By David Thomas on February 12, 2013
In the pantheon of dismissed body styles, the wagon reigns supreme. What was once a fixture of the automotive landscape is now offered by just a handful of automakers, and few are big sellers. Shoppers instead gravitate toward crossovers, SUVs and hatchbacks when cargo utility is desired. This leaves wagon fans with few choices.
A new wagon recently debuted under the radar, BMW's update of the 3 Series Sports Wagon. However, the company decided to one-up its own little wagon with last week's announcement of a brand-new hatchback, the 3 Series Gran Turismo.
BMW has tried the GT hatch layout before with the 5 Series GT. It fell flat with few sales in the U.S.
I think the 3 Series GT is set for the same fate, especially when you consider that the wagon is well-executed. I found one nearly hidden at the 2013 Detroit auto show in January and was happy to see it more prominently displayed at Chicago's auto show leading us to shoot a full photo gallery below.
The striking blue paint job highlights its looks, but even the staid silver shown in Detroit highlighted the handsome lines of the wagon's styling. It certainly is more fluid than the first shots of the GT and its frumpy rear.
Inside the wagon, you get the backseat space that I found so accommodating for my family in the new 3 Series sedan last year. The GT has 2.8 inches more rear legroom, though.
The GT also outdoes the Sports Wagon in the cargo area. It has 18.3 cubic feet of space, a full cubic foot more than the wagon. It gains that space because the wheelbase is 4.3 inches longer than the wagon, and the exterior length a surprising 7.9 inches longer.
That means the GT is big. By our calculations — BMW doesn't have full specs listed, just the additional lengths — the GT should be 190.2 inches long while the Sports Wagon is 182.3 inches long. A 5 Series sedan is just 3 inches longer than the GT.
And if you want to think wagon utility, Subaru's Outback is 1.1 inches shorter than the 3 Series GT with a cargo area measuring a whopping 34.3 cubic feet of storage.
I'm clearly sold on the Sports Wagon's looks and size versus the utility, but there's one small issue: When it goes on sale this spring, the Sports Wagon will only be available as a 328i with xDrive all-wheel drive. The GT, which goes on sale this summer, will come in either 328i or 335i variants.
This will likely make the decision simpler for shoppers considering the two.
But a BMW spokesman told Cars.com that a diesel version of the Sports Wagon is in the cards for later this year.
Check out the photo gallery of the 328i Sports Wagon shot at the Chicago Auto Show below and more photos of the 3 Series GT here. Then tell us which one you'd rather park in the driveway.
Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David