Smooth engine, plush interiors, great suspension that handle dodgy roads with ease, futuristic design elements that have little by way of competition in the market -- it's all there, says Pavan Lall.
It's obvious, almost instantly, that there is something different about BMW's new sedan.
Yes, it comes with the edgy new contours to the kidney grill, which reflect the new design language of the cars that the Bavarian automaker has been churning out for a couple of years. But that's not all. It's the size, more specifically the length, of the car that's got bigger.
As the name suggests, the 3 Series Gran Limousine is longer than the regular 3 Series by 110 mm, which effectively means it's been endowed with an extended wheelbase that pushes it closer to the 5 Series in terms of interior feel, roominess and comfort.
In essence, this then creates a sub-segment that sits between the BMW 5 Series and the 3 Series.
BMW, which started making cars around a hundred years ago, has over the years created new segments and product niches.
Case in point: The BMW X1 and the X3, which were arguably the first compact and mid-level luxury SUVs to become as popular as they did.
This is something that BMW has done successfully in other regions as well. It introduced the long wheelbase 5 Series in China in 2011.
This year, BMW India plans to launch at least 15 new vehicles, and while the company doesn't share the specifics of the new cars, expect a few to fall in the realm of niche product categories.
Driving the 3 Series Gran Limo is not a markedly different experience from most other bimmers.
Smooth engine, plush interiors, great suspension that handle dodgy roads with ease, futuristic design elements that have little by way of competition in the market -- it's all there.
So how does the car stack up?
Let's compare it to its younger sibling, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, which is smaller, cheaper and also clearly designed for a different target audience.
While the 2 Series Gran Coupe comes with flashy exterior body colours, a meaty leather-wrapped steering wheel and is obviously meant for sporty drivers, the 3 Series Gran Limo is a sedate set of wheels that hearkens back to all the elements that are classic BMW.
Think tan leather interiors with a muted steering wheel, great manoeuvrability and a peppy engine in both petrol and diesel.
It's also got what the 3 Series falls short of: The ability to seat five people comfortably.
The added length hasn't compromised on handling, and the car holds its line on city streets and corners no differently than the regular 3 Series does.
Where it does get heavy is on the price. The 3 Series Luxury variant is priced at around Rs 48.3 lakh, while the 5 Series Luxury trim rounds off at a shade over Rs 60 lakh.
The Gran Limousine fits in between Rs 52 lakh and Rs 54 lakh, making it pricier than several other sedans in the market, which include a new and very competent Audi A4, the Volvo S60 and the Mercedes-Benz C Class.
That could be a challenge since India, as they say, is a price per car-size market. But then again, the Gran Limo is cheaper than the 5 Series -- making it a ride neatly nestled in the middle, offering buyers a whole new option.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com