The words Grand Turismo conjure up images of an era when the well-heeled packed up their cars and sped down to the French or Italian Riviera for a summer of indulgence.
That blend of power, luxury and practicality translates into the modern world in the shape of the BMW 3 Series GT. This is a third dimension to the hugely successful 3 Series saloon and touring estate. Described as a finely judged combination of driver appeal and practicality, the newcomer aims to attract new customers to the prestige brand.
It is a little bit longer and taller than its stable mates. You get more rear legroom and a bigger boot in this new hatchback. For some people this will make the 3 Series a lot more desirable. Yet it still retains the essence of BMW’s driving appeal.
On the road the GT feels balanced and responsive, thanks to its rear drive and even weight distribution. With the familiar range of petrol and diesel engines, there is a model to suit your needs. I tried out the 320d and the 328i at the press launch in Tuscany’s lovely twisting roads.
The 320d is likely to be the best seller in these parts. With 184bhp on tap it feels quite beefy and can sprint to 62mph in eight seconds and on to an academic 140mph top speed. What is remarkable is how quickly you can cover the ground in this diesel without any fuss.
Thanks to BMW’s efficient dynamics package the 320d can return 57mpg on the combined cycle and has emissions of just 129g/km. These are impressive returns for a car that is still good to drive. The other diesel, the 143bhp 318d, takes a couple of seconds longer on the dash but stretched the consumption to 62mpg combined.
The 3 Series GT is the first BMW to feature an active rear spoiler, designed to enhance the already good aerodynamics of the coupe shaped car.
The 328i proved to be a driver’s delight on the quiet Italian hill roads. Its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine puts out 245bhp. That takes it from rest to 62mph in just over six seconds with an electronically limited top speed potential of 155mph. Its combined economy is 42mpg, better than the six-cylinder engine in the last generation 3-series.
Other engine options include the entry-level 320i petrol, capable of 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and the range-topping 335i six-cylinder which does the sprint in 5.4 seconds. There is a choice of a slick, six-speed manual gearbox or the seamless BMW eight-speed automatic for effortless driving.
All told, the Gran Turismo is an accomplished addition to the 3 Series family at prices starting from £28,830 for the 320i. It is certainly still an appealing car to drive and should attract buyers who liked its sister models but need a bit more space.