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2016 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is the 3 Series that doesn't get all the glory. As a sport sedan, BMW's grand creation has become an icon and a cultural reference. But when it's stretched a little and given a hatchback body style, well, its appeal becomes more limited. Despite this somewhat awkward styling, those who take a more pragmatic approach might find that the 3 Series GT will make a lot of sense.

Having said that, one thing that doesn't make much sense is the Gran Turismo label itself. This term is usually associated with exotic sports cars, not luxury hatchbacks with all-wheel drive. But there's a precedent: The 5 Series Gran Turismo hatchback has been around for a few years, having carved out its own little niche as a versatile 5 Series variant. The 3 Series Gran Turismo is simply a smaller, more affordable application of the same basic concept.

Other than being a relatively high-riding all-wheel-drive hatchback, 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 of which are borrowed from the sedan, and the equipment list is similar.

What's New for 2016?

The 335i model gets keyless entry/ignition, power lumbar adjustment and a Harman Kardon audio system as standard. The whole range now has 18-inch alloy wheels, satellite radio and an alarm system as standard. The self-parking feature can now handle perpendicular spaces. The previously optional Sport Line cosmetic package is also standard, while other option bundles have been renamed and tweaked.

What We Like

Excellent engines; laudable fuel economy; lots of standard equipment; noticeably larger back seat than a regular 3 Series; handy hatchback cargo area

What We Don't

Costs more than a 3 Series sedan and isn't quite as sharp

How Much?

$43,995-$50,195

Fuel Economy

BMW calls its all-wheel-drive system xDrive, which is standard in all versions of the 3 Series GT.

The base 328i xDrive Gran Turismo is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is an 8-speed automatic. Fuel economy is a frugal 22 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.

The 335i xDrive Gran Turismo has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine developing 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. This is also linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is a still respectable 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined.

Both engines have a fuel-saving stop/start feature.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo comes in 328i and 335i versions.

The 328i ($43,995) has 18-in alloy wheels, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, heated/auto-dimming side mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear outlets, 10-way power front seats with driver memory, synthetic leather upholstery, paddle shifters, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, satellite/HD radio, a 9-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input and the iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-in display.

The 335i ($50,195) adds the 6-cylinder engine, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry/ignition, a foot-activated power liftgate, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and power lumbar adjustment for the front seats.

Some of the 335i's standard equipment is optional in the 328i.

There are also a number of traditional packages. For example, the Cold Weather package has heated front and rear seats, plus a heated steering wheel. The Luxury packages comes with leather upholstery, the choice of wood or metallic trim and non-sport front seats. The Dynamic Handling package contributes variable-ratio steering and an adaptive M suspension, while the Technology package adds a head-up display, 8.8-in touchscreen, navigation, a touchpad controller with handwriting recognition and full smartphone integration with BMW apps. There are two packages with extra safety equipment.

Standalone options include adaptive cruise control, a self-parking feature and 19-in alloy wheels.

The 3 Series GT provides 18.4 cu ft. of cargo space behind the rear seats and 56.5 cu ft. when those seats are flipped forward. Both figures outdo the wagon version of the 3 Series. One cool feature is the Comfort Access keyless entry system, which allows you to open the liftgate by waving a foot under the bumper.

Safety

The 3 Series GT comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain).

The optional Driver Assistance package includes a rearview camera plus front and rear parking sensors. And the Driver Assistance Plus package adds forward-collision warning/mitigation with automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, a multi-view parking camera system and a driver drowsiness monitor.

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

The dashboard and switchgear are the same as the regular 3 Series. 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 variant, feeling more like a midsize crossover than a modest hatchback from the back seat.

The 328i's 4-cylinder engine is remarkably strong and responsive, with great fuel economy. But the 335i's inline-6 is a gem, pouring on smooth power that no 4-cylinder could match. But the gap is small; perhaps it's time for BMW to add another 30 or 40 hp to the 335i.

The 3 Series GT doesn't have the supremely planted feel of its sedan sibling, but it's not far off. As an alternative to crossovers, its athleticism in corners adds to the GT's desirability. In familiar BMW fashion, the ride is firm but supple. And little, if any, noise intrudes at speed.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Audi Q5 -- The Q5 and the 3 Series GT are quite similar. Both are based on a luxury sedan (the A4, in the Audi's case) and the Q5 can move pretty well for a big vehicle.

2016 BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon -- This one's a tough call. The wagon drives better (and arguably looks better), but the 3 Series GT has a roomier back seat. If you must have the 335i engine, it's unavailable in the Sports Wagon.

2016 BMW X4 -- The X4 is a compact crossover with a sloping roof that may or may not work better for you in terms of styling.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe -- The Coupe is more of an X4 rival, but it's a good looking vehicle. It's due in early 2017.

Used BMW X5 -- If you're going to go the whole SUV hog, you should get one of the best. A certified pre-owned model will have a good warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

The 328i xDrive Gran Turismo's standard features are impressive. This is the rare BMW where customization may not be necessary. It's hardly a bargain, but it offers a lot for the money.

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2016 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo: New Car Review - Autotrader