What is it?
It’s interesting how the traditional executive sedan is slowly losing favour of late, getting displaced by fancier crossover offerings including compact SUVs and four-door coupes. This could make the new BMW 3 Series GT range seem like a more tempting proposition for those in search for both looks and functionality.
The 3 Series GT, as the name suggests, is more of a grand tourer, one that’s considerably more luxurious and substantial-looking than the regular 3 sedan. Having recently tested the 320d GT (click here to read), it's now time to sample the 330i GT which marks the return of the hugely admired ‘330i’ trim previously sold with the E90 generation 3 Series.
The 3 Series is a CarWale favourite, winning our comparison test last year against the C-Class and the S60 (you can read about it here), and the 330i GT shares many of its positive attributes, including the looks. What stands out in the GT though, are the frameless windows, the coupe-like stance and the prominent sloping roofline. The 18-inch multi-spoke alloys are beautifully designed while smaller details such as the sharp looking LED headlights and taillights ensure that the 330i stands out. The rear spoiler, which extends and slides back into the bodywork depending on the speed, could be seen as a bit of a gimmick, but it certainly doesn’t look out of place.
How is it on the inside?
The cabin’s design and layout is more or less like the regular 3 Series, meaning it has a quality feel with soft plastics on the dash and doors. The 330i also gets plenty of brushed silver trim and contrasting inserts that uplift the cabin ambience compared to the typical sea of black. The quality, fit and finish, therefore, is suitably top notch and worthy of the premium price that the GT demands. What’s not so impressive is the overall design. Sure, it’s all very conveniently laid out but we would have certainly liked some more flair – there’s hardly anything here which hints at the firepower under the hood. The 330i Luxury Line trim also lacks the rather beautifully made 3-spoke M steering wheel that comes as a standard in the 320D M Sport.
What it does get from other BMWs is the latest version of iDrive and a different centre display. Featuring a flatter design and narrower frame, this new display is unarguably better looking and higher in quality.
The GT’s cabin has an airy feel to it, something that cannot be said for the regular 3 Series. The sense of space is down to the combination of the car's large glasshouse and the panoramic sunroof, plus the fact that there is legitimately a lot of space. Speaking of which, the front seats are adequately snug with plenty of under-thigh and shoulder support, however, it’s at the rear where the GT truly shines – legroom and headroom is exceptional and the backrest is well contoured as well. And because of the longer wheelbase, the 3 GT matches the outgoing gen 5 Series for legroom and under-thigh support which is impressive indeed.
Being a notchback, the 330i GT comes with a generously large boot which can hold 520-litres of gear. If that’s not impressive enough, the rear seats can be individually folded down to liberate as much as 1600-litres of cargo area, making the 3 GT immensely practical.
How does it drive?
Whereas the E90 330i packed a sweet revving in-line 6 motor, the new 330i GT makes use of a 1998cc, turbocharged 4-cylinder unit which makes a healthy 252bhp at 5,200rpm but more crucially, 350Nm of torque is tapped from low down the rev range (1450-4800rpm, in fact). This engine is mated to ZF’s evergreen 8-speed single clutch gearbox that’s scattered across BMW’s range.
While it's not as quick as an M3, the 330i is willing and brilliant for ducking in and out of city streets, with hardly any turbo lag noticeable between light to medium throttle inputs. Better still, the engine is supremely refined and up till 5,000rpm and thereabout, totally devoid of any vibrations whatsoever. It’s only when you punch it out of the blocks that you will find some turbo lag down low, but once above 3,000rpm the acceleration is effortless with nice mid-range pull that doesn’t leave you wheezing for revs. Its no surprise that the 330i turned out to be plenty quick during our performance tests. In fact, it dispatched the 0-100kmph sprint in just 6.31 seconds, hitting 150kmph in an equally impressive 13.18 seconds. In gear, too, the acceleration is strong with 40-100kmph and 20-80kmph coming up in 4.96 and 3.94 seconds respectively.
The strong performance is no doubt aided by the exceptionally smooth and slick shifting 8-speed automatic. This single clutch gearbox is equally happy to be used to zip around town or wind up to the redline when needed. Drivability around the town is superb since there’s no lurching in stop/start traffic – a big plus for those who tackle rush hour traffic daily.
The various driving modes inhere include the usual suite – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, with each behaving exactly as expected. In Eco Pro, the throttle response is suitably dull and the gearbox, too, upshifts at the earliest. Things get better in Comfort mode which maintains a fine balance between decent economy and relentless performance. The engine and the gearbox are fully charged up in Sport and Sport+, delivering sharp throttle response and slick gearshifts.
With 8 gears and an impressively wide power-band, the 330i is a very comfortable cruiser. Its long-distance ability is supplemented with refined dynamics and a hushed cabin - road noise is kept to a minimum even at highway speeds. More importantly, the low speed ride is surprisingly plush and absorbent despite the lack of adaptive dampers. Having said that, the unusually soft suspension setup (for a BMW, that is) can be felt at high speeds. The highways and expressways offer up more than their share of undulations and broken surfaces across which the 330i tends to wallow with noticeable amount of vertical movement. Nonetheless, the whole thing sticks true to its line and gives drivers full confidence to cruise at some serious speeds.
Although it isn’t as much of a precision tool as the older-gen 325i or 330i, the 330i GT’s well weighted steering and body control is more than adequate for a luxury barge. The brakes are likewise brilliant and never lose precision, even after repeated high speed stops.
Should I buy one?
Summing this up, the 330i GT is impressive in a lot of areas. In essence, it’s a more luxurious version of the existing 3 Series with more than enough rear seat comfort that maintains the range’s positives – Strong performance, loads of tech and good on-road dynamics. The only negatives here are the comfort-oriented suspension and an interior that's not sporty enough for what’s basically a performance sedan. However, it goes without saying that if you fancy the idea of a 3 Series but need extra comfort, willing performance and plenty of exclusivity, the 330i GT makes a lot of sense.
Where does it fit in?
The 3 Series GT range starts off at Rs 45.92 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) for the 320d diesel; however, the 330i with its unique turbo 4-cylinder petrol motor is priced at Rs 50.37 lakh. The GT range has always been a more practical and exclusive version of the standard 3 Series and now with the 330i coming into the picture, BMW sure has amplified the car’s appeal, especially among the enthusiast crowd.