BMW 330i GRAN TURISMO
Coveted badge, TwinPower Turbo four-pot motor. Makes for a test
THE BEAUTY OF POWER IS THAT IT can appear in so many forms. Yet the power of beauty cannot be underestimated in a world that thinks with its eyes. The new 3 Series Gran Turismo has arrived in India. More importantly, it brings back a badge long revered in the automotive scene; one that makes enthusiasts smile. The 330i name is one that evokes a rush of emotion and endorphins for many. However, what it was then was a 3.0-litre naturally-aspirated straight-six recognised as a marvellously-balanced masterpiece. Today, BMW have managed to squeeze out seven more horses from their ‘28i’-badged in-line four, taking the total up to 252 PS; enough for it to earn the +2 for its nomenclature in their book. Does it live up to the title? Are those shoes filled well? Let’s find out.
The new 330i Gran Turismo gets a few nips and tucks for a fresh face, but stays the same when it comes to proportions. It’s not a millimetre longer and essentially freshens up the existing model that has seen a fair share of interest from luxury-car and sport-luxury-car seekers alike. The secret of its success lies in the balance of a sporty image with the sloping roof, which adds to both perception and rear head-room.
So it does look portlier than the sedan, but with the Bavarian badge it wears, you know it will be fun to drive, if not the 330i badging on the rear flanks. There are a few subtle changes between the 2014 model and the new car, notably the sharp new adaptive headlamps that look sleeker and use new LED signatures. The lower air-dam is restyled and incorporates chrome garnish strips. The rear also gets new LED tail-lamp signatures that abandon straights in favour of curves. The revised rear bumper packs dual pipes on the left with the reflectors relocated a few storeys higher.
Unlock the car using the remote — there’s no keyless drive — and step inside, and the layout is pleasing with its soft beige theme; doesn’t seem like too much going on. The driver info-console is properly old-school with white lettering on black dials and an amber backlight coming on when the headlamps are on. The centre console has a widescreen display that shows the functions from the iDrive Touch controller that’s offered as standard. Dual-zone auto-climate is enough to maintain a cool cabin ambience, and the panoramic folding sun-roof
adds to the roomy feel. The boot is massive, with 520 litres of expanse that lets you store all kinds of luggage. The 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat adds to flexibility. The storage covers also look classy and keep your cargo concealed. However, the spare wheel does eat into the volume quite a bit.
Seeing as how the 3 GT will be a chauffeur-driven car more often than not, the rear is the place to be. With up to 960 mm of knee-room with the front passenger seat taken all the way forward, there’s more than enough room to stretch out and relax. Even behind the driver, about 850 mm is available, depending on the size of the driver, and that makes for relaxed touring, even within the city if you happen to be going from one end to the other. This aspect is furthered by the excellent sound deadening employed. There was hardly a sound that came through to the cabin on the move, save for a mild sense when the most piercing of heavy truck air-horns blared.
Speaking of sounds on the move, this is a 330i, and it should sound like one. The 1,998-cc engine is similar to the one in the 320i with its knobs turned up. Peak power is 252 PS arriving at 5,200 rpm and staying strong until 6,500 rpm. That’s also where the motor sounds its absolute best. The peak 350 Nm of torque arrives at 1,450 rpm and stays till 4,800 rpm, with the eight-speed automatic funnelling the power to the rear wheels; Continental’s 225/50 R18 ContiSport Contacts being the rubber of choice.
Find a nice stretch and put your foot down and you can hear the turbo whistle as you cross 2,000 rpm. It will quickly dismiss 100 km/h and head to a limited 250-km/h top speed. Cruising at 60 km/h in ‘Eco Pro’ saw the needle hovering at just about 1,000 rpm in eighth gear. It also returned commendable figures of 12 km/l in the city and 18 km/l on the highway. Those, however, drop by up to four km/litre in Sport+ mode.
Show it some corners and it’s planted and goes through as if it’s on rails. In the tighter, more angled turns, however, it’s bulk is evident and there is noticeable roll; thank the softer suspension for that. Of course, it’s a Gran Turismo, and it needs the cushier ride. The seats are a lot softer than the sedan’s. The steering is rather firm but offers excellent feedback in all situations. The brakes, conversely, didn’t give as much feedback but were hugely effective; allowing the 1.6-tonne GT to come to a standstill from 80 km/h in just 2.3 seconds over 25 metres. It’s an enthralling car at speed and it does many things well. For those kind of numbers, Rs 47.50 lakh (exshowroom) is a relatively competitive asking price. But when you know what the 30i represented earlier, the absence of those two more cylinders speaks louder. Sure, the four is a great engine, but the way it picks up and goes running, although quick, lacks the creamy essence of balance and finesse that the straight-six offered. That’s why BMW have the 340i overseas. This new 252-PS 330 is a step up from the 245-PS 328, yes, but, dare I say, for the purist, it’s not enough. It’s 28 going on 29.
Longitudinal motor gets ‘30i’ badge, a turbo, and 252 PS, but loses out on two cylinders
Rear passenger room is fantastic, more than many executive sedans
Boot volume is 520 litres; goes up to 1,600 litres... ...without the spare wheel in there, of course
Dial design 101. Note the 7k rpm red-line