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First look: BMW crosses over again with GT

Liftback: BMW'S Concept 5 Series Gran Turismo crosses the boundaries.

German luxury car-maker BMW delivers a cross between a wagon and an SUV

16 Feb 2009

BMW may have abandoned plans to revive its top-shelf 8 Series nameplate by creating an all-new four-door grand touring flagship based on last year’s Concept CS.

However, Friday’s reveal of the slightly less exciting Concept 5 Series Gran Turismo shows the German premium car-maker’s Progressive Activity Sedan (PAS) project remains well on track.

Due to enter production this year as a third model derivative within BMW’s 5 Series large-car model range, the 5 Series GT concept appears to be a merger of the company’s own X5 and 5 Series Touring models, in the same way the X6 combines SUV and coupe bodystyles.

BMW says the high-riding four-door, four-seater executive hatchback is aimed at those who demand a “semi-command” driving position but do not need or want an SUV, and customers who want something more distinctive than a conventional wagon.

The company departed from convention by revealing the GT in a live internet stream from Munich on Friday, BMW’s latest “segment-creating” concept will make its global public debut at the Geneva motor show on March 3.

14 center imageThe 5 Series GT is said to offer the same front and rear leg and knee room as BMW’s 7 Series limousine, 100mm more rear headroom than the X5, and a driving position that’s higher than a 5 Series sedan’s but lower than the X5’s.

Presented by Chris Bangle, 52, in what’s likely to be his final official appearance as BMW Group design director, the Five GT is the work of his successor and BMW car design boss since 2004, Adrian van Hooydonk, 44, who also designed the CS, M1 Hommage and 6 Series-previewing Z9 concepts.

Mr van Hooydonk said the all-new model was in part a response to a BMW study that identified an ageing customer base that finds the 5 Series sedan too sporting and the X5 and X6 too imposing.

The result is a model that previews the next-generation 5 Series’ front-end styling, and combines the lower half and bodysides of a 7 Series with the upper half or glasshouse of the X6.

At 4998mm, it is almost as long as the 7 Series, while at 1555mm the coupe-like roofline is second only to BMW’s X models in height.

Although BMW has produced many frameless-window two-door models in the Z4 and 1 and 3 Series Coupes, the 5 Series GT features four frameless doors for the first time in a BMW, increasing glass area by reducing the amount of internally-visible metal.

The X6-style ‘fastback’ rear hatch is actually a two-part design similar to the Skoda Superb’s, doubling as both a top-hinged tailgate and a conventional notchback bootlid that opens within it.

But it’s inside that BMW’s newest segment-buster really differentiates itself, via an all-new cabin that features flat rather than upright cockpit surfaces due to the higher seating position and individual rear seats that give back-seat occupants a bird’s-eye view of the flush-fitting B-pillar/door trims and the entire cockpit.

In keeping with the 5 Series GT’s aim of maximising interior flexibility, the production version is expected to feature five seats but should retain an ability to fold and slide fore-aft by 100mm.

Similarly, the concept’s folding rear bulkhead should continue to separate the passenger compartment from the boot as in a conventional sedan, while folding to produce a wagon-style rear cargo area that, at 1650 litres, is a match for the 5 Series Touring.

However, luggage space with the seats up and fully back is less than that of a 5 Series sedan at 420 litres, although this increases to a Falcon-beating 570 with the rear seats fully forward.

The 5 Series GT is expected to be offered with both the latest naturally-aspirated and twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol engines as well as single and twin-turbo diesel sixes – some of which should be mated to the first application of ZF’s new eight-speed automatic transmission, which should eventually comprise idle-stop technology.

In line with the new GT’s premium “upper mid-size” positioning – which will see it priced somewhere between the 5 Series and new 7 Series upon which it is based – expect new flagship limousine technology like four-wheel steering, double-wishbone suspension, optional air springs and a “black panel console” to be borrowed from the latest 7 Series, which is launched in Australia this week.

Painted in a bespoke new hue dubbed Fluid Cuprite, the Geneva concept rides on new-style 21-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels and features trademark BMW design cues including an Hofmeister lower C-pillar kink L-shaped rear LED lights, dual round headlights and an oversized kidney grille that is tilted forward.

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