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VEHICLE REVIEW BMW 335i GT xDrive improves the quintessential sports sedan
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Casey Williams,

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BMW's 3-Series is the quintessential sport sedan, setting a tough standard that others struggle to attain. But, it is not perfect. While it's a finely engineered toy from behind the wheel, rear-seat passengers are better left behind. And, luggage space? There's usually enough, but sometimes not enough. A low ride height enhances handling, but makes stooping in less than elegant. There's room for improvement.

So, here's where it gets interesting. BMW took the long-wheelbase executive-focused 3-Series from China and fashioned a long hatchback over it. Not only do you get regal legroom, but also interior space rivaling a station wagon—all while riding higher and more comfortably than in a 3-Series sedan. Sure, it doesn't handle quite as well, but unless you're Danica Patrick, I doubt you'll notice.

Like other 3-Series, the GT smothers passengers with luxury. Heated front and rear leather seats, heated steering wheel, Harman Kardon Surround Sound System, Bluetooth calling/audio streaming, and automatic climate control are part of the kit—as are BMW's decrepit iDrive joywheel-controlled infotainment system that requires you to navigate menus three-deep where simple buttons would suffice. I love the heads-up display, but good luck figuring out how to adjust it. BMW could learn from Chevrolet.

That's the worst of it. Stretching out under the panoramic sunroof is a nice place to be. Conveniences like a power rear hatch, dynamic cruise control, and rain-sensing wipers are also appreciated. Typical of BMWs, everything you scratch or sniff seems well-made. And if as a driver that bores you, select your favorite driving mode: Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, or Sport+. Each adjusts the throttle, steering, and suspension for your particular mood.

Just because it looks like a family-friendly hatchback doesn't mean it accelerates like one. It's a full-on rave juiced with a 300 horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. BMW claims it will leap from 0-60 mph in just 5.1s. It's not all brawn, enabling 20/30-MPG city/hwy with a little help from the octo-trans, direct injection, and auto start/stop technology that pauses the engine at rest. Forget rest.

While this car is more about quiet confidence than track-storming shenanigans, power is plentiful for a car this size. The suspension absorbs rough roads with tomb quietness. During a snowstorm, the xDrive AWD system clawed in and ushered away without drama. Slick streets barely bothered it. Sure, you might want to shoe the 18" five-spoke alloys with winter tires instead of the standard all-season tires, but it's nice to enjoy a German car in all weather. Slapping curvy backroads during clear weather proves just as easy.

BMW seems intent on creating every form and fashion of car, creating odd-shaped performers that seemingly nobody requested. Most of these come in the form of tall hatchbacks like the 335i GT. I thought it was all a bunch of silliness at first, but I get it. Why not drive an enjoyable BMW that is also very practical? If it looks a little weird, get over it. A base price of $41,450, and $57,525 as-tested, puts it against the Audi Allroad, Infiniti QX50, Toyota Venza and Volvo V60.

Storm forward!

2014 BMW 335i GT xDrive

Five-passenger, AWD sedan

Powertrain: 300hp 3.0-liter turbo-6, 8-spd auto trans

Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind

Wheels: 18"/18" alloy f/r

Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS

Must-have features: Performance, Utility

Fuel economy: 20/30 mpg city/hwy

Base/as-tested price: $41,450/57,525

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