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When you talk about BMW cars in India (and around the world for the most part), the first car or rather series of cars that comes to mind is the 3 Series. It may not be the flagship of BMW’s stellar stable, but it sure is the flagbearer of BMW. Now, the latest 3 Series has left the world impressed, pretty much like the previous iterations, but this time around we have something special in the series. We have with us the BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine and it has given us more than a few reasons to rejoice.
We have driven quite a few BMWs in the past, from manic ones like the M4 to the severely opulent ones like the 7 series. The thing with those cars is that they have that certain something that BMW puts in their cars intensified to a whole ‘nother level. But then, they are out of reach for most people. That is where the 3 Series comes in. It has that certain something and with a halo on top like the legendary M3, how could it not be? But then, it is relatively reachable too.
That has also been one of the biggest reasons for the massive success that the 3 Series has enjoyed over the years. It is a near-perfect mix of driving pleasure, travelling pleasure, and well, bank balance pleasure. The BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine adds another dimension to one of those traits. It may not be hard to guess what it is but we’ll still put it out there- travelling luxury.
How does it do that? You can add one million lights in the cabin of a car, install the console of a fighter jet, add 20 infotainment screens and then some, but if there is a lack of space, it all goes south. See, luxury starts with comfort and space is the basis of comfort. Legroom, thigh support, headroom and the usual deal. Now, it is not that that the 3 Series did not have a spacious cabin, the Gran Limousine just takes it up a few notches. So let’s talk about that very thing first, shall we?
So, the overall length of the car goes up from 4,709mm in the standard 3 Series to 4,819mm in the 3 Series Gran Limousine. The wheelbase, similarly, is also up from 2,851 mm to 2,961 mm. Increments of 110mm on both of those fronts. In order to keep the increase in length in synergy with the silhouette, the overall height of the car goes down and with it, the headroom is reduced by 4mm in both the front and rear of the cabin.
Now, 4mm less headroom is not a big deal and it is nearly nullified with the increased room in the rear of the cabin. The rear doors on the 3 Series Gran Limousine are 110mm longer which makes getting in and out of the car easier which is saying something because the Standard Wheelbase 3 Series poses no problems in that regard anyway. This also means that there is more legroom in the rear, 43mm more to be precise which is considerable, if put mildly and best-in-class if put properly.
All those numbers making you feel dizzy? They are doing that to us. But since we have them and the comparisons out of the way, let’s talk about the car objectively because that is what matters in the end. And let us start with the design and the exteriors. What we really liked about BMW’s design of the 3 Series and the 3 Series Gran Limousine is the seamlessness with which it flows.
Look at the front for example. The headlights have been getting meaner over the years and in the case of this car, they are the same but elegantly so. We like the little notch along the lower line of the LED headlamps. Another good thing is that they are not too swept back. Complemented by the DRLs, they look fantastic.
Moving on, the ‘T’ shaped intakes are a neat touch and integrate well with the lines on the bumper. Then there’s the signature grille which has been getting bigger and bigger but on this one, it does not look too out of place. Now, adding to the famed BMW sportiness is how the car looks from the front-three-quarters. Short overhangs and a long bonnet have always been drool-worthy but the extended wheelbase and set-back passenger compartment, it looks even better in our opinion.
As we mentioned earlier, the increased wheelbase and length have had nearly zero effect on the overall stance and silhouette of the car. The ever-so-slight reduction in the overall height of the car has allowed it to keep the elongated and low stance of the standard 3 Series that we all have. Rounding things up at the rear, the slight lip that distinctively looks like a spoiler rises effortlessly and puts emphasis on the beautiful L-shaped LED taillights. The two tailpipes on either side further establish the sporty intent of the 3 Series Gran Limousine.
We are petrolheads and we like driving cars and not travelling as passengers. But BMW states that the 3 Series Gran Limousine exists alongside the standard 3 Series cars in India to cater to the customers who prefer long sedans and the practicality associated with them. Fair enough. And that is why we finally decided to step inside the cabin, we went to check out the rear first.
BMW cars have never been lacking in the opulence and it is the same with this particular car as well. But, predictably, the extended length of the car has gone far in enhancing the comfort of the rear seats dramatically. There’s more than enough legroom and headroom even for taller people.
Other than that, there’s bespoke leather upholstery on offer in addition to a luxurious rear-seat. The emphasis on comfort is highlighted by the new headrest and armrest and improved padding all around. Coming to the front, we have comfort seats which are a good addition. Now with the kind of performance that this car is capable of, we’d have liked them to be a little sportier. Perhaps it can use an M-Package to make people like us happy.
Rest of the innards are rather familiar with the specialities being the panorama glass sunroof and ambient lighting. Then there’s the iDrive, the familiar console, BMW Live Cockpit Professional and very much to our liking, a Harmon Kardon Surround system. Did we forget wireless charging? We just covered it then.
Onwards to the stuff we like more- performance. See, the 3 Series has been there since 1975 and ever since the first one arrived, its emphasis was very clear. It served to provide the customers with sporty performance, top-notch technology, and high levels of comfort. All that at a price that does not form the basis of perhaps an Italian Job. Invariably, we had high expectations from the 3 Series Gran Limousine.
We had at our disposal the 330Li variant which features a twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine… Let’s call “twin-turbocharged” “BMW TwinPower Turbo”. A lot of work went into that name and we do not want it to not serve its purpose. Anyway, the engine is good for 258 bhp of power and 400 Nm of torque (between 1,550 and 4,400 rpm).
Officially the car can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds. That is a fantastic number for a near-5-metre car. Like always, BMW never lets go of its performance bias and that is why even their more sedate cars are not so sedate. This one weighs 1,640 kg unladen which is pretty impressive for a car of its class.
But not all of the credit for its performance goes to the weight. The engine is a beauty. It is smooth and there is no perceivable lag and it makes the car pull effortlessly. There are other modes too but we being the kind of people we are, kept it in SPORT. The throttle response is really crisp in this mode but again, despite all that the engine is capable of, it is the refinement that impressed us the most.
Another factor that bolsters the 3 Series Gran Limousine’s credentials as a sports sedan is the 8-speed Steptronic transmission. The power is sent to the rear wheels via this phenomenal unit which shifts deceptively quick in SPORT mode. More than that, it also aids tractability and since the torque is spread in a wide range of RPM, the car is a joy to drive whether you are cruising on highways or crawling in traffic.
Handling is also pretty good. The SPORT mode stiffens the suspension enough and the car has a great balance due to the weight distribution. On top of all that, it is a rear-wheel-drive car so it is a lot of fun to drive as well. It can be placed in a corner and then it just holds its line. Quite a chunk of it comes from the electronics keeping you safe as well but then BMW generally makes pretty stellar cars. It did feel just a tad lethargic but driving the standard 3 Series side by side might reveal the difference, if any.
Overall, we find the BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine to be a very likeable car. The pricing of the car will obviously be a factor but our guess is that it will be in the middle of the 3 Series and the 5 Series. But for what it’s worth it will quite likely justify the hike over the standard 3 Series considering it is kept sensible. And with Luxury Line being the only variant, you are sure to get a lot of top-shelf options checked.