We drove the BMW 320i Gran Turismo: the art of travel…

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When BMW puts a sedan on the road with grand touring aspirations, you can expect something extraordinary. Indeed, this 3 series GT lives up to the greatest expectations, when it comes to exquisite, refined automotive travel.

In engineering excellence, performance and mechanical smoothness, it reaches very high levels, rather unseen in its segment.

Add to this the superb finish, styling and roominess, together with the sporting driving experience which thrills you every meter you drive it, and you can understand that this BMW earns for us very high marks indeed. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Benselsel10sm20

Timeless elegance

Our test car came in Jatoba brown metallic, nicely set off with Dakota saddle brown leather in the interior for the seats and a bicolor dashboard. It looks classy both in- and outside, and ideally embodies this elegant sportiness with a touch of luxury and workmanship the make is known for.

In its overall proportions the GT version of the 3 series is rather imposing, but not without refinement and elegance. It strikes a very good balance between practical roominess and the typical BMW panache and styling language. Everything is of course a matter of taste, but we like the use of chrome rather more than the more sporting all black finishes, we think it suits the car better.

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At the moment of our test, we had to move some of our automobilia around, and the generous boot space came surely well at hand. Equally vast is the cabin space both in front and rear. This BMW bears its GT name with full merit indeed…

Uncanny mechanical refinement

The soul and heart of any automobile is still its engine and drivetrain. BMW has fully understood this, and the brief for the engineers in developing and honing this car was to achieve top of class refinement. If there is not a six or V8 under the hood, then at least it should feel and perform like it. Well, this has all been achieved with the magnificent 2 liter TwinPower Turbo engine. It has a twin-scroll supercharger, and combustion is further eminently controlled with the BMW Valvetronic, dual VANOS valve timing.

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Of course, DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder and high precision direct fuel injection completes the picture. The result is a super smooth power unit with velvety power delivery. It is coupled to the equally stunning 8 speed Steptronic auto box, and the result of this combination is nothing less than formidable. The smoothness at slow speeds and small throttle openings has to be experienced to be believed.

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The engine develops 135 kW or 185 HP at 5000 rpm, and a healthy torque of 270 Nm between a very wide rev range between 1350 and 4600 rpm, which tells you something about the efficiency of this engine.

And indeed, efficient it is. One has only to choose the economic driving mode, triggering all the marvelous cleverness of the BMW Efficient Dynamics, which adorns these modern BMW’s. Or just look at the needle of the consumption indicator incorporated in the rev counter cluster, a genial solution which is so unique to BMW. It teaches you everything about the relation between power, driving dynamics and fuel consumption, and makes every novice an expert economy driver, if he (or she) would only look…

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It was rather easy to achieve consumption figures around the 6 liter/100 km mark, with motorway trips at legal maximum speeds even delivering better results. The manufacturer quotes 5,8 liters/100 km as an average with the Steptronic box. Dense city traffic will still deliver consumption figures (just) below 8 liters/100 km. One has the choice between different driving modes (see also below), and when one opts for the ECO PRO mode, the throttle response and Steptronic gearbox behavior will adapt accordingly. This BMW will then also coast up to 160 km/h when you lift the throttle, and we found this marvelous, enabling you to drive with anticipation in city traffic, and achieve quite stunning economy figures even in slow city traffic.

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We also loved it driving on motorways with dense traffic causing continuously varying speeds, adding not only economy, but also smoothness and refinement to your progress. The BMW engineers have succeeded in making the transition from coasting to power ultra smooth, and it is virtually imperceptible. The Brake Energy Regeneration will also charge the battery and alleviate the load for the generator, enhancing also economy of course. Last but not least, we mention here that a rear spoiler will raise at speeds from 110 km/h, to retract again at speeds below 70 km/h.

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Performance is up to the mark, and does the BMW name (very) proud. Acceleration from 0 to 100 is done in merely 8,1 seconds, with top speed being a solid 229 km/h. It is the effortless way this performance is achieved, which impresses most.

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The engine will rev smoothly and without the slightest vibration (almost) to the redline of not less than 6800 rpm at full throttle, and a thoroughbred subdued staccato is heard, a soft sound which is music to the ears of every enthusiast.

Impressive handling

This smooth, eager and effortless performance is what BMW driving is all about, you would say, and we can only agree. And everything else coincides to make the experience even more exquisite. The way you sit behind the wheel, the seats holding you snugly when cornering with spirit, and last but not least a chassis which lives up to everything you expect from it.

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Cornering is precise, steering wheel feedback is marvelous, road holding behavior is neutral up to very high speeds indeed. The suspension adapts itself to the chosen driving mode, notably in the SPORT and SPORT+ modes. The electric power steering reacts also to the selected mode, and the gearbox will also choose other gearchange points. Another advantage of the electric power steering is that it adapts to the driven speed, delivering more assistance in city traffic or when parking, and offering increased precision at higher cruising speeds.

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Practical luxury

The Gran Turismo version is luxurious, and offers spacious comfort, as we said before. The rear bench backrest can be adjusted in not less than 15 positions for more luggage space, the backrest is split 40/60/20, the rear cover can be placed under the boot floor for extra space.

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Our test car was equipped with the comfort access, so moving your foot under the car would open the rear luggage compartment. Practical was also the double aluminum rail in the luggage compartment which allows you to stow the luggage items firmly in place.

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We mention further the automatic airco and the wireless charging possibility for your smartphone.

Infotainment is of course up to scratch with excellent audio and navigation, connectivity with two USB slots, etc. Bluetooth Office, an NFC-interface and WLAN-hotspot are to be offered soon.

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Conclusion

A well made, roomy, timelessly styled thoroughbred performance car, offering also first class refinement and economy. This is what the BMW 320i Gran Turismo is all about. It undoubtedly sets a benchmark in its class, offering comfort and combining it with refined driving pleasure.

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Its frugal and powerful 4 cylinder petrol engine is nothing less than stunning, combining seamlessly with the 8 speed Steptronic, showing clearly what level of sophistication and excellence BMW has achieved in building petrol engined passenger cars.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

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