We know what it means. Or at least what it’s supposed to mean. Yet the word Limousine in today’s automotive lexicon has been overly used by automotive manufacturers. Let’s assume for the moment that the word has been somewhat diluted.
But climb into the rear of the 2021 BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine, and you will immediately understand the true emotional and physical definition of the word, its impact, and its inferred accountability. Because in the world of BMW’s agile petrol-powered 3 Series, never have passengers been introduced to acres of space in the rear. So, does the introduction of the Li add a dual personality to this sedan?
It’s a lot more complicated than adding a new badge on the rear. Dimensionally, the 330Li has been stretched by 110mm between the wheels, thereby translating to a stretched-out floor for the rear occupants. The doors are bigger and they open wide, allowing for a graceful exit from this otherwise low-slung car.
The stretch of 110mm might only be as long as your palm, but it feels a lot more palatial on the inside, and this is coming from a six-footer like me. The cabin allows you to settle in for a relaxed drive, the seats are very well cushioned and angled to offer the maximum under-thigh support. This, combined with the large panoramic sunroof, dedicated rear AC vents, ambient lighting and a plush ride easily qualifies it on your list of chauffeur-driven cars to buy.
Who would’ve imagined saying such generous words about the rear seats of a 3 Series. But if rear-seat is your priority, do you really need the petrol powertrain, or is an oil burner more apt for the job? While the diesel does check out most of the requisites of a chauffeur driven car, the 330Li goes two steps ahead by offering an even more refined and smooth engine, with the capability of satisfying your driving needs on days when you feel like flexing your right leg. This certainly makes it a bit more desirable over the diesel, at least in our books.
But wait, don’t think of it to be as potent or enjoyable as the 330i. With that stretched wheelbase, raised suspension and softer struts, the 330Li only carries forward the power figures, not the driving dynamics. This Gran Limousine is a soft rider that wallows on the open stretches, and isn’t as taut as the standard version. But those aren’t its drawbacks, that’s just a testimony to show how cleverly the engineers at BMW can extract two, very distinct vehicle characteristics with a little bit of tinkering. If you really want the Gran Limousine’s drawback, it has to be the absence of integrated rear sun blinds.
When I looked at it, I wondered about the 330i’s fate and if BMW would eventually axe it from their model lineup. But after driving the 330Li, I’m certain they wouldn’t have to. Because apart from the model name that they share, these are two very distinctive cars that cater to two very different clientele. What you will have to work out though, is if the Rs 4-4.5 lakh price premium is worth the stretch. Pun intended. Also, if you can manage to gather a few more lakhs, you could buy yourself a 5 Series, which the Gran Limousine sits dangerously close to, at least in terms of its pricing. Time for some head scratching.
Price: Rs 51.50 lakhs (ex-showroom, India)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cyl
Transmission: Eight-speed AT
Pros: It’s now a far more complete product, good family sedan
Cons: Misses on rear sun-blinds, no paddle shifters on the Luxury trim