BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine: First Drive Review
The BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine offers more space for those who prefer to be driven in their 3 Series, or is it?
India is a country that loves space. The masses will unanimously tell you — the bigger the price tag, the bigger the car should be. It's this need for more real estate that has allowed BMW to sell the 3 Series GT in huge numbers in India. And this is its replacement — the 3 Series Gran Limousine. It is longer than the standard 3 Series by 110mm and it will come in 330i and 320Ld variants in both Luxury Line and M Sport trims. It doesn’t get the notchback styling from the 3 Series GT and looks almost identical to the standard G20-gen 3 Series, just longer. But the main story here is the extra space, so let’s cut right to the chase.
One of the biggest changes to the G20-gen 3 Series was its added length, it was a big update from the earlier F30-gen car, measuring almost 85mm longer and it was on par or better than rivals when it came to space on the inside. But it still isn’t what you’d call lavish. The Gran Limousine adds another 110mm over that and all of that 110mm is between the wheels, which means it directly goes toward making the cabin roomier. More specifically, making the rear seats roomier. And it has worked wonders. Even with my driving position (I’m about 5 feet and 10-inches) I had more than enough knee-room. While on paper the Gran Limousine’s headroom is 4-inches less than in the regular 3 Series, it isn’t something you’d notice unless you’re over 6-feet tall. If you’re on the passenger side with no one in front, you can set that seat to be all the way ahead, and then there’s enough room to properly stretch out, not something you could do in the standard 3 Series.
For the Gran Limousine, all the seats have been reprofiled for more comfort and they do feel plush, while providing just the right amount of support. The Gran Limousine feels almost as spacious as the 5 Series from the rear, but if you look at the numbers you’ll notice that the Gran Limousine isn’t as long as a 5 Series. In terms of overall length it is 117mm shorter, although that is largely due to the 5 Series’ pronounced overhangs. What actually contributes to cabin space is the wheelbase, and in that metric the Gran Limousine is only 14mm shorter, translating to big space on the inside.
As with the regular 3 Series, there aren’t any gizmos back here to keep you occupied, but there are two USB Type-C ports to charge up your devices, a separate climate zone for the rear and the top-notch fit and finish we’ve seen on all new BMWs. There is a strip of ambient lighting on the back of the front seats, and there’s a (standard) panoramic glass roof, both of which liven things up in the cabin. One drawback at the rear is the large central tunnel, which robs leg space for a third passenger, but the Gran Limousine will still be able to seat five people comfortably on shorter journeys.
Behind the ’wheel
The 3 Series is our default choice to anyone looking for the Thrill Of Driving in the entry-level luxury sedan segment, and if you feared that the added length has taken all that away, you’d be mistaken. You notice almost none of the added length when driving it around town, since it is only 110mm longer, and it holds its line on corners just like the current-gen 3 Series does. We’re driving the 320Ld Luxury Line and the powertrain is unchanged from the standard car, producing 187bhp and 400nm of torque. It is more than enough to get the Gran Limousine going at a decently quick pace. If you want an even more enticing driving experience, we recommend the 330i. It is a livelier engine, and with an output of 254bhp (67bhp more than the diesel) and identical torque figure, it is considerably faster. BMW claims a 0 to 100kmph time of 7.6 seconds for the 320Ld, while the 330Li dusts that off in 6.2 seconds. For reference, the standard 320d sprints to 100kmph in 6.8 seconds (eight-tenths faster) while the 330i takes just 5.8 seconds for the same (four-tenths faster). No matter the engine choice though, the 8-speed automatic transmission will be smooth, managing almost imperceptible shifts no matter the situation.
The only thing noticeably different on the Gran Limousine is its ride quality. The suspension setup is softer than before and with the high-profile tyres (225/50 section) wrapping 17-inch rims, the Gran Limousine irons out imperfections and undulations. It feels a bit more floaty over some bumps, while the standard car tends to hug the surface, but it isn’t something that negatively affects your day to day driving experience. In fact, it makes it even more pleasurable. Unless your commute involves a lap of the Nurburgring. It is happy to sit in Eco Pro mode on the highway munching up miles with no effort, and when tackling tight and twisty ghats it will shrink itself around you and carve up corners with grace.
In terms of looks, the Gran Limousine is almost identical to the standard 3 Series, the added length is only visible if you get the both body styles side by side. The Gran Limousine doesn’t seem elongated from any particular area, it looks proportionate and the short overhangs make it look athletic in a way that the 5 Series doesn’t. BMW’s designers have done a good job of hiding the extra four-inches, making it almost imperceptible to a passerby. That may also be its downfall, though. Part of the reason that the 3 Series GT was so popular was that the swoopier, almost coupe-like roofline stood out, and the ‘GT’ badge carried some extra sales on its shoulder too. This Gran Limousine isn’t going to turn any heads, at least not ones that were already turned. And those heads only turn because the G20 3 Series is already a great looking car, perhaps one of the nicest looking BMWs on sale right now, especially in M Sport trim with the more aggressive bumpers. It doesn’t have its nostrils flared to the moon either, which is a big plus for me. Essentially, if you liked the standard 3 Series, you’ll like this and vice-versa.
Pricing & Verdict
The standard 3 Series Luxury Line costs Rs 48.3 lakh, while the 5 Series Luxury Line is priced at Rs 60.9 lakh. We expect the Gran Limousine to slot in somewhere in the middle and cost between Rs 51 lakh to Rs 55 lakh.
The BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine is a lot more than ‘a 3 Series for those who prefer to be driven’. In terms of space and features, it is very similar to the 5 Series. It is also considerably more comfortable than the regular 3 Series while being almost as fun when driven hard. Sure, it carries a (relatively) less aspirational number (3, as opposed to the 5) on its bootlid, and misses out on a few creature comforts. But at that price and for most people, the 3 Series Gran Limousine will be a tough proposition to ignore.