes the lower ride height and sport seats plus shadow-line exterior trim and various M-themed styling enhancements.
There are also a number of traditional packages. The Cold Weather package, for example, brings heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats. The Dynamic Handling package contributes variable-ratio steering and an adaptive M suspension, while the Technology package adds a head-up display, a navigation system with a touchpad and full smartphone integration with BMW apps.
Standalone options include M Sport brakes, adaptive cruise control, a self-parking system and a Harmon Kardon surround-sound audio system.
In terms of cargo capacity, the 3 Series GT provides 18.4 cu ft behind the rear seatbacks and 56.5 cu ft with those seatbacks flipped forward. Both figures actually outdo the wagon version of the 3 Series. A very cool feature is the Comfort Access keyless entry system, which allows you to open the lift gate simply by waving your foot under the bumper.
The 2014 3 Series GT comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee, full-length side-curtain).
Available electronic driving aids include adaptive cruise control, a frontal collision-mitigation system and a lane-departure warning system.
In government crash testing, the 3 Series GT received five stars out of five overall, including four stars for front impacts and five stars for side impacts.
Behind the Wheel
In our interior evaluation of the 3 Series GT, we were strongly reminded of the regular 3 Series sedan, at least when we first hopped in. The dashboard is the same, as is the switchgear. Where the GT sets itself apart is in the airiness of its taller, glassier cabin. The standard panoramic sunroof certainly helps, but the GT also has a stretched wheelbase that gives it the most rear legroom of any 3 Series model. We can attest to the new-found space back there; the 3 Series GT feels more like a midsize crossover from the back seat than a modest hatchback.
Under the hood, the 328i's turbo 4-cylinder engine is remarkably strong and responsive. With acceleration like this from the base four, along with superior fuel economy, it can be hard to see the point of the costlier 335i. Of course, the 335i's inline-6 is a thing of beauty, relentlessly pouring on silky-smooth power that the four just can't match. But the gap has become too small for comfort; perhaps it's time for BMW to add another 30 or 40 horses to the 335i's stable.
On the road, the 3 Series GT lacks the supremely planted feel of the sedan, but it's not far off. If you're looking at the GT as an alternative to crossovers, you'll love its athleticism in corners. In familiar BMW fashion, the ride is firm but supple, and little, if any, noise intrudes at speed.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon -- Tough call here. We've got a soft spot for the wagon because it's gorgeous (and drives better), but you might go for the 3 Series GT because it's got a roomier back seat. If you're partial to the 335i engine, note that it's unavailable in the Sports Wagon.
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class -- The GLK also has sedan roots (the outgoing C-Class), and it's more carlike to drive than its boxy styling suggests.
We're impressed by the 328i xDrive Gran Turismo's standard features. This is the rare BMW where customization may not even be necessary. It's not exactly a bargain, but you get a lot of kit for your cash.