BMW 320Ld Gran Limousine (Image Ctsy: BMW)
At the higher end of India’s car market, one thing is clear—the longer the car, the better. Well-heeled customers here absolutely love an excess of room at the back of their fancy machines, which is why you’ll find models like the Mercedes-Benz long-wheelbase E-Class, the Skoda Superb, the trio of ultra-luxe limos (the S-Class, the 7 Series and the A8) and several high-end SUVs with stretched wheelbases doing so well.
And why not? If you’re shelling out the big bucks, you may as well bask in luxury to the fullest possible extent.
As for this car, it has a bit of a gap to bridge, in the sense that the standard-wheelbase model is considered the benchmark when it comes to handling and driving entertainment. For BMW to then decide to stretch it out and soften it up a little bit is clearly a decision to cover all bases – one car for the enthusiast, another for the ‘seth’ sitting in the back.Let’s Talk Looks
As it happens, this car first saw the light of day in China, another market where customers love stretched-out models. You wouldn’t know the difference between the ‘regular’ model and this one at first glance, though.
From the front, they’re identical, but as you move over to the profile, you see the obvious difference – it’s 110mm longer, with larger rear doors and a flatter, longer roof with an enormous sunroof built-in (Indians love sunroofs as well). Nothing looks out of place or ungainly, and the car now looks more sophisticated.
At the back, the distinguishing elements are the rectangular exhausts (as opposed to the regular car’s round ones) and the Ld badge. The boot is quite spacious and is powered, and there’s a spare tyre in the floor of the boot. The height of the car has also been upped by 6mm.
Moving To Interiors
When you get to where the action is—the rear seat—you’ll instantly see and feel the advantage that an extra 43mm of legroom offers; you can really stretch out. The lovely seats are just the right amount of soft, with excellent support all around, and the backrest (though fixed) is inclined at just the right angle; the head and elbow rests are very good as well.
You can pretty much forget about seating three people at the back (for any length of time, anyway) because the transmission tunnel is intrusive, but two people will be very happy indeed. What they might miss is privacy blinds on the rear windows and windscreen—there are none on offer, which is a bit strange.
The front of the cabin remains pretty much the same. Other than what I thought was an extra bit of chrome garnish. The front seats remain very supportive and comfortable, and the steering wheel is still a delight to hold.
Fit and finish are excellent, and you get features like a 16-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, the familiar iDrive, digital instruments, wireless phone charging, an iPad Air for the rear seat plus technical ones like cornering brake control and a parking assistant. Weirdly, you don't get cooled seats, a feature available in cars costing far less.
Let’s Talk Performance
Once you begin rolling, the softer suspension makes its presence felt. It’s much more… relaxed, and is very effective at soaking up undulations on the road; this is a most comfortable back seat to be in. The longer wheelbase hasn't made it wallow around either, and body control is within extremely acceptable levels.
The car is absolutely stable in a straight line, and although it’s no longer a greyhound around corners like the regular 3 Series, it’s still remarkably sharp and exhibits little body roll.
This car currently only comes with a silent, refined 2-litre BS6 diesel engine, using two turbochargers in a twin stage manner. This gives it a nice, broad range of power output, as well as a very smooth method of power delivery, right from low revs all the way to its redline; it’s very easy to modulate the power you want with a tap on the accelerator.
Despite being heavier than its shorter cousin, it’s no slouch in the acceleration department, sprinting from 0 to 100 kph in just over 7 seconds. The 8-speed automatic gearbox shifts gear smoothly and quickly.
At a price range of Rs 51.5 lakh to Rs 53.9 lakh, ex-showroom, the 320Ld Gran Limousine isn’t cheap, naturally. However, I believe it's a nicer car than the long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz E-Class, purely because it's a great combination of comfort, practicality and driving dynamics.
It should have come with features like seat cooling and window blinds, but if you can look past those, it’s a superb entry into the long-wheelbase game.
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