At the risk of sounding like a corny ad pamphlet, if you want a luxurious car to be chauffeured around and need a spacious backseat to stretch your legs after a long day at work, BMW has the answer. The 3 Series Gran Limousine is the 3 Series for those who want to swoop in, command the chauffeur and stretch out. Now this formula worked like a dream for Mercedes-Benz when they launched the long-wheelbase version of the E-class. But doing that to the 3 Series?
A car that made its bones for being one of the most involving cars to drive? It’s almost uncouth! However, BMW does have a point. Sales are what keeps cars afloat and with the world moving towards autonomous driving and EVs, it is a struggle to convincingly sell a driver-focused luxury car.
So, the 3 Series Gran Limousine has to be there for those who want all that and then some from their expensive purchases. And let’s be honest, we are in India; saying ‘driving dynamics’ is like saying ‘surfing’ or ‘snorkelling’. Only a niche group will sit up and take notice and only a handful of those will actually be able to purchase it. So before readying yourself for a protest outside the BMW HQ, bear this in mind.
We enthusiasts often forget that it is not for us, but for the actual buyer that cars are being engineered. Steering feedback, body balance, power delivery is all gibberish to the average luxury car buyer. Panoramic sunroof, three-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, are words that act as bait for these sharks. And that is exactly what the Gran Limousine will be banking on.
What is also commendable is that BMW is keeping the diesel alive with the Gran Limousine. A bold move considering the entire market is shifting to petrol. The one featured here is the 320Ld which means under the bonnet lies a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine making 187bhp and 400Nm. 0-100kph is a smirky 7.8secs so it is not the performance numbers that will impress you. What is great though, is the range. On a full tank, your chauffeur will be able to ferry you around for over 620km and with a good amount of grunt under his right foot. There is plenty of torque to amble around the business parks and thanks to drive modes on offer, airport runs will be effortless and for once you will be on time. Also, for what it’s worth, the steering is well-weighted and fluid, so your chauffeur will have a grand time behind the wheel after he has dropped you off.
All that aside, the Gran Limousine is all about the back seat and here is where the ‘L’ in the ‘Ld’ shines through. You have 110mm extra wheelbase and while that might sound marginal, it makes a world of a difference once you settle in. There is ample room to stretch even if you measure over six feet and the seats are supple as well. You also get a panoramic sunroof with the GL which adds to the premiumness and sunblinds too. The seats like mentioned are soft and well-cushioned however, you do sit a tad bit low so getting in and out could be a task for the elderly.
The suspension too is set on the softer side so the ride quality is excellent. Bumps and potholes are taken care with ease and the stability on the highways is superb. It is so good back here, that you genuinely won’t bother about what is powering it. Yes, the 330Li will give you that extra oomph from the engine, but from the back seat, you’d just be a jealous onlooker while your chauffeur grins away. And if you want to pilot it yourself, what’s wrong with the standard 330i that is also a tad better to handle given the lack of a stretched out wheelbase?
That said, the dilemma is not just between the two ‘L’ models but there are other competitors as well. The closest of which is the Volvo S60. Yes, it is not the Mercedes-Benz C-class, not the Audi A4, but a Volvo that is the Gran Limousine’s closest rival. The biggest reason being the sumptuous rear seat. We sampled it last year and came out extremely impressed with how well it sat between its German peers. However, a huge mention must be given to the design. It is a subjective aspect, but you just cannot ignore the design of the S60. The Thor’s hammer headlamps, the wide whale-like grille, the low slung stance, it all makes you take notice and screams exclusivity. What also looks more prominent are the 18-inch wheels that give it a more proportionate profile.
Inside, there is plenty of opulence to justify its price tag and everything a luxury owner would want is available. The vertical touchscreen that features most of the controls, a panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, Harman Kardon audio system, adaptive cruise control, active brake assist, and the list just goes on. Now, this isn’t an apples to apples comparison as powering the S60 is a petrol engine and there is no diesel on offer. The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine makes 187bhp as well along with 300Nm of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Here too you have drive modes on offer, but as I mentioned, the focus here is about that rear seat. Still, for those who will find themselves in the driver’s seat on that rare occasion, will be pleased. Don’t expect it to rock your world though, that is still the 330i’s job. Power delivery from the S60 is linear and progressive and the refinement from the petrol engine is excellent. It is quite clear from the word go that this is for relaxed cruising and not for hammering around. Dignified driving, is what you need. Ride quality though is excellent and over bumps, it is composed and flat.
Step into the backseat and you will sink in the superb seats. Seats are what Volvo does best so it is no surprise that of the two, it is the S60 that will bring out a reassuring sigh. Sure, there isn’t as much space to stretch out, but it is a more comfy seat and if you are fine with compromising a bit in terms of legroom, the Volvo will deliver better comfort. Also, you get some goodies like extra AC vents in the pillars and four-zone climate control that do make a difference over an extended period.
Pricing is where it is a big gap as the Volvo is a bit more affordable priced at Rs 45.90 lakh. These prices are introductory as of now, but even a slight gain will keep the S60 at bay. The BMW on the other hand is a bit pricey thanks to the extra bit of car you get. The 320Ld can be yours starting Rs 52.50 lakh but you also have the option of a petrol engine. Choosing one of these was never going to be easy, so you need to be very sure about what you need. If it is the back seat and the back seat only, the 3 Series Gran Limousine is the best option. With it, you also get a strong resale value and the BMW brand perception which is undoubtedly higher than that of Volvo. However, if you can compromise on that extra bit of legroom and not think of squeezing out a couple of lakh more during resale, the S60 is right up there. It isn’t the outcast anymore.