The BMW you deserve
First Drive: BMW 3GT - 2013
You started driving at the age of seventeen. Father trusted you so he didn't bat an eyelid when you stalled his 528 a couple times. This trust bred self-confidence which gradually defined all your actions and decisions. It radiated from you like a halo in school, on the street, at your final exams and at the job interview. Now, two Ray Ban's later you are still making sure-fire decisions. You are buying a BMW. You are thirty-five. You consider hot hatches flashy monkey rides. Power is nothing without style. You don't look for a job, they come begging for you. You are comfortable being the dear customer manufacturers have the honour to serve.
The 3 series fits your life like a glove. Your decisions are never questioned at home. Your partner knows you inside out; it would never cross her mind to doubt your choice. In return you do consider needs beyond your immediate interests. Children need space so you quickly rule out the sedan and start thinking about the station wagon. You check the dimensions and frown: the wagon is cramped, too. You reset the configurator and within five minutes you are checking out the new five-door 3GT. Added length of 20 cm, wheelbase is 11 cm longer. You feel Father's hand patting you on the back. Not only do you follow family traditions but boldly go beyond them. Going beyond is a family tradition, too. He drives a BMW7. Drives, he says, because he does not feel the need to emphasise ownership.
Father's flagship is a lot quieter on the road than any BMW3 ever could hope to be, but space-wise, it does not feel roomier than the Gran Tourismo. Your BMW offers 7 cm more legroom in the back than a regular BMW3, and the roof is also higher. Looking at it from the outside all you can tell is that you can fit everything inside, yet it is no lowly monospace. Congratulations, then, a task well done. Not that you ever do otherwise.
The boot offers 35 litres more than the current Touring, and that's before folding the seats. There is one feature you won't need. You do not carry oversize items, you have them shipped. “It's a matter of principle, Son.” Of course, as a hypothetical possibility it is nice to know that the luggage compartment can be expanded to over 1.5 m³. The rear seatbacks can be adjusted for incline, or folded down completely. You are pretty sure the second owner will use that feature a lot. The tailgate is powered; even your wife can reach the button, that's good.
Spare wheel? Are you kidding? These are run-flat tyres. Suspension is firm, but that is how it should be – safety comes first. Uncomfortable, you say? Those darn potholes. But you stick to the road and there are no rattles. You could have chosen Luxury Line with its mellow interior tones but you wanted the Sport version. It has a bit of a sportscar in its genes, and the almighty letter M on its side.
The world may have changed a lot in the last fifteen years but the location of functions within the cockpit of a BMW 3 could be constitutionalised. You feel grateful your car does not make the first moments awkward. The gauge for momentary consumption, for instance, has kept its looks and location, except it is digital now. There is a small but high-definition screen informing you of how much your car is consuming at the moment. It also shows whether there is energy recuperation taking place when you lift off the accelerator. Satnav messages can also be displayed between the two main instruments. Unused screen segments are never unpowered, they just glow black. But you can switch off the central screen. This way you won't be waking the kids.
Ah, the weather is nice and you are alone, finally. It is not particularly warm outside but you roll the windows down, letting in all that matters. When you first drove the car at the dealership you made up your mind and decided to stick with it no matter what. You set your mind on the 335i instead of the 185 PS four-cylinder diesel, despite the price difference of €11 000. Each time you rev the engine you feel reassured: you have made the right decision. The engine warms up fast. You spot the program switch right by the gear selector for the eight-speed automatic ‘box. You flick the switch from Eco to Sport, and floor it.
Heeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrhhhh, shift, hissssss. Within a few tenths of a second. You won't hear the hisss unless the windows are down. The rest you can hear all the time. What would that translate into in a 320d? No doubt, that must be a perfect long distance tourer, confident on the autobahn and thrifty too: stays under 7 l/100km with a minimum effort. But you want more than just to travel, and you don't mind burning 13 litres of premium petrol every 100 kilometres. The chugga-chug of the four-cylinder diesel fills your ears until wind noise clears it, and when the start-stop kicks in, the car gently shakes its nose. No thanks, BMW's should run on petrol and have at least six cylinders, you keep telling yourself. The 335i is the high priest of your religion. Lucky you are not buying in ten years' time. The twin turbo engine churns out over 300 PS, torque is plentiful at 400 Nm from as low as 1200 rpm. It flicks the car about like it was a feather in a breeze. You cannot get enough.
You watch the tach needle swing up to 7000 before the shifting. You lightly turn your wrist, the light flickers on your TAG Heuer as you time your run. Tick- tack, eyes on the road. Six seconds pass, you reach 100 kph, the aerofoil emerges from the boot lid. You love the performance. Your performance.
The experience is not scary, but the thought that the M3 is capable of exceeding this tour de force is. You reach 150 kph before the bend. Brakes don't let you down; deceleration would be fit for a motorbike. The head-up display warns that you have exceeded the speed limit but you disregard the message. All you want to do is accelerate and turn, accelerate and turn, again and again. This is why switching off the female voice interface of the on board computer was the first thing you did. EfficientDynamics? That's not why you have spent all this money on this car.
You grab the steering wheel and prepare for more turns. Overtaking? Anyone, anytime. You are in Sport Pro mode now, wheels keep losing and regaining traction. This car is just so... you. You switch back to Sport. The electronic stability system helps you broadside the 3 GT in a controlled manner without ever overdoing it. Have you just done this on your own? You guess not. You had some help from the electronically locking differential, but also your reserves of cool blood. You don't need closed circuits and unreal hypersports cars for this.
You muse over your €50 000 well spent. You have really made it this time. You are master of your life. You take a deep breath, savouring the burnt rubber. Who else but you would deserve a family car that allows you to let off the steam once in a while?
Once back in the garage you get out of the car and listen to the engine cooling off... What a perfect moment! Right before you wake up.
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