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Beijing show: BMW’s four-door flagship

Low rider: BMW's sleek Gran Coupe concept is lower than the company's 5-Series and 7-Series.

BMW resurrects ‘8 Series’ program with stunning five-metre-long Gran Coupe concept

26 Apr 2010

WITH Ferrari, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and most other prestige car manufacturers showing their Beijing wares ahead of last Friday’s opening, BMW stole the show with the stunning production-oriented Gran Coupe concept.

Revealed late on Friday at the German manufacturer’s ‘Design Night’ event, the Gran Coupe sends BMW into the realm of full-sized four-door fastbacks and, if given the green light, will take on the likes of the Porsche Panamera, Mercedes CLS, Audi A7, Aston Martin Rapide and Maserati Quattroporte.

Proclaimed as a new 8 Series flagship, the GC has emerged out of the GFC some 15 months after BMW officially dropped its plan to put its previous Concept CS into production as a new brand-defining four-door supercar.

After making its debut at the 2007 Shanghai motor show, the striking five-metre-long, 7 Series-based CS was billed as a successor to BMW’s discontinued 8 Series coupe and in September that year was confirmed for production.

However, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer shelved the program in October 2008, arguing that such a model would not be profitable in the depressed economic climate, was no longer required as a halo model for the brand and would divert the company’s focus from its environmental model plans, including its Megacity compact electric car.

Now, the Gran Coupe’s emergence at Auto China 2010, just hours after BMW put a date (2013) on the Megacity and took the wraps off long-wheelbase and electric versions of its latest 5 Series, shows that the 8 Series is back on the front-burner.

Production is still to be confirmed, but BMW said the coupe was “an in-depth insight into its design philosophy and development strategy”. It also said the vehicle demonstrated “the aspiration of the brand BMW to build four-door high-performance coupes with the sportiest proportions and the most elegant design”.

According to BMW, the concept’s design has fundamental elements of all its coupes: a long wheelbase, vaulted bonnet with forward-pointing lines, setback greenhouse, flat silhouette, coupe-style roofline and a short front overhang.

It also carries a new interpretation of the kidney grille, has frameless doors and a “strikingly formed” Hofmeister kink.

Few specifications are provided for the Gran Coupe, other than confirmation that its overall length is around five metres and its height is just below 1.4 metres. The company makes the point that this low height makes the four-door up to 100mm flatter than the current 5 Series or 7 Series sedans. It is wider than both these models, too.

BMW chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk told Autocar:

“It’s true that the Gran Coupe points to a specific model, a saloon with the presence and elegance of a 7 Series but a more dynamic, sporty character: much more of a driver’s car.

“We’re convinced that we should make a car like this.

“We all liked the idea of a more dynamic flagship four-door back then (2007) but we put the car (CS) on ice while working on ‘Project i’ (Megacity), which has been a bigger priority.

“Now we’ve had the opportunity to revisit the CS and update it, and I think everyone inside of BMW is pleased with the results.”Autocar also cites sources as confirming that a production version will arrive in 2012, based on the same platform that underpins the current 5 Series, 7 Series and 5 GT.

As such, the flagship coupe will offer the same combination of six-cylinder and eight-cylinder engines as its stablemates, and the latest eight-speed automatic transmission.

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