BMW 3-Series GT plays a familiar, catchy tune

BMW are famous for creating niches and then filling them, often answering questions that no-one’s asking. People seem to flock to showrooms and buy them whether they need them or not, almost as if they don’t know how they managed to survive before they had a 2-tonne faux-coupe-styled crossover that looks like a roller skate with 20-inch wheels and traction they’ll never need, let alone use.

Hello X6.

Following on from yesterday’s article on the Mercedes A250 Sport, here’s another new vehicle that should pique the interest of some Saab fans. Yes, it’s a BMW, but don’t let that throw you off because the BMW 3-series GT is going to be available with 4WD (if you don’t like RWD), it’ll be offered with a number of turbocharged engines and ……… wait for it ………. it’s got a hatchback.

The bigger BMW 5-series GT looks like a lumbering oaf of a car but applying the same hatchback treatment to a 3-series has yielded a nice, balanced result. It’s not as pretty as a Saab 9000 Aero was, or even a Saab 9-5 Wagon to switch body shapes for a moment. But it does look reasonably sleek and there’s no doubting the opening at the back makes a decent load-lugging proposition.

The BMW 3-series GT won’t be cheap. In fact, here in Australia it’ll start at around $65,000. That’s well above normal 9-3 SportCombi territory when it was around.

The GT does offer some advantages, however.

Firstly, the accommodation is generous. This 3-series GT actually has more rear seat legroom than a 5-series sedan thanks to a wheelbase that’s extended around 10cm or so over the regular 3-series footprint.

Second, it’s going to offer a wide range of proven engines, both petrol and diesel, including the 335i engine that gets people so excited.

Third, well…… it’s available as a new car and the original owner will still be making them in a few years time. That makes a difference.

This is not your average alt-Saab suggestion. It’s bigger and more expensive. But it’s also a car that’s nearly guaranteed to drive nicely, be well made and well equipped.

The styling is a matter of taste. It’s not as easy on the eye as the Mercedes A250 Sport but then it’s a much different type of vehicle. Where the Mercedes is inclined a bit more towards drivers, the 3-series GT could be aimed more towards tourers.

Saab owners – what say ye? Is it an interesting proposition? And if so, more interesting than the Mercedes A250 Sport?


Supplementary question:

Five years ago, BMW buyers were widely characterised as badge-craving poseurs. Too much money and not enough sense. People who were more interested in the image than the capabilities of the car.

Do you think it’s still true?

I’d like to offer that the rise of Audi in those five years has taken some of the spotlight off BMW as a pose-mobile.

It still doesn’t mean I’ll forgive them the X6, but it’s something to ponder.

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  1. Nahh, never. The 5 GT looks like a glass house, the 3 series, which has had its share of quality issues (trackrod ends, power steering failure and a mirade of electrical gremlins) won’t do it for me. The styling is pompeous, the room inside simply isn’t enough for my frame, the seats are horribly uncomfortable. If I wanted to add to the fleet, I’d go for the CitroΓ«n DS5, better design inside and out. Or even a Peugeot 508 RXH, hybrid and fast. Much more of a statement than a niche filling object.
    BMW still has this posing value attached to it, so does Audi. Having driven gremlins of both brands not that long ago, I tend to step away from them, scratching my head thinking “why on earth would people buy this”. This premium business, of which just about every journo speaks, is something I must be blind to. I cannot for the life of me figure out what that exactly entails.

  2. The BMW poseur tag was never really deserved, any more than the Saab is for quirky people. There will always be those who jump on the bandwagon to impress others, the difference between BMW and Audi is that BMWs never pretended to be anything else than brilliant to drive. Audi is a triumph of marketing and nice interiors.

    That said the A5 sportback we drove was the closest substitute to a Saab, the 3GT would not be on my radar. For me a BMW is a sport saloon with RWD but I am happy to let SUV drivers underwrite the development of my car!

