The simple answer is: Scale of economics. Despite their
in the world luxury car market, BMW and Mercedes are (Audi, belonging to the Volkswagen Group is a different story) are not big players. So, they need to diversify and extend their product ranges as much as possible while using the common platforms effectively. This is the name of the game in the wildly competitive automobile manufacturing business.
The 3-Series makes approximately half of BMW sales worldwide. And adding new variations to this family would only benefit BMW while potentially reaching new customers.
Based on the 3-Series the 2014 BMW 335i GT is a unique product. It’s a hatchback which is not a typical, sedan. It’s longer, wider, and taller than a 335i xDrive sedan, has also about 150 kilos of extra weight. It is impressive to see that it offers more legroom than the “bigger” 5-Series Sedan.
On the Road
The 335i GT, as consistently defined across the model ranges, has an inline six-cylinder engine with 300 HP of power and 300 lb-ft of torque. The powerful and torquey “heart” of the Bavarian has no problem to offer the sportiness and driving pleasure you would expect from this brand.
Another familiar feature that I know not only from other BMW’s but also from other brands like Jaguar, is the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission that shifts fast and buttery smooth. And all GT models come standard with xDrive, BMW’s four-wheel drive system. That’s what you normally expect from the luxury class in Canada.
Shortly after driving a 428i, I switched to this “heavier cousin” and could notice a difference. It feels like, well, a bigger sedan in normal driving mode. And it becomes a more dynamic, sportier car once you switch to sport mode. Then, settings are different with more responsive steering and the engine revs higher. Subjectively, it took me back to almost 20 years ago, my first drive with a BMW, a 318i to be more specific. The same feeling of pure driving joy, despite the big advancements in technology.
Very cautiously and ready to press the brake pedal at any moment, I tested the Active Cruise with Stop and Go. (It costs 1.000 CAD extra). A piece of self-driving or autonomous vehicles awaiting us in the future. This is cruise control coupled to a radar. You set a speed and distance with the steering wheel controls, and then let the BMW drive. When the vehicle in front begins to slow down, the vehicle then automatically applies the brakes and maintains that selected distance. When the vehicle in front begins to accelerate, so will you. All this without touching a pedal or a button. Note that to move off again after the vehicle has stopped, you have to give the command to accelerate manually by briefly pressing the gas pedal. Guess technology won’t let us fall asleep behind the wheel just yet.
To be honest, I am very conservative and never fully trusted this feature and tested it a few times with my left foot almost on the brake pedal. I have to give credit to the Bavarians: Nothing went wrong and I never had to intervene manually where the computer was supposed to do the job.
Design and Functional Features
I have never warmed up to the 5-Series GT, the bigger brother. Subjectively, I cannot associate a BMW with this body style despite all its practicalities such as the huge, 1600 liters of trunk space (when rear seats are folded down), the prestige-bearing M badges, front and rear M-sport bumpers, M-sport three-spoke steering wheel and M badged aluminum door sills.
When talking about design, it is worth mentioning the active rear spoiler that optimizes downforce and makes an excuse for not so sporty design. The spoiler automatically extends at speeds greater than 110 km/h, and will retract once back under 75 km/h. There is also a button on the side door panel to manually raise it as well and it’s a button that you’ll only push once. Some Porsche flavor doesn’t hurt, when you drive a family-friendly BMW.
The driver-oriented, “fits like-a-glove” cockpit is the same when you step inside. The excellent fit and finish will not surprise you much when you are familiar with the quality of German luxury cars, BMW being one of them. Although I am not a fan of white colour in cars, I should say that, the exterior Alpine White creates a nice, elegant contrast with the Coral Red leather interior. In front and rear, the 335i GT offers more head-and legroom than the 5-Series from one or two generations ago. The quality of seats are simply impressive. In my own definition, I believe that you wear a BMW like a glove, rather than being inside of the car.
To create 1600 liters of storage space, you can fold down rear seats either manually or through the easily accessible levers on the trunk wall.
Another feature, called Comfort Access enables you to keep the keyfob in your pocket, while standing in front of the trunk, kicking your foot under the rear bumper, to open trunk door. It is a convenient feature when you approach the car with busy hands returning from a grocery shopping or carrying some heavy items.
Like the BMW X5, you can also adjust the height of the trunk door using the iDrive interface. With 5 adjustable heights available, it fits to almost every garage, private or public, and keeps you from smashing any ceilings.
I had a total mileage (mixed use in city and highway) of 722 kilometers in a week and measured an average consumption of 10.5 liters. Based on the performance and weight of the vehicle, this is normal.
I do not see many GT’s on the road and have a feeling that the BMW folks did not like much this style. Remember that we are experiencing a surge in SUV sales and also BMW gets its fair share with X1, X3, X4, X5 and X6. So, model differentiation and diversification has its limits. With a starting price of $56,990, the GT is $3190 more expensive than its regular cousin, the 335i Sedan xDrive, and $9140 more than a 328i Touring. Maybe you can shortlist this model among a number of BMW SUV’s and label it as a “black kitten”.
At the end of the day, it is nice to have an alternative like the 335i GT in the BMW portfolio of high-quality and inspiring cars.
Model: 2014 BMW 335i GT xDrive Base Price: $56,990