Commanding respect from purists and noobs alike, the 3 Series is many cars in one. The Gran Limousine filters it down to a more precise demographic.As an entry point into the BMW rear-wheel-drive universe, the 3er has always been popular, and the long-wheelbase Gran Limousine specific to certain markets in the world has had its fair share of success in India. Enough to warrant a substantial facelift after just two years of its launch!
BMW 330i Gran Limousine First Impressions
Playful and practical
It’s a facelift where the majority of the “lift” is around the face. Sharper LED headlights that have an inverted DRL silhouette, angular elements in the bumper, shark-nosed kidney grille (of acceptable size) and a blacked-out air dam that adds a sporty touch to the design.
BMW has always managed to keep its wheel design sporty yet stylish and the 330i GL gets a stonking set of 18 inchers that look the part for a sport sedan. Not much has changed around the side but the rear-end continues to wear a sharp apron along with those 3D-effect LED tail lights and real exhaust tips!
The cabin gets the biggest change with the upgrade to the latest iDrive 8.0 system which gets new hardware in the form of a huge curved pane of glass that houses two independent screens. A 12.3in instrument cluster and a 14.9in infotainment display, both perfectly spaced out so the steering wheel doesn’t block any pixels.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and the CarPlay display takes up the entire screen, barring the virtual climate controls and it makes for quite a sight. Especially while using Google Maps or even just trying to hit any of the apps while driving, the large, chunky icons make it much easier to access. As an alternative, BMW still persists with the iDrive controller in the centre console that works well after all these years and makes more sense to use while driving rather than trying to aim your fingertips at a moving target.
As expected, wireless charging spaciois enough to hold the largest phones (with a case) is well placed in the centre console under the damped lid. USB-C ports all around, subtle ambient lighting, panoramic sunroof and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system that is entertaining enough to spend time in the car even after you’ve arrived at your destination means that the cabin is a fine place to be in. One glaring omission is seat ventilation or lumbar adjustment even! Having said that, the M-steering wheel and the seating position reek of intent. The seats themselves are on the firmer side, but if you dealing with more hairpin bends than speedbreakers, you won’t complain.
The infotainment touchscreen is ace at resolution, graphics and responsiveness. It’s lag-free, crisp and colourful with a detailed view of the graphical car that responds to things like headlights, indicators, doors and even steering wheel turns in real time! Things get a bit cluttered when you glance at the main instrument cluster though, with geometrical shapes for the speedo and rev counter in a mirror image and media/maps/trip data displayed in the centre. Clarity of information isn't one of its strong suites, though it can be customised for different views, including a totally clean layout, devoid of distractions. Surprisingly, even in 2023, even on a hi-tech car like this, there’s no integration for Google Maps in the instrument cluster display.
BMW’s Reverse Parking Assistant is worth mentioning, which automatically backs the car out in the same trajectory as it has traversed in the last 50mts. It’s a great tool for times when you’re faced with a dead end in a basement parking and are too lazy to take a 12-point turn. It’s still something unique to Bimmers and could be quite the party trick, if not a life saver.
You wouldn’t want to get inside a 3 Series without having a go behind the wheel right? Even when it is the long wheelbase version! The twin-turbo 4-pot generates a healthy 258hp/400Nm of power and beyond the minor lag until you reach 2200RPM, it’s a potent motor that loves to rev all the way to its 7000 RPM redline. It feels like a BMW 3 series alright, even with the larger wheelbase, with a playful rear end that can snap out with a heavy right foot. The traction control indicator flashes more often than on any other car in the segment and that’s when you know you’re behind the wheel of a BMW!
Rear seat comfort, which is where your extra money goes over the regular 3 series, is adequate. There’s tangibly more legroom, 43mm to be precise, than the regular wheelbase version and everything remains identical to the outgoing 3 series GL. Which isn’t a bad thing since the rear seat here is reclined at the perfect angle, great underthigh support and supportive seats make for a decent place to be in even when you have an enthusiastic driver at the helm.
For a lot of people who just need the backseat space to stretch out without stretching their budget, the 3 Series Gran Limousine makes an excellent alternative to the more expensive 5 Series. It’s not as supple in its ride as the bigger brother, but in terms of space, it’s on par and its driving dynamics are almost as good as the standard 3 Series, which is THE standard. With sharper styling, new tech and the same personality, the Gran Limousine has its audience cut out and they’re going to love every bit of it.
All the fun and all the practicality intact, the 3 Series Gran Limousine is the quintessential German sports sedan. Only slightly more “Indianised” to cater to our indulgences.