      1. Comments on this thread that is, haven’t read enough of your other ones to make such a general observation πŸ˜‰

    1. “…the difference between BMW and Audi is that BMWs never pretended to be anything else than brilliant to drive. Audi is a triumph of marketing and nice interiors.”

      Have to respectfully disagree with you on the comment about Audi. If you get the right Audi…it is surely a great driver’s car.

      My wife & I have owned SAABs since our first 1978 99 Turbo. Still own 2 1990 900 SPGs, which I drive on a daily basis as my commuter car(s).

      The SAABs we both had were 9-5 Aeros. Hers was a 2003 4-door 5-speed manual, and mine was a 2008 SC 5-speed manual. We both won’t drive anything other than a manual trans cars.

      I made the jump to Audi first in 2009, when my lease on my SC expired, and there were no SAABs available to lease. I looked at many different marques, and selected a 2010 Audi A5 coupe with the Sport Package. I was/is a fantastic driver’s car. Very similar in handling to any Turbo, Aero or SPG we ever had. It had a great 4-cly Turbo engine that was miserly on fuel use, but had terrific acceleration. That car was much faster than any SAAB I have ever owned, and got 30+ mpg on the highway. All with AWD and 211 hp/258 lb/ft of torque. It was a joy to drive.

      Last year, my wife’s 2003 9-5 Aero (which we owned outright) started costing us a lot of money in repairs. Had 105,000 miles on the odometer, and it was time to look for something new…and reliable…for her. Also had a friend who wanted the car badly, and offered me USD$4k for it. Couldn’t pass that one up.

      So last April, we ordered for her a 2013 Audi A4 sedan with a 6-speed manual and the Sport Package with 19″ wheels & summer performance tires. It basically is a 4-door version of the A5 I had. More on that in a minute. A fantastic riding & handling car.

      She took delivery of the car in early July, and absolutely loves it just as much as she loved her 2003 9-5 Aero. This is a woman who gets VERY attached to her cars, and does not take changing vehicles lightly…or easily…as in tears are usually shed. Took her only about a week to fall in love with the Audi. I was pleasantly surprised…and shocked. πŸ™‚

      I am now driving a 2013 Audi S5 coupe, because when I inquired about the remote possibility (figured there was no way, really) of me exchanging my 2010 A5 for an S5 later this year when it’s lease expired, for about what my A5 lease cost was, our sales woman told me she could get me into the S5 with no problem…right then when I asked last August. She placed the order on 01 September, and got the car on 12 November. They bought me out of the A5 lease 10 months early!

      As much fun as the A5 was, the S5 is even better…much better. What a ride. πŸ™‚

      We both have found that the Audis we own are as close to the SAABs we used to own as any cars can be. Great fun to drive. With folding back seats, they can haul a lot, just like our SAABs, and they are safe cars as well.

      So, unless one has actually spent time behind the wheel of an Audi, you just can not know what a great car they really are. Yes, they do have “blah” models…so did SAAB…but get the right one…and they are a joy to drive.

      1. SAABDUDE, imagine if would have got ‘the power’ like Audi in the early 90’s… Instead we got GM.
        What a shame πŸ™

      2. I just found the A5 lifeless when driving hard, and not fun on the country roads where I live. I found the same with my A4 when it was not out on loan, it usually took a 3.0 A6 to put a smile on my face πŸ™‚

        They are nice cars, I worked for them for a while but I just rarely had fun with them. The S6 had a nice engine though πŸ™‚

  3. Unlike my dark gray 9-5 Combi interior this is so light I would be afraid to insert a plastic-clad grocery bag! I wonder how it compare to the similar Honda 5-door? Other than the impractical interior color it’s a very functional car.

  4. In Sweden, my experience is that BMW is for people who want to own something different. There are still a few generations for whom a Merc is the same as a diesel smelling sedan used by traveling sales persons or cab drivers. For most people, Audi wasn’t on the radar until auto journos began worshipping the brand about 10 years ago. Now, Audi is in the same position as Volvo were in 25 years ago. It’s a me-too car, and very close to being synonymous with “boring”.

