BMW AG is preparing to launch another crossover -- the 5-series Gran Turismo -- that aspires to be a stylish heir to the dowdy minivan.
The pricey five-door, rear-drive wagon will debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September and go on sale in the United States in the fourth quarter. A concept version was shown at the Geneva show in March.
BMW released some details about the vehicle. Pricing will start "in the high sixties," a spokesman said. He did not predict sales numbers but said the 5-series GT will be a niche model.
Like the Mercedes-Benz R class and BMW X6, the 5-series GT is targeted at buyers who want minivan-like utility but shy away from anything that might be called a minivan. At 196.8 inches, the vehicle is about 6 inches shorter than the R class and almost 5 inches longer than the X6.
The GT's success depends on its being marketed as "an alternative" to the X5 and X6 crossovers rather than a utilitarian people hauler, said Jim O'Donnell, BMW of North America CEO.
"The problem with the R class is it does look a bit like a minivan," he said. "Ours looks more like a sedan."
Mercedes-Benz has struggled with the R class since its 2005 launch. Next year's freshening will give the vehicle a new front end similar to Mercedes' SUVs, insiders say.
O'Donnell said dealers previewed the 5-series GT last September in Munich. "They see it as versatile, but it's definitely not a minivan," he said.
Initially, the United States will get one model: the 550i, with a twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8 that makes 400 hp. It will come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a brake energy regeneration system, which is making its debut in the United States. Unlike a conventional alternator that constantly charges the battery, this system only charges when the vehicle is decelerating or braking.
Next year, six-cylinder and all-wheel- drive versions will be added to the 5-series GT.
Avoiding the word "minivan," BMW executives say the vehicle has the attributes of a sedan, an SUV and a classic GT. The seats are higher than those of the 5 series but are 4 inches lower than the X3's.
Unlike a station wagon or minivan, a partition divides the trunk and passenger compartment. The wall and rear seats can be folded down for added trunk space. The vehicle has a two-piece rear liftgate
The drivetrain and underpinnings come from the next-generation 5 series, due next year.
(Source: Automotive News)