2021 BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine First Drive Review
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Will the long-wheelbase 3 Series Gran Limousine become the luxury sedan to beat in its segment? And possibly steal attention from the 5 Series?
With the long-wheelbase E-Class Mercedes gave Indian luxury car buyers what they always wanted, the S-Class experience for E-Class money, and as a result it swiftly became the most popular car in its segment. BMW’s long wheelbase 3 Series Gran Limousine is applying the same formula in the segment below. The 3 Series is known to be sportier, so can it turn the focus from the front seat to the rear seat convincingly? And, can the sense of luxury be convincingly executed in the smaller segment?
It’s only when you look at it from the side that you’ll be able to tell the 3 Series Gran Limousine apart from the standard 3 Series. From this angle you can see that the Gran Limousine is longer, by 110mm to be precise! And all that length has been added between the B-Pillar and the C-Pillar, which is why the wheelbase and the rear door have been stretched by 110mm! This also means that the 5 Series’ wheelbase is just 14mm more than the 3 Series Gran Limousine! This change has added more substance and presence to the 3 GL, which will draw admiring glances and curious customers.
In terms of the other dimensions and design the rest of the 3 Series Gran Limousine is identical to the standard sedan. The hood and the headlamps design give it a low and wide look while the new chunky LED elements in the tail lamp still look quite bold. The only design difference is the addition of the “L” in the BMW 320 Li badging on the boot lid.
Just like the exterior, the interior design of the 3 Series Gran Limousine stays true to the BMW and the 3 Series template. The 10.25 inch infotainment screen is propped up on the dash in a landscape orientation. The wide but short centre console houses the physical switches for volume and shortcut keys and the aircon controls with the aircon vents sitting above them all. It’s a very neat and satisfactory layout that is easy to use even on the go. Its richness is felt in the quality of materials inside the cabin. From the leather to the plastics and the rubber, everything you touch feels top notch.
BMW has added a bit more of a premium touch for the Gran Limo by giving a galvanised finish to the steering wheel-mounted buttons, and by using more splashes of ambient light around the cabin, most notably at the rear.
While the front seats are undoubtedly comfortable and even taller drivers can find a comfortable seating position almost immediately, if you want to spend extended time in the GL then it would be in the back seat. The overall increase in length has resulted in an additional 43mm of kneeroom. Some of the missing length has gone into beefing up the padding for the seats, with BMW claiming twice as much padding as the regular 3 Series. What can be said is that the rear bench is plenty comfortable and spacious. Even six-footers have ample headroom and kneeroom. If you push the front passenger seat forward, you are treated to a limousine-like experience. The inclusion of a panoramic sunroof as standard just makes the cabin feel all the more spacious and relaxing.
However, BMW could have made this experience more special by offering sunblinds for the rear windows, or a pop out table for your work-from-BMW moments. But you do get an armrest with a cup holder that can adjust its size to firmly take hold of your glass, bottle or mug!
Sadly, stowing luggage won’t be as easy. At 480 litres the boot space is identical to the standard 3 Series, which is reasonable, but the luggage bay is short deep and wide, so loading luggage will require some planning.
Technology and Features
The 3 Series Gran Limousine carries the same variant and specifications as the standard 3 Series . So you get a 10.25” hi-res screen for the infotainment, dubbed Control Display by BMW. This touchscreen can also be controlled via the iDrive controller and this system feels very natural and easy to use. The BMW Virtual Assistant, aka voice commands, is quite handy and responsive to use too. You also get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and listening to music on the 16 speaker Harman Kardon sound system is a treat indeed. Hooking up your device won’t be an issue either as BMW offers a regular USB port up front while the remaining ports including those for the rear seats are USB-C ports. The 12.3” Live Cockpit display for the driver is limited in terms of its adjustability, but it does look rich and detailed.
The Gran Limousine shares the two-litre turbo-petrol (258PS/400Nm) and the two-litre turbo-diesel (190PS/400Nm) engines with the standard sedan. We tested the diesel and found it to be very well suited for everyday commuting in the city or highway. The engine feels less like a diesel and more like a petrol--it is that smooth and easy to drive. Lot of the credit for this also goes to the super fast and smooth 8-speed gearbox. It stays calm and smooth when crawling, especially so in the EcoPro mode that dulls the throttle response just the right amount. The urgency increases as you go from normal to Sport, although in a fully loaded Gran Limo you might wish you there was a bit more power when zipping up some narrow ghat roads.
From behind the wheel the Gran Limousine feels easy to steer, and confident too at higher speeds. BMW has softened the suspension to increase passenger comfort, and it works. The 3 GL tackles poor roads in a very dignified manner, such that you feel very little of the road and hear even less. The M Sport version with the larger wheels might feel a bit firmer, but should still be plenty accommodating for Indian roads.
As expected all the necessary safety equipment is on offer as standard across the range. The 3 Gran Limousine comes with six airbags, ABS, Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, and Cornering Brake Control for a robust safety net. However, the 3 Series misses out on hi-tech ADAS (Autonomous Driving Assistance Systems ) features as seen on the Volvo S60, such as Blind Sport Warning, Auto Emergency Brake or self parking.
The BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine is available in three variants. The diesel is only available in the Luxury line trim while the petrol is available in the Luxury Line and the M Sport (First Edition) variants. All the variants share the same high level of safety and convenience features such as six airbags, a space saver spare tyre, sound and heat insulating glass, 3-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, drive modes and gear shift paddles too.
The Luxury Line stands proud with a special front bumper with T-shaped air-dams; “BMW” stamped door sill plate; and chrome highlights for the window surround, exhaust and the key fob. The M Sport gets an exclusive high-gloss black finish for the grille while the M Aerodynamics package gives a sportier look to the front and rear bumpers and the side sills. What will make the special quotient all the more obvious to people will be the M badges on the front side panels, and even on the key fob. The M Sport also gets larger 18” rims, more so, compared to the Luxury Line’s 17” rims that come with 225/50 R17 tyres front and rear. The M Sport comes with 225/45 R18 tyres at the front and 255/40 R18 tyres at the rear, which should help the Gran Limousine feel sportier. On the inside the M Sport also packs a bit more kit with heads up display, gesture control for the infotainment and 360 degree camera.
BMW’s 3 Series Gran Limousine is an easy car to recommend as it delivers a more luxurious experience. It delivers this in the best way possible - where it matters. The extra space and the added layer of comfort make it deserving of the Limo tag. While it won’t be as fun and sharp to drive it will be a much better pick for the chauffeur driven, or for family use. And, that makes the Gran Limousine the 3 Series to go for by default. While more boot space like the 3 GT would have added to the practicality of the package, the Gran Limousine’s elegance, comfort and dynamism make it the car that you should check out first. Yes, probably even if you are looking at the 5 Series.