2014 BMW 328i GT xDrive28 First Test
Redshift: The 3 Expands to Fit Three or More
Not too long ago, if you walked into a BMW showroom and wanted an entry-level family car, your choice was a 3 Series, either sedan or wagon. Today, you have your choice of a sedan, a wagon, and now the GT. But that's not all. You also have the X3, and, if you can wait, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is coming. Every car listed above is based on the same platform and components, just organized in a slightly different way.
The 328i GT xDrive is powered by almost the same 241-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 found in the 328 sedan and wagon, as well as the 428, X1, X3, 528, and even the Z4. The only available transmission in the GT is an eight-speed automatic connected to an all-wheel-drive system. Our test car weighed in at 3959 pounds, making it roughly 200 pounds lighter than an X3 xDrive28i we recently tested, but about 500 pounds heavier than the last rear-drive 328i sedan we weighed. More interesting than the total number on the scales is how that weight is spread out. The X3 and 328 sedan both had 50/50 weight distribution, while the GT has a slight rear bias at 48/52. All that glass and the hatch really add up.
So what's the point of the GT? The front seats get the extra headroom necessary to get into a driving position usually associated with an SUV. The driver's seat seems to have more adjustability than the passenger's, and I was still able to drop it down to what felt like the same height as a sedan.
The back seat, however, is the real trick. The GT has the headroom of a 5 Series and the legroom of a 7 Series. Every time I drive a regular 3 Series, I'm left thinking it just isn't quite big enough to meet my needs. Even though I'm tempted by the 328 wagon -- with a diesel no less -- I don't think I could pull the trigger on a 3, based on the back-seat space alone. The GT has roughly the same headroom as the more upright X3 but more legroom, which is even more valuable to someone stuffing a car seat in back. Plus, I would shy away from the X3 because I require an off-road vehicle about as often as snowshoes. With its combination of smart space and driving dynamics, the 3GT would work and work well. On the road, the 3GT drives about as you would expect -- like a bigger, heavier 3 Series. The steering has a bit of a dead spot on-center, giving more of a wandering sensation on the highway. Our tester was equipped with the Dynamic Handling package, which includes variable steering and adaptive suspension. Even in Sport mode, the steering didn't have quite the accuracy of a regular 3 Series. The adaptive suspension does a great job of providing a firm but comfortable ride while keeping body movements in check during cornering.
At our test track, the 3GT slots in right between a 328 sedan and the X3. With a 0-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds, it's 0.4 second slower than the sedan and 0.8 second faster than the X3. The GT needs 14.5 seconds to get through the quarter mile at 95.1 mph, compared with 14.1 at 97.9 mph for the sedan and 15.0 at 91.9 mph for the X3. Braking from 60-0 mph is more of the same, with the sedan requiring 110 feet, the GT 122 feet, and the X3 125 feet. You can probably guess the results of figure-eight testing, with the sedan turning in a 26.0-second lap, the GT 26.6, and the X3 27.8.
The figure eight tells the real story of how the GT feels. For the first time, we wished the eight-speed automatic transmission would be a bit more aggressive. On the streets, it's smooth as butter, but at the track we wanted slightly faster shifts. Braking is strong, but carry the car into the corner, and it causes instant understeer. Back out of the brakes just before turn-in and you get good bite and even a little bit of rotation from the back end. By playing with the throttle all the way around the half-circle, it's possible to keep the car neutral, but it scrubs off speed pretty quickly. Although the turbo four-banger is plenty torquey, the all-wheel drive just won't rotate on power. Exiting the turn takes patience, as too much throttle too early results in a big push on the way out. This is where a torque-vectoring rear-differential could work its magic. In the end, it handles at least as well as we expect a German family-hauler should in normal driving, and we would be surprised if any of these ever see track time anyway.
Overall, the 3 Series GT is an interesting proposition. You get BMW big-sedan space at small-sedan pricing, the utility of a hatchback, the all-wheel drive of the X3, and the styling to set you apart from the hordes of sedans in the mall parking lot. It isn't for everyone, but I have a feeling this might be the next cult hit for BMW.
|2014 BMW 328i GT xDrive|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$55,500|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatch|
|ENGINE||2.0L/241-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3959 lb (48/52%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||189.9 x 72.0 x 59.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.5 sec @ 95.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||122 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||22/33 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||153/102 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.75 lb/mi|