A weekend to remember.
In early July I was given the opportunity to visit Abersoch in North Wales, ostensibly for a dads & lads football weekend with 13 boys & 11 dads. It’s about 120 miles from Altrincham to the Abersoch area & as I was driving & taking my son, one of his friends & his friends dad, it was the perfect way to road test BMW’s new 3 Series GT which I had that week. BMW’s take on the GT is that it mixes the practicality of the Touring Estate version with all the sporty driving dynamics of the 3 Series saloon. It’s certainly miles more attractive than the larger 5 Series GT with BMW somehow managing the trick of making the blunt rear end seem less intrusive . No matter, I was certainly going to put BMW’s claims to the test with a third of the journey on motorway a third on a dual carriageway & a third on up & down A & B roads.
Leaving on a Friday evening at 5 pm on the hottest weekend of the year & going to ‘Cheshire by-the-sea’ as the Peninsula is also known, meant that the M56 & A55 were extremely busy. No matter the GT has plenty of room. You sit 59 mm higher than in the standard 3 & there’s an impressive 70 mm of extra rear knee room which puts it on a par with the 5 Series, although it does appear to be more. We had crammed the boot with sleeping bags, air beds, clothes, food & drink, beach gear & football kits, but it took it all no problem at all. It’s actually 25 litres larger than the 3 Touring at 520 litres & with the rear seats folded flat 100 litres bigger at 1600 litres. There’s a really neat lifting boot cover with additional storage underneath, where we put the sleeping bags & beach blankets & the GT also comes with a remote boot opening & closing as standard across the range, was also a welcome addition. The wheelbase is 110 mm longer than the 3 Series saloon & this extra space accounts for the extra space in the rear & the boot. The GT’s sweeping roof line means that some taller rear passengers may struggle with head room, although this lack of roof height is aided by the reclining rear seats in the GT another clever BMW idea.
The interior is almost identical to that of the existing 3 Series models, but with the addition of some extra trim on the door panels to match the dash. BMW’s stylish controls are so easy to use particularly the i-Drive which kept me up to date with local traffic problems & allowed me to listen to the First Test on 5 Live Extra as it comes with DAB as standard across the range. The cabin is also nice & quiet & although it took me awhile to get comfortable in the drivers seat, once I had the seat correctly adjusted, I found the ride extremely comfortable. This comfort is noticeable over the saloon with the 3GT having both a longer body & weighing 75 kg more than the saloon, But this comfort does come at a small cost, in that it takes a little of the standard 3 Series fun out of the ride. I suppose this was bound to happen & was a compromise I was happy to make.
Of the engine choices for company car drivers the 2 litre diesel makes most sense.I tested the smaller of the two the 143 bhp version which handled the motorway & flat roads impeccably. However, the engine was definitely underpowered when confronted with the up & down rolling hills of North Wales & a full payload & I found myself changing down to second gear far too often just to get enough power to accelerate past slow moving traffic. Underpowered perhaps, but like all BMW’s Efficient Dynamics models it offers great fuel economy a claimed 62.8 mpg on the combined, I returned 44.9 mpg which I thought was okay considering the stop start nature of our journey, with CO2’s of just 119g/km. I would not be surprised if in normal driving conditions I would have got over 50 mpg out of the GT, which for me is highly impressive.
I was interested to find out how the GT would be viewed by other petrol heads in our party. Several of the dads showed an interest in the GT with nothing but positive comments coming from them, especially it’s looks & the fact that its going to be a less common site on UK roads than either the 3 or 5 Series saloons, which for me gives it extra brownie points. As I have previously mentioned the 5 Series GT looks a little ungainly but the sleeker 3 GT with its air curtain vents mounted behind the front wheels is far more attractive & to my mind Is better looking than the 3 Series saloon & Touring full stop. It also comes with bespoke bumpers & lights which really help it stand out from the crowd.
Money of course is a factor & with the GT range costing an average of £1300 more than the equivalent Touring, this might put a few of you off. My Sport model sat in the middle of the range above the SE & below the Luxury & M Sport. Standard equipment is hugely impressive & with the options fitted to my test model it really was a pleasant experience piloting the GT for a week. Stand outs included the clearest reversing camera I’ve ever experienced, a head on display, park distance control front & rear & the active rear spoiler. But if I’m being honest, what I enjoyed most about the GT was the fact that its different enough to feel more special than a standard 3 or 5 Series & this for me is its greatest asset alongside it’s clever use of space & practicality & for me is definitely worth the extra investment.
After a hectic but hugely enjoyable weekend in Wales, we faced the return journey with less trepidation than some of our companions simply because we were in the GT. Despite a defeat at the hands of a Nefyn combined team of under 12’s & 13’s by a scoreline of 3-0, we will be returning next year for revenge. Hopefully I’ll be driving something equally as nice as the 3 Series GT, but I think that this may be more unlikely than the Alty Under 12 Knights gaining revenge next Summer, especially if our sons get some sleep this time & it isn’t 70 degrees in the shade !
An attractive & practical alternative to the 3 & 5 Series ranges. A Wakestock 4/5