The all-new BMW 335GT is the long wheelbase 3 Series, developed for China, modified for a niche market here…

A recent jaunt to Beijing was a major revelation, from the sheer size of the population to the massive car market and the types of cars people there like to buy.

In the luxury segment, elongated versions of existing sedan are very popular. There, “long” wheelbase cars instantly show that the owner has attained a certain level of status and a big part of that is being chauffer driven.

In Canada, we have long wheelbase sedans but typically, they are top models like a BMW 7 Series or S-Class Mercedes. In China, even base models like the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 have stretched versions. I raise this because the all-new BMW 335GT is the long wheelbase 3 Series, developed for China, modified for a niche market here.

Looks

Adding 10 cms of additional legroom to the back seat of the 335GT opens up a different experience for rear passengers. The GT offers slightly higher seating position and roofline with a hatchback design that makes for a dramatic and functional car. BMW does have a 3 Series station wagon but it looks like a wagon, this design mimics a sedan silhouette with only a slight hint of the cars true practicality. There is a wing that emerges out of the hatch at highway speeds to produce more down force, similar to the one found in Porsche’s Panamera. The GT is sold as a 328GT, with a $48,990 starting price. It has a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and 18-inch wheels. The $56,990 335GT has a larger turbocharged 6-cylinder engine and 19-inch wheels. (The wheels seen here are winter wheels and tires)

Inside

The 3 Series sedan is already fitted with top-notch materials and a functional dash. This is carried over to the GT model, so the front seats remain unaltered. It is the back of the car that is dramatically different. With added legroom and a higher roofline the GT feels open, especially when fitted with the panoramic roof. My kids loved the extra space but noticed the doors sit a bit higher compared to a regular mid-size SUV. The hatch has no rear wiper so expect rear visibility to be blurry on rainy or snowy days. (You do get spoiled with a rear wiper on an SUV). The hatch is electronically operated and provides a long and wide cargo area, plus the rear seats fold in a snap. The rear windows and cargo do not have darkened, privacy class like an SUV, which is something I would prefer.

Drive

The 3 Series sedan has been considered the benchmark in the compact luxury market for decades and a lot of the same goodness is here in the GT. With a longer wheelbase and a slightly higher centre of gravity it doesn’t handle as nimbly as the sedan but it is much better than the taller X3 SUV. The power from either 241 hp turbocharged 4-cylinder or the 300 hp turbocharged 6-cylinder engines goes to all four wheels and is shifted through a very slick 8-speed auto box. There are settings for vehicle dynamics and suspension from “Eco” to “Sport Plus” that can take this car from relaxed to athletic at the push of a button. I really enjoyed driving in sport mode and getting the full effect of the 335GT, as the in-line turbo 6-cylinder is still one of the best power plants on the road. For buyers looking to save on fuel and when purchasing, the 328GT is still a potent machine.

Verdict

The GT falls into a very nice spot in the 3 Series family, and I include the X3 in that group. The sedan is a great car but not as practical as the X3. Yes the X3 has traditional SUV appeal but looses some of the sedans nimbleness. This is where the GT plays. It has a bigger cargo area than the X3, more rear legroom but it also has more a sedan stance on the road. The price is more expensive than the X3 so this is a premium offering in the BMW family. If I were in the market for a BMW the 335GT or less expensive 328GT would be in the running. With kids I lake having and SUV but still want the fun and stability that a sedan offers. This GT might just be the right balance for some. So thank you China for helping to bring a unique new class of car to our market.

Contact: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca 

The Lowdown

Power: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder with 241hp or 3.0L 6-cylinder with 300hp

Fill-up: 10.5L/6.7L/100km (city/highway 335GT)

Sticker price: $48,990-$56,990

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