Underneath this disguised 3-series are the mechanicals of the forthcoming 3-series GT. BMW hopes the new model will broaden the appeal of the 3-series in the same way that a hatchback variant has widened the scope of the 5-series.
However, the new car won’t just be a smaller version of the Five GT. This time BMW is aiming to produce a fastback 3-series rather than the business express limo that is the Five GT. The 3-series GT will be more of a rival to Audi’s A5 Sportback, which is halfway between a fastback A4 and a four-door A5.
Not only would a GT variant help to make the 3-series more profitable, but it would also go some way to insuring BMW against a drop in SUV sales by offering a more socially acceptable alternative to vehicles such as the X3.
The car in our scoop pictures is testing the GT’s mechanical make-up. It’s clothed in a current 3-series saloon bodyshell and the top half of the mule, from the doorline up, is from that car. But from the waistline down the body has been altered to accommodate the new car’s chassis.
The extended rear passenger door, which has extra disguise around the rear of the window, points to a longer wheelbase than the current 3-series to give more room inside. Further disguise around the rear window indicates that BMW’s engineers are experimenting with a new boot opening, too.
The test car also has wider front and rear tracks than the regular 3-series, which fits with the idea of a wider, longer version of the saloon. The extended wheel arches look capable of accommodating bigger wheels, too.
At the moment it’s unclear if the 3-series GT will be launched before the new saloon, although the presence of this test mule suggests that, like the 5-series, the fastback will be launched before the saloon; that could be in 2012.