All Hail The Gran Turismo

A tornado warning? The drive from Louisville to my overnight stop in Cincinnati is turning out to be a tad more exciting that I had planned. I suppose that’s fitting, given the past few weeks of strong winds, sideways rain, and occasional whiteout snow; few of the drives home to Cleveland have been easy.

The weather is not all bad today, though, as hints of sunshine are struggling to peek through the clouds to my right. Scratch that; it’s definitely a ruse.

The highway snakes through the Kentucky hills, a roller coaster of elevation changes and fast sweepers. Upon cresting a hill and taking a quick peek to my left, the inky black of the Apocalypse is swirling and flashing its way parallel to my path, giving it the inside line when we eventually have to turn straight north and cut through downtown Cincinnati.

Hmm, I think: If I drive a little faster, perhaps I can beat the storm.

The past few weeks, on my return trips home, traffic has been moving through this section, regardless of vehicle type. But then a second tractor-trailer, a mere puppet of the ever-increasing wind gusts, changes lanes unintentionally and without warning. Despite my tendency to trim a few minutes off of the estimated arrival time in iDrive, prudence is by far the better option today.

But that doesn’t mean that I can drive at too relaxed a pace, as there is a certain level of safety achieved by maintaining a healthy speed differential with the local traffic, which seems to be ignoring the small black hole that has formed behind us; perhaps they are simply running from it.

And of course, there isn’t a much better steed to outrun the Four Horsemen than a 3 Series Gran Turismo. She doesn’t have a name yet, but as I mentioned last month, I finally have a BMW as my daily driver again. With 4,000 miles covered in just four weeks, I’ve gotten to know my new-to-me ride rather well, and if you have ever considered a 3 Series GT, I wholeheartedly recommend picking one up before they stop offering them altogether, which has just been confirmed.

The car feels fighting fit, even just having rolled past 40,000 miles, and the narrower body—at least compared to a 5 Series—is a boon in tighter traffic. Even on steeper hills, I haven’t wanted more oomph from the N26 motor, although it will still be hard to resist a plug-and-play power upgrade in the future. If the torque hasn’t completely spoiled me, the head-up display sure has; it works so well that I don’t think I can ever again own a vehicle without one.

That rear spoiler aids high-speed stability, especially in strong winds, and helps overall fuel efficiency. It looks good, too.

In the 50-plus-mile-an-hour wind gusts that have been plaguing the area recently, the stretched wheelbase helps, too, but the real party piece is the trick spoiler that deploys at higher speeds, which has a noticeable impact on stability. So far it has performed admirably in snow and ice, and my admittedly unscientific tests indicate an approximate benefit of two miles per gallon in the efficiency department. Hey, it looks pretty cool, too. And I’ve even spotted someone back home parking with the spoiler manually raised—just for the effect, I assume.

Another 3 Series Gran Turismo with its rear spoiler deployed was spotted in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. It’s even sporting the same color and wheels as my own car.

But none of that matters now. Having dropped down the Kentucky hillside and over the Ohio River, traffic has come to a crawl. With heavy rains combining with melting snow, standing water has become quite the hindrance to brisk progress.

And then comes the hail.

The panoramic glass that serves as both moon and sunroof must be nice in warmer weather, but with icy pebbles emboldened by severe winds, a stay in a tin outhouse would be an improvement. Up ahead there is a barely covered area underneath an overpass, but I elect to keep moving. To everyone’s credit, the driving masses are moving with an appropriate level of caution, given the construction zone and End Of Days precipitation.

We all make it through the worst of the weather, when suddenly everyone comes to a halt. The hail has subsided, the clouds have parted, and the brightest, widest rainbow that I have ever witnessed is shining over the massive GE aircraft-engine plant. When I grew up in Cincinnati, this was my highway exit; my childhood home is now embraced in a gleaming semi-circle of colors painted on the black tapestry of sky, the occasional lightning bolt crawling across the clouds, Mother Nature adding her signature with a flourish.

Good job, 3 Series GT: You got us through. The only thing missing is your name, one inspired by a vehicle that has been hardened by some of the nastiest—and noisiest—weather around.

Welcome to the family, Hailey!—Chris Doersen

[Photos by Chris Doersen.]

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