Musings on the Motoring World

The demise of the BMW’s 3 Gran Turismo is a bad omen

The BMW 3 Gran Turismo is dead. It is with a fair amount of certainty that there will be no reactions of shock and denial at the news, rather many would be trying hard to recall its stumpy visage, the more emphatic will wonder if we should care.

News of the 3GT end came on the back of BMW’s announcement of a drop in operating profits, prevailing economic uncertainty, and rising production costs, which has forced the Bavarian car maker to cull models and streamline its offerings. In such prevailing headwinds, is it to anyone’s surprise that the divisive derivative of the 3 Series family would be the first on the chopping block?

Right from its conception the 3GT was never going to be a BMW-traditionalist pick, it was too left-field for them. Arguably, it was too left-field even for the casual fans who readily embraced BMW’s SUVs and front-wheel drive models.

Just what was the 3GT? To the majority it was another needless niche-seeking model, to the minority who actually understood what it was, it was the most practical car in its class. To the best interpretation of an outside observer, it seems as though BMW’s product planners set out to create the ultimate crossover that would combine everything that people desired. Car-like dynamics, coupe-styling in the form of the pillarless doors and rear liftgate, and an extended wheelbase to accommodate everyone with a raised roofline to make it accessible for everyone. Basically, the 3GT’s idealised customer was one who liked what SUVs had to offer – more room with a taller roofline that didn’t require you to contort yourself to get in or out – but didn’t like what SUVs stood for, conspicuous consumption and the antisocial stigma.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and the resulting chimera of objective targets created a product that most customers were uncertain of what to make of it – aside from its challenging looks turning their stomachs as well as their wallets away. Tragically BMW’s grand Gran Turismo project ultimately failed to inspire followers as BMW’s other niche creation had before. With no competitors or copycats to further reinforce its identity, nobody could put a finger on what BMW had made. Abhor it or sympathise with it, the 3GT’s demise in favour for more vanilla SUVs is a succinct sign of the times as customers flock to the familiarity of mainstream body styles and manufacturers retreat to the guaranteed returns of the conventional.

For the few who actually had a 3GT-shaped hole in their heart, the only closure to have was that BMW themselves claimed that the 3GT bowed out despite having “a good level of demand”. Whether that was a genuine assessment of the 3GT’s esoteric appeal or a shorthand for admitting that their once trendsetting crystal ball hand thrown them a curve is only to the understanding of insiders within BMW’s boardrooms.

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