While the word limousine has been casually used by some other luxury carmakers in recent times, with the 3 Series Gran Limousine, it serves as a point of differentiation. You see, this is the L version of the 3 Series meaning that it has got a longer wheelbase — by 110mm — and offers more room to rear seat passengers. And yes, while you may have read our review of this car before, it was the diesel while this one here is the 330Li petrol. Let us find out what it is like:
We start with the biggest change — the engine. The ‘330i’ badge has long been associated with a fun-to-drive sporty luxury sedan, but does the L in the name change that formula? Well, the engine is as strong and exciting as ever — a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 258hp and a strong 400Nm; identical torque as the diesel engine, incidentally. Performance against the clock is impressive, too, with a thoroughly impressive 5.86sec (BMW claims 6.2sec) 0-100kph sprint time and equally brisk in-gear rolling acceleration figures.
The ZF 8-speed torque converter automatic impresses as always, with smooth, seamless shifts, and with the performance on offer, if you are at the wheel, you will certainly find yourself stretching the engine to its redline at every opportunity. You might even want to take manual control, though you will have to rely on the shift lever. So, it certainly can move, but is it as rewarding to drive and agile through the corners as a standard 330i? We will answer that question in a bit.
The real benefit of choosing the petrol engine in a car like this is the added refinement it offers. The 330Li’s engine is silent and buttery smooth. Sure, it will let out a bit of a snarl if you open the taps all the way, but use it as a chauffeur-driven cruiser as it is intended to be and it remains hushed throughout — a noticeable improvement on the 320Ld diesel.
Ride and handling
As we mentioned with the diesel car, the suspension has been softened considerably and even appears to be raised a bit, likely to save you from grounding the car’s longer belly on big speed breakers. That latter effort has certainly worked, and even the big ‘truck stoppers’ on the outskirts of Mumbai didn’t pose a problem.
The other upside is the ride, which has the sort of cushion-y waft you would normally find on more expensive cars equipped with air springs. That suits the Gran Limousine perfectly, and combined with 17-inch wheels and tall, 50-profile tyres, you are really isolated from bad roads well. Yes, you might feel a little bit of ‘float’ over road undulations at highway speeds but it is not too bad.
However, this might just be the first-ever 330i we didn’t want to drive enthusiastically. The soft set-up puts a dampener on the dynamics, and you are constantly aware of the added length if you try to corner it hard. There is a fair bit of body roll and it does not have quite the agility of the regular 3 Series. That said, the steering remains great, and it is still more agreeable to drive than some standard-wheelbase rivals. That just goes to show that BMW can make two versions of the 3 Series that feel altogether different from one another, while still retaining the fundamentals.
Interior and equipment
As with the diesel version, they have trimmed the 330Li slightly differently from the standard 3 Series, featuring dark open-pore wood trim and a bit more chrome trimming. They have even put ambient lighting on the backs of the front seats. The extended back seat area is, of course, the highlight of this car, and there is ample room for even six-footers to stretch out. Moreover, there is a proper panoramic sunroof and the seat has been thoroughly re-engineered. It is still low but the base is angled upward for better thigh support, and the cushioning has been reworked to be significantly plusher than the regular car’s.
Equipment-wise, the Gran Limousine is just as generously equipped as the standard 3, with the notable addition of a Harman/Kardon Hi-Fi audio system and wireless Android Auto. You can also have the 330Li in the M Sport First Edition trim, which gets the sportier exterior body kit, 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as driver-centric added equipment like a head-up display, gesture control and paddle shifters.
It is amazing how the Gran Limousine is so unlike the standard 3 Series in character, and that is a testament to how much work has gone into it. They have sacrificed the 3’s famously inviting dynamics in favour of ride comfort, but that is just as well for this car’s intended clientele. Fans of the old 3 Series GT (which this car replaces) might miss the big liftback boot, though raised ground clearance appears to be something common to both models. This 330i petrol version isn’t the drivers’ choice as it would be in the SWB 3 Series. It is instead the one you pick if you think refinement is a key tenet of the luxury experience.
What you will have to contend with, however, is the premium price tag, with this ‘entry-level’ petrol Luxury Line costing ₹ 1 lakh over the fully-loaded standard 330i M Sport. And at ₹ 51.5-53.90 lakh (ex-showroom), it puts the Gran Limousine dangerously close to the 5 Series and its rivals. Still, you have to hand it to BMW for plugging so many different price points in the luxury sedan market, ultimately giving customers more choice.