The automotive biz is hugely competitive, especially in a struggling economy like we're currently experiencing. As manufacturers attempt to secure and expand control of existing categories, BMW is doing something interesting: they're making up new ones. Take the new 5 Series GT for example. It's not a sedan, it's not a wagon -- it's certainly not an SUV -- and yet, it's not quite a crossover. So what exactly is a BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo?
Put simply, the 5 Series Gran Turismo is a slightly taller 5 Series Sedan with a bit more cargo space and a dual-opening trunk. The description is deceptively simple because it downplays the difficulty in defining BMW's latest offering. Despite its somewhat taller stance, the GT lacks any sense of ruggedness or off-road pretense, straining comparisons between it and SUVs or crossovers. It also features a sloping roofline that greatly reduces
its functionality compared to a wagon. This roofline also sits higher than that of a sedan, allowing for slightly raised seats. In fact, the 5GT perfectly splits the difference in seat height between BMW's 5 Series Sedan and its X6 SUV.
A raised seating position gives the driver an improved view of the road (BMW calls it "semi-command seating"), but equally important is how it eases entry and exit. Higher seats allow occupants to slide inside rather than climb up or crouch down into it. The GT's other unique attribute is its dual-function tailgate. Push one button, and the tailgate swings up like a hatch back, push another button and a smaller trunk-like section opens up. The tailgate is supplemented by a stowable divider that separates the cabin from the cargo area, letting the Gran Turismo function as either a sedan or quasi-wagon. The key advantage to this setup seems to be the ability to load smaller cargo without exposing rear seat passengers to the elements, while still offering a large pass-through for the occasional bulky load. Another benefit is superior isolation of wind and road noise from the cargo area as compared to an SUV or wagon.
A True GT?
With the words Gran Turismo right in its name, we approached BMW's new 5 Series variant with certain expectations. After a day behind the wheel, we can confirm the vehicle cruises as stably and comfortably as a grand tourer should. Its handling over curvier roads didn't quite achieve sporty status, but it always felt capable and sure-footed. The cabin has an open and airy feel to it, the interior is beautifully laid out and there is ample passenger space front and rear. Even the exterior styling works better in person than pictures might imply. BMW's designers succeeded in adding enough visual width to hide much of the GT's added bulk.
However, something about the name Gran Turismo associated with this vehicle doesn't sit right with us. In our eyes, a proper GT car is made to carry two passengers a long distance in style and comfort. The 5 Series GT can certainly do so, but the focus seems to be on the rear passengers, with sliding and reclining rear seats as well as a panoramic sunroof, imparting a supreme feeling of spaciousness. While this is all lovely, our romantic visions of grand touring usually involve us doing the driving. If we're being chauffeured, a long wheel-base 7 Series would be grand enough.
Of course, our concerns have nothing to do with how well the new 5 Series Gran Turismo actually operates. If the toughest criticisms lobbed at the 5 Series Gran Turismo include difficulty placing it in a pre-established category or questionable application of the name Gran Turismo, we think it stands a good chance of winning over customers.