Worthy recipient of the GT name
The luxury car market in India was dealt a rather bad hand this past week. Two months after the government decided to cut tax rates under GST, they have intentioned their decision to raise rates again. Luxury carmakers were celebrating the reduction of rates and after many long years finally expected the market to start booming. The Indian luxury car market sells fewer cars in a year than China does in a month. Much like a reduction in countervailing duties made the Indian cell phone market boom a decade ago and enhance digitisation as well as tax revenues, the government should look at reduced taxes on cars encouraging the market, thus becoming revenue neutral. One can only hope that this decision is reversed.
Talking about luxury cars let us come to the subject of today’s column, the BMW 330i GT. The term GT is one of the most abused in the car industry along with RS. It stands for “Grand Tourer”, harking back to the inter-war years in Europe where the gentry would take a large luxurious and sporty car to tour the continent. But unlike many of the other vehicles that bear the GT moniker, the BMW 3-series GT deserves the tag. For one, it is a surprisingly large car, based on the Chinese market long-wheelbase 3-series. While a standard 3-series sedan is a comfortable car, you might not want to fit three grown adults in the back seats. But this longer GT fits in three adults surprisingly comfortably, ticking off one of the key characteristics of a GT car.
Thanks to its notchback shape, one I particularly like on cars — the Skoda Octavia and Audi A5/A7 also come to mind — it has a fairly cavernous luggage storage area as well. So that is another key characteristic of a GT car ticked off as well. And while some sloping roof cars from BMW such as the X6 may not be great lookers, the overall body proportions and looks of the car are pretty nice. It might have the crazy supermodel looks of something like a Z4 but this is a good-looking car no doubt. Personally, I prefer this GT to its base car, the 3-series sedan.
Large and good looking, what I drove wasn’t the dull (albeit efficient and capable) two-litre diesel but the 250-horsepower turbocharged two-litre petrol unit that is badged in a 330i on this car. Just as an aside, once upon a time the German luxury car brands meant what they said on their tails — the old E90 330i had a beautiful flat-six three litre engine but the need to meet emission norms and the ability to squeeze so much power from a small engine has meant that you don’t get what number you see, although the power output remains similar.
Back to the car in question, the 330i GT ticks off the last major box for a GT car, it can go plenty fast. But the power delivery isn’t vicious as it is on the M3. Sure, on Sport+ mode it comes on quickly if you want it to but you never feel that the car is too much. And when it comes to handling, this car is beautiful. It rides very comfortably but throw it into a corner and you realise it has grip, just so much of it. Coupled with the engine which is powerful enough without being brutal, you never worry that it will slip away from you. And when you want a comfortable ride from work to home, it actually delivers. In fact, one was tempted to try the “Eco Pro” mode, which really improved fuel economy but had a bad habit of toning down the air conditioning. Not pleasant in the hot and humid climate we have been suffering of late.
All in all, I loved the 330i GT, it is a worthy recipient of the GT name. Comfortable and fun to drive, I’d love it on a Grand Tour of Europe but also easy to live with here. So much so, that I’d actually prefer this at around Rs 42 lakhs ex-showroom (now) than the regular 3-series or even the new 5-series. I don’t think BMW’s M division will get its hands on a GT because that would kind of defeat the purpose but yeah, that would be one hell of a car.
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