Road Test: 2014 BMW GT xDrive

When BMW launched the 5 Series Gran Turismo in 2010, it failed to gain the sales traction the company hoped for and came across like somewhat of a novelty. The car was introduced in an effort to appeal to those customers looking for a spacious passenger cabin and maximum cargo space, but who were not willing to sacrifice ride comfort by stepping up to a SUV.

The 5 Series Touring would be the perfect vehicle choice for these buyers, but unfortunately, it wasn’t available to Canadian consumers, so the over-sized Gran Turismo rolled into showrooms with its odd tailgate and coupe-style roofline as an alternate.

Unfortunately, the concept was a dud, and although it’s still on the menu at your local dealership for 2014, I think the only time I have seen one in the wild was when I tested one upon the initial landed.

Well the product planners and designers at BMW are a resilient lot, so they have decided to take another kick at the GT can. This time however, the car is based on the 3 Series sedan, and much to my surprise, the concept works much better on the smaller platform.

I have always been a fan of the BMW 3 Series cars, but as a larger individual, they tend to be a tight fit for me. This is not the case with the BMW 335i Gran Turismo, which benefits from a stretched wheelbase (up 110mm when compared to the sedan) and larger dimensions overall.

Taller individuals will appreciate the extra headroom that comes with the car’s added height, but there is also significantly more real estate in the rear seat foot well.

The GT’s passenger compartment is wrapped in premium leather hides, and fit-and-finish is impeccable throughout the tidy cabin. Front seat occupants enjoy a cockpit environment that includes supportive bucket seats and a full complement of luxury equipment, and all instrumentation and controls are oriented toward the driver.

The star of the show is BMW’s iDrive system, which utilizes a large LCD display screen to help you navigate through the car’s various systems, as well as display navigational data, various camera views, and in the case of my tester, surf the Internet by way of my smart phone.

The rear seating area provides sufficient space for three adults, while the standard twin panel panorama glass roof adds an airy feel to the environment.

The cargo area is accessed via a power-operated hatch, and the space is large enough (520 litres) to accommodate luggage for five, or golf clubs for the foursome. Should you find the need to carry larger items, the rear seat backs fold (40/20/40 split) to expand cargo capacity to an impressive 1,600 litres.

There are two versions of the 3 Series GT available in Canada, and both are fitted with the company’s innovative TwinPower Turbo engines. The 328i GT features the company’s 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder which delivers 240-horsepower and 255 lb-ft. of torque, while the 335i model sports a straight six-cylinder engine producing 300-hp and 300 lbs.-ft of torque.

BMW’s well-sorted xDrive all-wheel-drive system is standard on both cars, as is a silky smooth automatic transmission with eight speeds. BMW has fitted the M leather steering wheel with easy reach shift paddles to permit the driver to make their own gear selections in short order.

The 335i GT delivers impressive performance for a car of its size. Acceleration is strong and linear, especially when the driver elects to shift the gears manually using the side gate on the console mounted shifter or the paddle units, and sprints from 0-100 km/h occur in a claimed 5.4 seconds.

The twin-turbochargers spool up almost immediately and help produce a torque band broad enough to ensure that power is always on tap should you find the need to execute a passing manoeuvre, or just put a little extra zest in your daily commute.

Enthusiast drivers will appreciate that the 335i GT comes equipped with the Driving Experience Control, an electronic device that affords the driver the ability to set the car’s engine and driving dynamics to best suit road conditions, driving style, or sporting intentions. There are four settings, Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, or Sport+-, the latter of which is best reserved for track use as it minimizes traction and stability settings while sharpening the feel of the steering, transmission, and throttle response.

My test vehicle was also equipped with BMW’s Adaptive M Suspension. This advanced system employs electronically controlled dampers to adapt the car’s ride and handling to meet your individual needs.

While obviously not a sports car, the 335i GT will surprise as it uses its long wheelbase, dynamic suspension and extra weight to help it stick to the road in corners and track with a level of precision usually reserved for much smaller automobiles.

At first glance, the car is immediately recognizable as a 3 Series, especially if approached from the front, as the elongated headlights and dual kidney grille treatment is shared across the line. However, one look at the profile reveals the extra length and graceful upsweep of the body line. The rear-end treatment is dominated by subtle curves and a gently sloping roof line. All of these cues give the GT its own unique identity.

The BMW 335i Gran Turismo is an interesting model as it provides consumers with a luxurious touring vehicle blessed with the carefully engineered ride and performance characteristics that make the 3 Series sedans so popular with affluent Canadians, but with the versatility and added utility that is usually reserved for traditional utility vehicle designs. Add to this the all-season traction that comes along with BMW’s xDrive system, and you may just have the perfect automobile for the image conscious power couple or busy urban family.

2014 BMW 335i GT xDrive, as driven by Russell Purcell

Type of vehicle
All-wheel-drive, front-engine, compact touring coupe

Engine
Twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder, 24-valves

Power
300 hp @ 5,800 rpm; 300 lb.-ft. @  1,300 rpm

Transmission
8-speed, automatic

Brakes
Four-wheel disc with ABS

Tires
P225/45R19

Price: base / as tested
$56,990 / $68,710

Destination charge
$2,095

Natural Resources Canada

fuel economy L / 100 km

About Russell Purcell