It’s late afternoon and the temperature is falling. Heavy grey clouds threaten rain on the horizon. But four Girl Scouts and their gear have a date with a campsite 100 miles away on a long stretch on the interstate, followed by winding two-lane roads, followed by gravel, followed by an open field.
Do you need an SUV? A wagon? Those would do. Or, you could choose the contrarian option—a four-door, four-wheel-drive hatchback that looks sedan-like in the front but delivers great rear-seat legroom and cargo capacity. Oh, and it’s terrific fun to drive.
Welcome to the 2014 BMW 335i xDrive Gran Turismo: big name, unusual profile, and a surprisingly effective blend of driver’s car and workhorse.
Designed to look like the 3-Series sedan from the front, the 335i GT actually does not share any of the sedan’s body parts. It’s wider and taller, with a bigger front end. The driver sits up higher, almost like a crossover. From the side view, the car again apes the sedan from the front fender to the rear seats and again, the design is a trick of the eye. The 335i GT actually rides on a longer wheelbase. That means bigger doors and a huge payoff in terms of second-row comfort – enough for three Girl Scouts to happily endure 100 miles.
Open the hatch, and the 335i GT’s solid cargo cover rises with the door to reveal a wide, long and deep cargo space with split-folding rear seatbacks, should the need arise. Trying to compare the cargo space in a sedan’s trunk to the space in a wagon or a hatchback becomes tricky once the number of cubic feet starts to fly. So much of a car’s capacity has to do with the size and shape of whatever it is you are trying to ferry. In the case of the 335i GT, the cargo hold feels large—and it’s all usable space back there. A roof-mounted bike rack would also be relatively easy to access, as compared to some higher crossovers and SUVs.
BMW has not just built a wagon replacement, however. The 335i GT comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine good for 300 horsepower, rapid departures from stop signs, and effortless passing. Yes, you will pay for that performance with relatively disappointing fuel economy, but the 335i GT does come standard with an automatic auto start/stop feature to save a bit on gas.
The 335i GT is heavier and a bit taller than a 3-Series sedan, and it comes standard with all-wheel drive, so it lacks a bit of the point-and-shoot precision of those rear-wheel-drive cars. But the bigger engine and a well-paired eight-speed transmission do wonders for balancing out any buyer’s remorse. And when the storm clouds do more than threaten, the all-wheel drive adds a layer of security and stability that most drivers will appreciate.
The 2014 BMW 335i xDrive Gran Turismo starts at an even $47,000. A less powerful four-cylinder model, the 328i GT, is also available, starting at $41,650. From either starting line, the GT will sprint to a much higher price as soon as option packages start catching your eye. Upgrade your 335i GT to the “M Sport” line and add various technology and entertainment features, and you can see a $60,000 price tag.
If you will be transporting Girl Scouts, or other discerning passengers, be sure to opt for the cold weather package. Your $950 will buy you a heated steering wheel and will delight all of your passengers with heated front and rear seats.Photos courtesy of © Copyright BMW AG, München, Deutschland