BMW 3-series Gran Limousine: A winner on space and power (Column: Motown Calling)
BMW 3-series Gran Limousine: A winner on space and power (Column: Motown Calling)

Photo Credit: IANS


BMW India suffered more than most in 2020. It was not just lost sales during the pandemic but they also lost two of their top leaders -- Rudratej Singh and Mihir Dayal to illness just as the world started to go haywire. Neither of them, however, were statistics to the virus that has changed the world. Into the void at BMW India stepped Vikram Pawah, an old hand who had left to head operations in Australia but now is back to running things full-time in India even as he works from home in another continent. "I'll come back as soon as I can but flights and quarantine rules are pretty strict still," he tells me.

The German luxury company that also counts the English brand MINI is its portfolio and also makes motorcycles sold over 6,500 cars last year but Pawah is extremely optimistic about 2021: "Customer interest and sales are back to pre-pandemic levels." And that is the reason that BMW India plans to have 25 new launches in 2021. Of course, not all these launches will be new cars, some of them will be variants of existing products like the first vehicle they launched in the new year, the petrol-engine variant of the 2-series Gran Coupe but ahead you will read about the second launch from the company's portfolio in 2021, the 3-series Gran Limousine.

The 3-series isn't new you might think, and it isn't. Since the 1970s, the 3-series has been one of the vehicles that has defined this carmaker, a sporty, driver-oriented sedan that distinguished BMW from its rivals. This was a drivers' car but as luxury car makers piled into the Chinese market, a strange thing became obvious. The Chinese liked being driven around, and as a result all the carmakers started to offer 'long wheelbase' variants of their cars.

Now the wheelbase of a car is the distance between the centre of the front and rear wheels, a longer wheelbase means that a car will have superior interior space. However, in most countries outside China, the only long-wheelbase variants available were of the Uber-Premium sedans such as BMW's 7-series. The success of Mercedes-Benz in India with the long-wheelbase E-Class currently on sale seems to have convinced BMW that they can do this with the slightly smaller 3-series as well, after all despite differences at the border, the Chinese and Indian luxury car markets are similar in the fact that they are both primarily chauffeur-driven markets.

So that brings us back to the 3-series Gran Limousine and the big surprise. It really isn't all that much longer. The wheelbase is just 110 millimeters longer, just about a third of a foot. The overall car is just 140 millimeters longer. But given that the length is added almost completely behind the front seats, it seems visible on the car. That said, while you may not think of 110mm as a lot, it 'feels' like a lot when you sit at the back there is a sense of spaciousness that makes like a lot nicer than the more cramped 3-series. The second surprise is that the car actually doesn't feel compromised when it comes to handling, it may not have the tautness of a regular 3-series but it definitely feels like a BMW. So, for those times when you decide to give the driver the day off and drive yourself, the Gran Limousine ensures that you remember you bought a BMW.

The Gran Limousine 330i Luxury Line, which has a 258-horsepower petrol engine, has an ex-showroom price in Delhi of Rs 51.5 lakh. Now, while that might seem like a fair bit, it costs just about Rs 5 lakh more than the regular wheelbase competitors in the segment that were both recently launched, the refreshed Audi A4 and the second-generation Volvo S60. Not only are both not as spacious at the back, they also have a quarter less power than the BMW. Yes, both the Audi and the Volvo have their merits, the Audi's top-end technology is filled to the brim with features, the Swedish car has delightfully bright and pleasant interiors and plays the safety card, a big plus if you drive around with children. But on space and power, the BMW is a clear winner in my opinion.

(Kushan Mitra is a well-known motoring writer. The views expressed are of the author)



Update: 31-January-2021