June 9, 2014
2014 BMW 335i xDrive GT. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Brendan McAleer
Everything is amazing, and nobody is happy. That’s comedian Louis C.K.’s riff on how blasé we’ve all become about how complex and wonderful the modern automobile actually is, to the point at which we instantly find things to complain about.
Case in point, this 335i Gran Turismo. Sorry, that’s the 335i xDrive Gran Turismo, and here’s the first thing that’s started driving everyone nuts about modern BMWs – the overly complicated naming system.
Of course, you need an overly complex naming system if you’re going to have a scattershot approach to niche-filling that has more sedan derivatives than there are sub-species of arthropods. Really, is “335i xDrive Gran Turismo” any different from Coleroptera Coccinellidae Coccinella septempunctata? Perhaps not, but if I told you the latter was simply known as a Ladybug, you might not look so confused.
Let me take the novel stance that BMW’s current seemingly unfocused business model is a good thing. Yes, the names are confusing, and the fact that there are, at last count, six different variants of vehicle coming off the 3 Series chassis (not including engine choices, driveline options, or the M3/M4 cousins) seems confusing. However, what BMW is offering is maximum choice. If you want it, they will build it, and that includes everything from a basic, stripped-out manual-transmission car for the purist to a diesel wagon with a sport suspension, or from a track-focused four-door sedan to a luxury-optioned hardtop convertible.
The question is, at long last, why the heck would you choose this thing? The Gran Turismo variant of the 3 Series comes with either a 2.0L four-cylinder or a 3.0L straight-six, both turbocharged, and is only available with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive. It’s got a longer wheelbase than the standard 3 Series, a higher seating position, and a power-operated rear liftgate.
My tester happened to be optioned in the white-on-red colours of the original Ghostbusters Ectomobile, which did much towards allaying my initial dismay upon seeing both its flank festooned with a fender vent and a prominent “M” badge upon walking up to it. Remember when BMWs stood out without needing all these tacked-on reminders of how much the thing cost? Give me the days when all you needed was four round headlights and the ability to blow anyone’s doors off in the twisties.
However, the 3 Series based GT does at least look better on the outside than the 5-series GT, though this is an extremely low bar to step over. It does look oddly tall and ungainly from a side profile, but it’s not that bad from the three-quarter front or rear. Also, it should be noted that the car was shod with the 18-inch multi-spoke alloys normally found on the base 328i model – 19-inch alloys are standard on the 335i models, and there are three styles to choose from to better offset the swathes of sheetmetal.
2014 BMW 335i xDrive GT dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Inside, the Gran Touring is just like any other 3 Series, excepting with considerably more room out back. The rear seats are exceptional, with 995 mm of legroom here as compared to the sedan’s 891. The extra space is noticeable – it’s actually bigger than a 5-series. If you’re ferrying around adult passengers, they’ll love the extra space; if you’ve got little kids on board, you’ll love not having your kidneys kicked.
Out back, the power liftgate opens to reveal a flexible cargo area with a 40/20/40 folding rear seat that can reconfigure into all sorts of useful arrangements. Overall volume is claimed to be larger than BMW’s shorter 3 Series Touring (that’s how the Bavarians spell “wagon”), but really, the sloping rear glass means this isn’t appropriate for dogs or taller cargo loads. It’ll handle a lot of loose items, however, and has a handy track-based tie-down system.
2014 BMW 335i xDrive GT seats. Click image to enlarge
Up front is the usual list of BMW pros and cons. The layout of the controls, and the fit and finish of the interior is very nice indeed, and assuming you’ve shelled out another 15 percent on top of the purchase price in options, it does have a nice suite of features. Like every luxury-oriented press vehicle, this tester has pretty much everything tacked on to it, shooting the out-the-door price into the sort of range where a Porsche Cayenne might be a better option.
Take the so-called Premium Package, for instance. Assuming you’re buying a BMW, does one really need to tack-on a “premium” rider? Shouldn’t things like satellite navigation, rearview camera, smart key and so on be standard? If you don’t check this box, you don’t even get an alarm system or lumbar support for your seat. Really, the car should just start in the low 60s, and then you decide whether to plump for the M-sport brakes and suspension, or whether to go for the Executive package with head-up display and other goodies.