    The hatchback thing is interesting. I had a OG 9-3 for 8 years and it could actually go weeks between the times I even opened the hatch. One reason was that it is so bulky. If had to take home two grocery bags, I rather put them in the backseat than open the big hatch. If it was raining I definitely tried to avoid the hatch, because opening it would pour half a liter of water into the trunk. The hatchback may be practical sometimes, but I can probably count those times on the finger of one of my hands. My sister changed from a OG 9-3 to a 9-3 SC last year, and she even mentioned that it was nice to don’t have to open that big hatch anymore. At Saab communities on the net there was (is?) this constant talk about the hatchback and that Saab needed it. But I do wonder how many of the average Saab owners out there who really wants it in their everyday life.

  5. When I saw the first pictures of the 3-series GT, I thought that I owned one in 1999, but at the time the car had a Saab badge.

    I don’t like the sculptured sides of that BMW or the fake air outlets on the side, and the interior of the 3-series is not my cup of tea, even in black, but it caught my attention, because it is a similar concept to the 9-3 I, a car that I love.

    But I have to see the car in the flesh to give a last verdict.

  6. You see, cars like this make perfect sense to me but then I am one of those rare people who has never understood the appeal of sedans, or saloons, depending upon your vernacular. Having this usable boot space is ideal if you want practicality but do not want an estate (wagon…). However, I can only agree that BMW fouled up the 5 series GT. Good to see they have done a better job of the 3.

    Will not be on my driveway though, unless they take a similar hatchet to their pricing as Alfa & Fiat have done.

  7. Looks ok to me. I agree on the bmw comments two- BMW has two groups of buyers- a group of buyers who appreciate the driving dymamics of the 125, 1:5, 335, m3 etc and the larger group who are buying that cred but dont actually know what it is (the 316 buyer).

  8. This is the first BMW I would consider buying. I think it is handsome and practical. Shame the price premium is so great for no other reason than greed. However it is not enough to make me regret the order I have placed to replace my 95 with a Jaguar XF.

  9. I would be interested in test driving one to see how it handles, how comfortable the seats are, understand its driving characteristics, etc. On principle it seems like a good replacement for a Saab hatch, but it is likely too pricey, at least new, for what I would want to spend.

  10. One rather surprising thing with the car is that originally, when it was announced, it was _not_ planned as a hatchback. Apparently, BMW changed their mind which imho is a good sign that hatchbacks may become en vogue again.

    1. I think they’ve been hanging around SU πŸ˜‰ But then they went out and copied the GM hatch. Same flaw with A and MB.

    2. “BMW is recalling almost 570,000 cars in the U.S. and Canada because a battery cable connector can fail and cause the engines to stall.

      The recall affects popular 3-Series sedans, wagons, convertibles and coupes from the 2007 through 2011 model years. Also included are 1-Series coupes and convertibles from 2008 through 2012, and the Z4 sports car from 2009 through 2011.” 2/16/13

      Maybe they should focus on quality.

      Just a thought.

      1. honestly? questioning BMW’s quality? an electrical cable ‘can’ fail? $5 part that they could leave it there and have people pay to get them replaced but instead they are replacing them all for free. I have a Viggen off the road at the moment because SAAB didn’t recall a known defect on RHD cars.

        My Dad has an X5 and previously owned a 540i. My brother also has a ’92 320i. these are some of the most reliable and quality cars in the market. the X5 is better than any other SUV designed for mostly road driving potentially excluding a Porsche Cayenne (don’t have much experience with them). The 540 was unbelievably comfortable and when you wanted to push it… for a big car, WOW! the ’92 320i, for a standard vehicle, is solid, economical, comfortable and again when you wanted to push it a great drivers car and a lot of fun.

        Sorry for the rant. πŸ™‚

  11. Probably those G.M. idiots have something to do with it! They at least try to f— everything up! Totally boycott G.M.’s lame excuses for cars! Go Saab!!!!