For about 30 years now, European and Japanese manufacturers have been trying to sell the idea of humpy-back, five-door hatchbacks in the U.S. We, meanwhile, are walking around with our fingers in our ears, singing 'dee-dee-dee-dee' out loud, and feeling sentimental about station wagons.
Fortunately, the 3GT in the flesh is not nearly as off-putting as its 5GT big brother.
Mazda and Hyundai have tried five-door hatches in the past; more recently, the Acura ZDX sold 775 examples in the U.S. in 2012, on its way to Valhalla. Meanwhile, the Honda Crosstour "crouching frog" caused such a fuss among dealers that Honda reluctantly brought in the European Accord wagon—admittedly, as the more expensive Acura TSX. That sold 28,865 units last year, by the way.
The 3GT's images and details were broadcast in advance of the Geneva Show in March, when it is expected to be formally launched. Both 328i and 335i versions will be released this summer in the U.S., as 2014 models. Expect the same engines as in other 3 Series, including a 240-horsepower, two-liter twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder, and a 300-horsepower three-liter turbo inline six, both with auto start/stop. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive should be an option, and both new models will have an eight-speed automatic transmission. M Sport options will be available as well.
The Gran Turismo incorporates all the latest BMW styling trends. The kidney grille is larger than previous models, while the headlights are minimized, and shaped to flow into the grille. The front fascia is angular and well-defined, giving it a more masculine appearance. While the styling vent is a jarring note, the rest of the GT has strong character lines—including, of course, the plunging rear roofline, with all of its limitations.
Details include an active rear spoiler, which is a first for BMW. The GT is also 7.9 inches longer than the 3 Series sedan and wagon, with a 4.3 inch longer wheelbase. That means an extra 2.8 inches more leg room in the back. The roofline is 3.2 inches taller than the sedan and wagon, which creates a one-cubic-foot increase in interior space over the wagon, to 18.3 cubic feet. That extra space is described as "flexible luggage capacity." Judging from the plunging roofline, that will mean soft luggage. However, the rear seat will be split 40/20/40%, which is certainly handy.
The only remaining question is whether the GT will find acceptance in the U.S., or if BMW will follow Honda's path. But we're still waiting for the 5 Series wagon, now, aren't we?––Paul Duchene
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