News of the Week
Nissan’s GT-R has once again received a makeover – this, of course, the fifth update since its South African introduction in 2009. I’m not sure why Nissan would introduce so many facelifts during the model’s lifespan, but, it has only ever benefited the GT-R model.
First came the introduction of the Nismo Package in 2010, then a power upgrade from 357kW to 390kW in 2011, a power upgrade again from 390kW to 397kW in 2012, and the introduction of Track Pack in 2013. Most of the power upgrades were a result of ECU remaps and changes to the exhaust system.
The 2014 version, however, features chassis and suspension tweaks for improve road handling, while exterior changes come in the form of multiple LEDs in the headlights, and adaptive lighting technology too. Interior upgrades include a new red interior, and updated GPS and Infotainment system.
The GT-R still features a 3.8L twin-turbo powerplant that produces a colossal 397kW and 628Nm of torque, all of which is transferred to all four wheels via a dual-clutch gearbox. Added to the mix is a launch control system which helps to get the GT-R from 0-100kph sprint in less than 3 seconds and a top speed of 315kph. By modern day standards, that’s bordering hypercar territory, at a fraction of the price.
The privilege of owning a GT-R, however, does not come cheap. The entry-level model in the range can be yours at R1 475 000. That’s not too much to fork out for a car that competes with Italian race bred supercar that cost twice as much to buy. There’s also the option for halo Track Pack version –a model designed for those who want to take the race track.
Road test: Bmw 320d Gran Turismo
The 3 Series Sedan is the most popular Bmw model currently on sale in South Africa. Naamsa reports averages of 800 units being sold locally every month, and if you’ve decided that it’s your next vehicle, you’ll have to hang on to your current vehicle for another eight months while your new vehicle is in production.
So, why the need to introduce a 3 Series Gran Turismo version, I hear you ask? Well, it’s simple. You introduce a product that doesn’t fit into any market segment, and hope it will become as popular as the Sedan. And, I assume, help to further boost 3 Series sales…
When it arrived on shores last July, I thought it would definitely have a place in a market such as South Africa, where buyers are very brand-conscious, crazy about German cars, and often too consumed by the need to be seen in a swanky set of wheels.
Admittedly, sales haven’t been great for the 3 Series GT, and it’s all starting to come together. Firstly, the 3 Series GT does not score highly on the swank-meter, because it doesn’t touch the souls of potential buyers.
While Audi has successfully reinvented the Fastback design, Bmw hasn’t quite been able to execute the design as successfully. The 5 Series GT, for example – even with its magnificent range of engines and acres of space – hasn’t been a volume seller for the marque locally, and we shouldn’t expect the 3 Series GT to be either.
For starters, it’s slighter bigger than a 3 Series Sedan, but the sloping roofline tends to hide its exterior dimensions. The interior is exactly the same as the Sedan version, only bigger, and with ample leg- and headroom for front and rear passengers. The build quality is top notch – exactly what you would come to expect from a Bmw, the dashboard is cleverly laid out, and it’s a welcoming space that most drivers and passengers would admire.
The front seats sit 60mm higher than the Sedan; hence I had a better view of the road. One complaint, however, does come to mind. Due to the sloping roofline, visibility was limited through the rear window. Additionally, one of my passengers complained that he felt claustrophobic whilst seated in the rear, purely due to the styling. Nevertheless, from a driver’s seat, I was able to get into a comfortable position with ease.
The biggest advantage with the 3 Series GT is the size of its boot. It’s cavernous and can carry vast amounts of items, making it an extremely versatile vehicle for families who travel extensively. It’s also great as a lifestyle vehicle for those who enjoy golfing, shopping, or even fishing.
During our test period, I drove the 320d, a 2.0L turbodiesel which has enough low down torque to make overtaking an easy task. The engine delivers 135kW and 380Nm, more than enough power to keep you entertained on any piece of road. My fiancée, who has owned a number of Bmw models, was impressed by the responsiveness and economy. It passed our hill climb test as well, not surprising considering the torque factor.
Despite charging round some mountain passes in Gauteng, the 320d still managed to deliver impressive combined fuel consumption of below 7.0-litres/100 km. Drive it with some restraint and BMW claim it will return a figure of a ludicrously low 4.9-litres/100km – although, I suspect this is only possibly on a seriously long stretch of open road. It’ll sprint from 0-100kph in 8.0 seconds and reach a top speed of 225kph.
A benefit – and an option for those who shy away from manual gearboxes, is the 8-speed Steptronic gearbox with its silky smooth gear changes. It will, however, add 18 Grand to the price.
I was really impressed with the driving feel of the GT; it was every bit engaging and familiar to the Sedan derivative. The steering – although a tad heavy – was direct; the handling is impeccable and offers a corseting ride. And, even with the raised front seats, the GT hasn’t lost the characteristic driving experience of the Sedan.
Buyers are spoilt for choice with the four trim levels to choose from – the Sport line, Modern line, Luxury line, or M Sport trim. Four engine models are also available – 320i, 328i, 335i and the 320d, with pricing starting at R435 000 for the entry level 320i. Our test unit, the 320d Sportline derivative, is priced at R501 100. Included in this price is a 5-year/100 000km motorplan.
Most of our listeners possibly want to know: Is there a market for this car? It is debatable but you can’t ignore the appeal; it’s spacious yet compact and would quite easily suit anyone, especially if you lead an active lifestyle.
As mentioned earlier, the 3 Series Sedan is currently the best-selling model in Bmw’s local stable. The 3 Series GT only forms a small percentage of those sales, hence it is a very low volume seller. It could make sense over the current compact SUVs, for example, but most buyers would also debate that if you wanted an SUV, you could you buy a similarly priced X1.
So, The 3 Series GT is unique. It might not fit everyone’s taste, but it’s an eye-catcher, with many people turning their heads to look, or asking to see the vehicle. And, yes, it’s a worthy consideration over the 3 Series Sedan; especially if you don’t want to wait for eight months…the choice is yours!
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