Despite the long wheelbase, the 3 Series Gran Limousine is fairly agile and well-mannered at high speeds
The 3 Series has long been regarded one of the best driver’s cars out there. However with this, the long-wheelbase 3 Series Gran Limousine, BMW has also focussed on improved rear seat comfort for the chauffer driven. So can the 3 Series Gran Limousine deliver the best of both worlds?
From the front, it is almost impossible to tell the Gran Limousine apart from the standard 3 Series. Some versions have more bling on the nose and others get a blacked-out centre section in the lower bumper, but these apart, the two are near identical when viewed head-on.
The longer wheelbase and longer rear doors are evident when viewed from the side, but their integration into the car’s design is commendable.
The now flatter roof blends nicely with the C-pillar, the long doors don’t look out of place, and even the car’s overall stance works well. If anything, the extra length adds a dash of elegance to the design and there is no interruption to the natural flow of lines.
At the rear, the biggest giveaway that this is the long wheelbase car are the rectangular exhaust tips and the L badge on the boot lid.
Moving to the cabin, we start with the back seat. The long rear door and 43mm of additional legroom, make the rear of the Gran Limousine immediately more welcoming.
Seat comfort is a bit softer, more filled out and more contoured to hold you in place better. Thigh support is good, as is the seat height and the backrest seems to be set at just the right angle.
The new headrests and re-aligned elbow rest also aid in improving comfort.
The large side windows and sunroof add to the feeling of space and airiness in the cabin though the large central tunnel does limit room for the middle passenger. The air-conditioning also had to work hard to cool the cabin despite this being the coolest time of the year.
Up front, the supportive front seats are powered, you get extendable thigh support and finding the ideal driving position is easy. The iDrive system remains the best and the easiest to use in the segment and the digital instrument panel is sharp and bright. The latter isn’t easy to read, however, and quality on the panel that surrounds the gear lever isn’t great either.
When it comes to kit, the Gran Limo packs in stuff like three-zone climate control, full LED headlamps, wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 16 speaker Harman Kardon sound system and BMW’s parking assistant.
The Comfort Package also includes an iPad AIR for your rear seat entertainment needs. However, there are no cooled or massaging seats and there are no semi-autonomous driving modes either.
Moving to the engine, BMW’s familiar 2.0-litre diesel mill — with two sequential turbos — is responsive and very refined. It is muted for the most part, only getting gruff when wound hard. Initial responses are very good, and the engine responds smoothly to taps on the accelerator.
Press down a bit harder and acceleration builds nicely too. Even flat out acceleration is quite impressive with a 0-100kph sprint time of just 7 seconds. The ZF 8-speed auto box too works well delivering the ideal balance between smooth transitions and quick shifts.
Compared to the standard 3 Series, the Gran Limousine gets a softer suspension set-up and sits 6mm higher to aid the ramp over angle. As a result, the suspension is less busy at low speeds, there is a suppleness to the ride similar to on larger, more comfort-oriented cars and bump absorption is impressive too. The car also pitches very little on a bad road, and the 225/50 R17 tyres round out small surface imperfections nicely. Straight line stability too is very impressive.
The Gran Limousine, however, isn’t as agile as the standard 3 Series in the corners and there is more body roll too. That said, it still feels more agile and on the ball than the 3 Series GT — the car it replaces — and it even drives better than many rivals. In fact, drive it in isolation, and it even feels playful and confident enough to enjoy a spirited drive. That feeling of driving a long wheelbase car, that’s a bit reluctant to turn in, is just not there.
So can BMW’s 3 Series Gran Limousine deliver the best of both worlds and dominate its class? It certainly delivers plenty of space and comfort in the rear, it drives well and BMW has also focused on making sure the car rides well too. Despite the long wheelbase, it is fairly agile in corners, it is well-mannered at high speeds, and steer it in a neat and tidy manner and it will even entertain you.
It’s not as sharp as a regular 3 Series, it could have been better equipped and at a price of ₹ 51.50-53.90 lakh (ex-showroom), the extra legroom comes at a premium.
What will work in BMW’s favour is that the Gran Limousine is likely to appeal to a vast majority of predominantly chauffeur-driven buyers, owners who also drive themselves, and most importantly, those who look forward to enjoying the driving experience.
This BMW clearly has the potential to be a best-seller.