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Auto review: Odd omissions mar BMW 335i Gran Turismo

April 14, 2014

   
The 2014 BMW 335i Gran Turismo, or GT, belongs to the same family of vehicles as the 3-series sedan, but offers much more room with its longer, hatchback layout.

How you spend your money says a lot about what you value.

By that measure, BMW made some peculiar value judgments with the 2014 335i Gran Turismo xDrive, a stylish and practical hatchback that delivers excellent performance, but lacks a couple of common and important features.

The 335i Gran Turismo, or GT, belongs to the same family of vehicles as the 3-series sedan, but offers much more room. Its wheelbase is 4.4 inches longer. Overall length increases 7.8 inches to 190. Its hatchback layout provides lots of passenger and luggage room.

The 335i GT competes with a wide variety of luxury cars, including classic sport sedans like the 3-series, midsize crossover SUVs like the BMW X3 and Lexus RX, and station wagons like the Audi Allroad, Cadillac CTS and upcoming Volvo V60.

The all-wheel-drive 335i GT xDrive acquits itself well in that distinguished company, despite a price at the high end of the group.

The 3-series Gran Turismo family starts with the $41,450 328i GT xDrive, which has a 240-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A turbo, 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter, straight-six engine takes the 335i GT base price to $46,850.

An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive are standard on both models.

I tested a fast and comfortable 335i GT with a power tailgate, bright red leather upholstery, navigation, Bluetooth, adaptive shock absorbers and more. It cost $59,325. All prices exclude destination charges.

To my surprise, $59,000-plus did not buy either blind spot alert or a backup camera, features that are becoming common in cars costing thousands less.

The hatchback’s high rear deck and small back window reduce rear visibility enough that the lack of a backup camera is a major drawback.

The interior is very roomy. The back seat offers so much head- and legroom, it’s hard to believe the car is part of the famously snug 3-series. In addition to the eye-catching red leather, my car’s interior had real aluminum trim stamped with a subtle hexagonal pattern. A big sunroof extended over the front and rear seats.

The 335i GT has the latest version of BMW’s iDrive rotary controller. The dial in the center console that runs navigation and other systems is bigger and easier to use, with a built-in touchpad and proximity sensor. It’s the most pleasant iDrive yet, though the shiny black top gets hot in bright sunlight.

In addition to an EPA-rated 25 cubic feet of cargo space — more than the Mercedes GLK 350 SUV and nearly as much as the Audi and Cadillac station wagons. The cargo compartment features useful under-floor bins to keep items from rolling around.

The 335i GT’s performance and fuel economy belie its increased size. The optional variable sport steering in my car was quick and responsive, with good on-center feel. The suspension absorbed bumps and held the car in enthusiastic driving.

The turbocharged straight-six engine produces 300 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 to 5,000 rpm for dynamic throttle response and fast highway cruising. It scored 20 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 24 in combined driving on the EPA test cycle.

That combined city/highway figure beats all-wheel-drive versions of all competitors I’ve named. It also matches the considerably smaller 335i xDrive sedan.

The 335i GT looks wide and low, despite being 0.7 inches taller than the 335i sedan. The fastback-style tail accentuates a long-hooded profile.

It’s no surprise the company that trademarked "the ultimate driving machine" emphasized acceleration and lateral grip over rear visibility, Customers value all those features, though. BMW should be careful. Someone — Audi, Cadillac, Infiniti or Lexus — may be gaining on them.

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2014 BMW 335I GRAN TURISMO XDRIVE

—Type of vehicle: All-wheel drive five-passenger midsize sport hatchback

—Rating: Three out of four stars

—Reasons to buy: Performance, passenger and cargo space, fuel economy.

—Shortcomings: Lack of common features, price.

—Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged 24-valve DOHC straight-six

—Power: 300 horsepower at 5,800-6,000 rpm; 300 pound-feet of torque at 1,500-5,000 rpm

—Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

—EPA fuel economy rating: 20 mpg city/30 highway/23 combined. Premium gasoline

—Wheelbase: 115.0 inches

—Length: 190.0 inches

—Width: 72.0 inches

—Height: 59.4 inches

—Curb weight: 4,010 lbs.

—Base price: $46,850

—Price as tested: $59,325

All prices exclude destination charge.

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  McClatchy-Tribune Information Services