Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw
Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw
2014 BMW 335i xDrive GT & 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Twenty years ago, such a comparison would have been unthinkable. Putting up a Volvo wagon against a BMW – any BMW – would be just plain silly. While the T-5R was pretty interesting, the Swedes do boxy and safe, ze Germans do Ultimate Driving Machines, and never the twain shall meet except when parked side by side in the private school parking lot for a PTA meeting.

However, these days Volvo is making plenty of noise about how fun and sporty their V60 wagon can be and, at the same time, BMW has broadened their focus to the point of not really having much focus. Ultimate driving machine? These days it’s the ultimate niche-filling corporation, with everything from coupe-styled crossovers to all-wheel-drive coupes to four-doored coupes with matte paint.

From this expansive and multi-faceted stable, we’ve chosen the 335i xDrive Gran Turismo to do battle with our crimson red Viking-built hatchback. A strange choice, but it’s more apples-to-apples than it might seem like at first: both cars are more spacious and utilitarian than their sedan equivalents, both are all-wheel drive, and both are available with 3.0L turbocharged engines making in excess of 300 hp. While BMW builds their own wagon, you can’t get it with the straight-six.

And so, to battle, in an unlikely matchup between an extended-wheelbase liftback and a zippy little wagon. Each brings strengths and weaknesses to the table and, not surprisingly, each has an identity that has little to do with their respective brand stereotypes.

Styling/Perception

When talking about the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo, the temptation is to say things like, “Well, at least it’s better than the 5 Series version.” That’s an accurate statement, but in terms of lowering the bar, you’ve basically dropped it below sea level. From some angles, this is an acceptable-looking car, but from others it looks puffy and unathletic, even when fitted with 18-inch alloys.

Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw
2014 BMW 335i xDrive GT & 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design. Click image to enlarge

The Volvo, on the other hand, has transcended its shoebox roots to become something rather breathtaking. Minor exterior tweaks for 2014 include a new grille, fenders, and hood, and LED lighting is now integrated into the headlights. It looks pretty good, with a fresh new face and the silver side mirrors of an S-line Audi.

However, the BMW is a BMW and the Volvo is a Volvo; one is a brand with a well-established track record for innovative performance, and highly futuristic products like the i3 and i8 already in the market. They have a strong motorsport heritage, currently compete in DTM touring-car racing, and have a huge dealership network throughout North America and Europe.

The other brand, Volvo, has a reputation for safety, and a motorsports heritage that’s less known (but still quite impressive). New engine options, including a pair of twincharged 2.0L powerplants and a Euro-only diesel hybrid, promise some level of futurism, but Volvo doesn’t have the extensive R&D budget of the larger BMW.

But never mind all the pontificating – the V60 is clearly the more handsome car, and given BMW’s apparent softening of brand image, it’s more likely to impress from the curb than the larger GT. If the BMW looked like an Audi A7, this would be a different conversation. It doesn’t.

Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw
2014 BMW 335i xDrive GT seating. Click image to enlarge

Interior

To boil the interior comparison down to a single sentence, the BMW is fresher and offers better passenger-carrying capabilities, while the Volvo offers proven comfort up front and a more utilitarian approach to cargo. Turning things on their head somewhat, it’s the Bimmer that’s actually a little more family friendly.

Essentially an extended version of the 3 Series sedan, the Gran Turismo gets nicely up-to-date styling up front, a slightly higher seating position that’s just short of a crossover, and 104 mm more rear legroom. Rear-seat passengers have a ton of space here, (more than a 5 Series, as I’ve mentioned before), and the rear liftback provides a considerable amount of cargo area, greater than that of the 3 Series wagon. But that last is a deceptive measure – the sloping rear glass takes a great deal out of the overall practicality of the rear area, making it essentially useless for carrying dogs around, or bulkier items. You can haul a flat-screen TV with ease, but taller cargo loads are going to be tricky.

Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw Comparison Test: 2014 BMW 335i GT vs. 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R Design volvo luxury cars car comparisons bmw
2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design seating & cargo area. Click image to enlarge

The V60 impresses the smaller the load happens to be. This is thanks to its very simple and very effective spring up cargo divider, which is fitted with an elastic strap so that your groceries don’t fly all over the place. Fold it into the floor and you’re left with 430 L of space in the trunk – less than the BMW, but it’s a square space and can accommodate pets or boxier stuff.

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