The 3GT is not the prettiest car. Let’s call that a truth. But that doesn’t make it a bad car. Beauty can be in utility and simplicity. But no matter how much utility promised by the larger and taller GT it’s hard to get past the look. It’s a look unfamiliar to the vast majority of buyers out there. But unlike the X6 (which certainly fell into the never been seen before category when introduced) the GT shape is hard to warm up to due to its height and shape from the b-pilar back.
Built on the 3 Series long wheel-base platform sold in China (yes they like their rear legroom) the 3GT is noticeably longer and more spacious than even the 3 Series wagon. While there’s additional rear legroom the extra size is felt mostly in the trunk – specifically the length. Score one for utility then. But instead of letting utility drive design, the GT range features a fast-back shape that greatly protrudes into the rear luggage space and subtracts from the overall volume inside the car.
Ah but the 3GT is taller right? Doesn’t that give back some of that volume. Yes and no. The extra height is over the drive and to a lesser degree over the rear seats. While extra headroom is great it seems like an odd attribute to drive design. Especially given that the standard 3 Series sedan or wagon has more than adequate headroom for the cast majority of the population. What you get is a car with an over abundance of head-room and then a little less ultimate cargo room than you’d expect. The result is that awkward fish-like shape that everyone tends to respond to so negatively.
Crucially this is different than what drove the X6 look. Where the 5GT and the 3GT have that high-low silhouette, the X6 combines a high-beltline and a slopping fast-back shape to create something that’s meant to evoke aggression and performance. BMW’s Gran Turismo shape clearly is meant to do other things. And because of that it fails to be attractive at many angles.
The GT series reminds us of those hybrid tablet/laptops that have been the punchline of jokes by many tech pundits over the years. In trying to do too much they fail at almost any singular purpose.
Who’s the GT for then? Clearly people over 6’6″ should love it. Then there are the buyers who need to carry long things in cars. But beyond that we’re at a loss. The 3 Series wagon offers better performance and efficiency along with a much more sporty look. Then there’s the X3 which gives you more of an crossover stance with a higher seating position. Need something larger? Used 5 Series wagons are a steal even with the Certified Pre-owned Warranties. And that’s not to mention a couple impressive mid-size crossovers by other automakers often priced below BMW.
BMWNA readily admits that the 3GT will be a niche in terms of sales and aren’t too worried about volume. Additionally they expect sales of the new car to surpass that of the 3 Series wagon. Are these buyers mad or smarter than all of us who don’t quite get it? Size certainly sells. And so does comfort. Likewise greater rear legroom with better visibility are all things the American consumer tends to respond well to. Then there’s a trunk that looks massive despite the sloping roofline that robs some volume. Put all of these things together and there’s a consistent value prop lurking in there. No it’s not for us and likely not for you. But we’d bet that BMWNA is correct in assuming sales of the 3GT will surpass that of the wagon.
What does that mean for the future? The answer is in the sales. BMW will likely continue on building a 3er wagon (as they have a 5er wagon that the US doesn’t get) for the foreseeable future. But whether BMWNA will import such a car will be up to us and the sales of the F31 over the next 5-7 years. But for now those BMW buyers looking for a bit more utility than the her sedan and a bit more fun than the X3 have two options. And options can’t be that bad a thing.
The 3GT 28i and 35i will debut in US spec at the New York Auto Show later this spring and then hit dealers this summer. Pricing has yet to be set but expect it to bridge the gap between the wagon and the X3. Expect xDrive to appear before next winter.