Saturday, February 14, 2009

New BMW 5-series "Gran Turismo" concept (Geneva Auto Show)

When the new BMW 7-series came out in 2002, people were wondering what to think of it. Same with the Pontiac Aztec. One eventually succeeded after a refresh, one fell flat on its face. So now we have the 5-series "Gran Turismo". Click here or see below for pictures. Will it follow in the footsteps of the 7-series or the Aztec?

While the design itself may take some time to grow on the American crowd, the name of the game here is utility. People simply want more out of cars, and Americans in particular are looking for better solutions than minivans and huge, hulking SUVs - even with gas still below $2.00 per gallon in most areas.

BMW has a 5-series wagon and also has both X5 and X6 SUVs, the latter of which is more akin to this 5-series Gran Turismo. So where's the market for this? Well, the X6 is much better off mated to a V8 from what the reviewers tell us, and it's a more expensive vehicle as it shares the underpinnings of a 6-series, not a 5-series. This hatchback version (not wagon version - two different things!) will take some time to grow on the American crowd, but as usual, others will follow in BMW's footsteps and within a few years, there will be an army of Toyota Venza and BMW GT clones on the road. Note that Honda is already building a Venza and GT-fighter in a higher version of the Accord with a hatchback.

When the X3 came out, I recall people saying the same thing: where's the utility in THIS tiny thing?

Here are some cool features of this car per the Road & Track article linked above, and why I feel it will be a winner here (with time):
  • Rear passengers will be able to adjust their seats via rake, fore, and aft.
  • Rear seats automatically fold down with one-touch power feature (not sure if it will come with 60/40 power split, but this is likely)
  • Hatch opens much like a Volvo SUV - two ways: either one small compartment via flip-up lid, or the entire hatch, as with a wagon
  • The front seats and presentation will likely be the exact same as any 5-series, meaning it will be "functional luxury"

In short, this is the ultimate yuppie tailgater. Bring it to football games and grill on the hatch lid. Bring it to hockey games and let your neighbors watch as you roll up in a stylish vehicle with enough space to carry hockey bags, golf clubs, etc., yet still handles like a BMW 5-series - which is saying a lot.

At the risk of sounding like a BMW cheerleader, I simply believe that, as has been the case with most BMW models lately, this will inspire a slew of copycats - so why not get ahead of the curve?

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