Now BMW has decided to mix things up a bit, stretching the 3 Series even further and thus introducing the Gran Turismo derivative - or GT - in South Africa.
Meant to combine the practicality of a Touring with the sportiness of a saloon, the 3 Series GT is a luxury hatchback loaded with space and premium finishes, along with BMW’s dynamic handling.
Our test unit was the 320d Gran Turismo and, admittedly, I had never seen this car in the flesh. But I had seen it numerous times in television adverts, billboards and, of course, press images. The problem with this is that from certain angles it looks good - really good - and from others it looks like a hideous pug in need of braces.
So you could imagine my delight when it finally arrived at our offices. I’ll say this: it looks a lot better in the metal. The face is still distinctly 3 Series, while the sharp-edged rear sports a booty that pops, so much so that the load area boasts a boot capacity of 520 litres, which outstrips the 3 Series Touring by 25 litres.
This means loading and unloading is a breeze, as the practicality of a hatchback shines while the everyday usability of a sedan means lugging passengers around is easy.
Handling and performance are top-notch, as one would expect. Our 320d GT was powered by a four-cylinder diesel engine, which is now renowned for its incredible frugality, while maintaining a sporty demeanour. Maximum power output is 135kW with 380Nm of torque on tap.
If you’re hoping to make a quick getaway by pinning the gas pedal to the floor, this agile diesel will take 8.0 seconds to scuttle to 100km/h from standstill and has a top speed of 230km/h.
Speed, however, isn’t the diesel’s defining feature. Instead, this stunning German is more focused on sipping the now-costly fuels. In fact, BMW claims that the 320d GT will use 4.9 litres/100km and emit just 129g/km of Co2.
It’s a functional and well-rounded package that delivers a good drive. Switching between Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro modes allows the driver to best find the driving mode that suits their needs. Once Sport or Sport+ is engaged, the steering instantly becomes sharper and more driver-focused, allowing you to tap into the car’s performance.
However, for everyday usage, Comfort and Eco Pro are perfect, as it delivers a softer and more comfortable drive.
There’s no denying the 3 Series GT is a car that targets a very niche market and unfortunately it comes with a bit of a hefty price tag. The entry-level 320d GT will retail for R450 000 before emissions tax. Our test mule was also comprehensively specced with over R200 000 worth of extras. So while the cabin and the exterior was by no means lacking in styling and tech, it did push the price into the R700 000 mark, which seems a lot for a 3 Series with a plumped-up boot.
However, if you want something distinct that exudes style and is more practical, then maybe the 3 Series GT has a place. BMW certainly think so.