The 2021 BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine, essentially the long-wheelbase version of 3 Series sedan, is now on sale in India. We already told you about our first impressions in its first-drive review, and now we shall focus on some of its good things and not-so-good things. Let's delve into the details of this oil-burner 320Ld trim.
1. Good proportionate looks
This Gran Limousine borrows design cues from the standard 3 Series. In fact, it has a similar face with laser headlights, BMW's traditional kidney grille, and an identical chin. This version isn't as aggressive as the M Sport version and continues to portray the elegance and sophisticated looks that one expects from a luxury sedan. The alloy wheel pattern and even the rear section with L-shaped taillamps are similar to the standard 3! The only difference noticeable on the sides is in the form of its elongated side profile and larger rear doors. BMW has done an exceptionally good job in maintaining the proportions despite the long wheelbase and the added length.
2. Chauffeur-driven experience
The term Gran Limousine in its name tag itself is a testimony to the extravagance that owners can expect. And it does impress with generous space and comfort for a chauffeur-driven experience. This particular model has an extended wheelbase that adds 110mm of extra length as compared to its standard version. And, this Beemer is not only longer but even a little taller than the regular model. The longer wheelbase liberates an extra 43mm of legroom for the rear passengers. Interestingly, these increased proportions have nicely liberated more space inside, which eventually has helped boost the rear seat comfort with wider seats.
Also, the wider door opening now aids in better ingress and egress. Look closely and you'll notice that the rear wheel arch now doesn't intrude the door opening much. So, there's a better width available with a wider door. What's more, the big panoramic sunroof makes the interior look much roomier and airy, all of which add to a luxurious, spacious, and comfortable rear seat experience.
3. Driver-focussed dash
The updated driver cockpit area is very welcoming with good quality of materials used. There's an efficient use of brushed aluminium with piano black surfaces and soft touchpads along with spot-on ergonomics. Be it the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with classic analogue dials or the 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, it is up-to-date with BMW's Live Cockpit Professional with the latest updates from the brand. The latter is quick and responds well to touch and voice controls as well. Both are designed to be in the line of sight of the driver, especially the touchscreen angled towards the driver's seat.
Furthermore, there's good all-round visibility with an excellent driving position thanks to the electronically adjustable seat with even adjustable under-thigh support. Then, there are many driver assistance systems including park assist with reverse assistance that automatically detects, gauges, and steers (in or out) the car into an adequate spot. Apart from this auto parking assistance, there is wireless charging and 360-degree camera paired with many other intuitive controls, which add to the driver's convenience.
4. Fast but not a fuel-guzzling monster
This long-wheelbase version shares the 2.0-litre twin-turbo petrol and diesel engine options with the standard 3 Series. Both these engine options come mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This 188bhp oil-burner might sound quite bleh as compared to its more powerful 255bhp petrol cousin. But then, it's not really the case as it’s only a fraction slower than the standard 3 Series 320d that sprints from 0-100kmph in 6.8 seconds. This 320Ld performs the same run in 7.6 seconds, which is quite a remarkable feat despite the added size and weight.
There's a strong surge but continuous supply of torque post the 2,000rpm mark and it does pack a punch post the 3,500rpm, before upshifting at around 4,000rpm on its own. Keep it at low revs and it will continue to meander along its route effortlessly and silently. Interestingly, you can easily manage to achieve its ARAI-claimed fuel economy of 19.62kmpl which is quite spectacular to give you a long-range paired with a tank capacity of 59litre. So, it will not only be lighter on your pocket but also take you places without having to make frequent fuel pump visits.
5. Fun-to-drive factor
Standing a little higher from the ground, this one might give a feeling of being clumsy and soft with body roll; but that's really not the case. It stays planted and portrays superb body control even at high speeds. Do not expect scalpel-like sharp handling from this long sedan especially when you are going aggressively around corners. Nonetheless, it's got a feelsome steering that responds very well to inputs.
Even the amount of grip is tremendous unless you switch off the traction control, hold on to the brakes, and jab the accelerator. The rear wheels beg to let loose and shred their rubber as you will smoke its tyres. On the go, it does take a little bit of effort and if you're gutsy enough, it's quite easy to send the car sideways. Not that we recommend you to do that on public roads, but a closed road or a wide back alley, and most certainly one will want to wring it out. It only does get quite exhilarating after the rev counter goes past the 3,500rpm mark. This is when it demands quite a lot of driver's focus and involvement. And there’s nothing like it yet to match the thrilling driving experience it offers.
1. Second-row space not good for three occupants
It's indeed a great four-seater with oodles of legroom but we wouldn't recommend its back seat for three occupants. Although it can easily manage a third one with added space, the middle occupant will not be as comfortable as the other two. The primary two seats behind the driver and passenger seats are nice, wide, and comfortable. However, a fine inspection will tell you that the middle seating space doesn't have that wide seat base. It's a little higher and the centre armrest makes the backrest quite upright for the middle passenger. Then, of course, there's the high hump in the floorboard due to transmission tunnel, and also the air-con console eats up in the leg space. So, if you are going to have a middle occupant, he will not only be uncomfortable but will also use up the leg space of the other two occupants.
2. Not many optional extras
This is the Luxury Line trim and the diesel model is not offered in the M Sport variant like its petrol counterpart. Buyers will miss certain alluring add-ons that are only available in the M Sport (First Edition) version. And this feature-loaded M Sport does make it quite appealing, especially knowing that one can have customisable gesture controls and a full-colour graphics head-up display projecting driving-related information onto the windscreen. All BMWs to date have never been very affordable and this 3 also asks for a premium. So, the afore-mentioned features could have been offered as optional extras at least, giving the buyer a wide choice to choose from. Me, I would have also loved to have some convenience features like plush pillows for the neck rest and rear screens for my entertainment needs!
Thankfully, the BMW 3 Series is a better car than its standard version, ticks all right boxes, and leaves you only nit-pick certain things. It's fun-to-drive, quick, frugal, comfortable, and also feels luxurious inside. Yes, this diesel model could have done with some more features to add to a customer's delight, but then the car is loaded with an adequate amount of modern equipment. It still continues to have a great combination of ride and handling and will impress driver enthusiasts. What's more, this diesel is an economical option for owners with high mileage and buyers looking for a chauffeur-driven experience will not think twice when opting for this Beemer.
Pictures by Kapil Angane