BMW's Odd Duck Takes Flight
Can America handle a nearly $70,000 hatchback?
“What the heck is that?” is the reaction so far to the BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo.
But once people have a look inside, they’re not entirely averse to the big new BMW and its oddball styling. The 5-Series GT is a designer mashup of a big sedan, hatchback and crossover, all wrapped in a sloping fastback roof. While it wears a 5-Series badge, the car is actually much more closely related to the flagship 7-Series: It has the 7’s platform, its 400-horespower twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine and other lucky-7 goodies such as 4-wheel steering and a computerized suspension that lets the 5 GT handle flatter than a drill sergeant’s crewcut.
Inside, the 5 GT seats either five passengers or four -- the latter if you choose the deluxe rear seat with a fixed center console and a pair of plush, deep-reclining bucket seats. But the most eye-catching bit is the ingenious two-hatches-in-one arrangement: A rear hinged gate opens like a conventional trunk; hit another button, and a much larger hatch opens to access the full cargo area.
It all adds up to an enormous 5-door hatchback with a slightly elevated stance, a concept that Honda is also exploring with its new Accord Crosstour. Of course, the BMW costs more than double the Honda’s price, starting at an estimated $66,000. But come spring, BMW will offer a more affordable 535i GT model, likely starting in the mid-$50,000 range. It’ll be equipped with a new single-turbo 307-horsepower 3-liter inline six that will eventually step in for the current twin-turbo six in variety of BMW models. (And that new engine had better be good, because the current twin-turbo is one of the world’s great engines for both performance and relative fuel efficiency).
The question is whether buyers have any interest in a luxury fastback that recalls a modern take on the Lexus IS 300 SportCross or the Saab 9-3 Sport Combi. You’re forgiven if you don’t remember the Lexus or Saab; so few made it off the showroom floor to make any impression whatsoever. And BMW buyers already have a dizzying array of choices in sedans, wagons and crossover SUVs, from the 5-Series wagon to the X5 and X6 crossovers. Still, while some purists have already whined about BMW’s latest entry, BMW heard a lot of the same flak when it released the X5, its first SUV. We know how that one turned out; whatever you think of the merits of 2.5-ton crossovers, the X5 became a class benchmark for performance, and one of BMW’s best-selling vehicles.
The 5 GT is certainly far more of a niche model, unlikely to top more than 5,000 sales a year. But for buyers, since when did more choices become a bad thing? Clearly, new offerings like the X5 haven’t prevented BMW from steadily improving its terrific 3-, 5- and 7-Series cars, not to mention the high-performance M models or the new Z4 roadster. So until BMW announces that the M3 is going to become a family minivan instead, I'm prepared to cut it some slack.
EXPLORE NEW CARS
MORE ON MSN AUTOS
ABOUT EXHAUST NOTES
Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.
Have a story idea? Tip us off at email@example.com.