The car in search of identity

As of April 2017 the BMW 5 series Gran Turismo was quietly pulled from BMW’s local line-up. This was sad news for me as I was one of the very few who loved this car. I understood what BMW was trying to achieve with this controversial car. It offered the space, refinement and luxury of a 7 series but was more individual and less expensive. However individuality was probably this cars biggest flaw. Some publications went so far as to call it BMW’s biggest mistake. Since it’s 2010 launch in South Africa it only made up 5% of 5 series sales. The car was aimed at people who wanted to upgrade from the standard 5-series before making their way to the flagship 7-series. BMW itself stated that global sales figures were ‘disappointing’. Which begs the question why launch a new one?

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The all new 6-series GT in M-Sport flavour

Enter the 6-series GT. The Bavarian manufacturer is quick to point out this car will offer all the attributes that made the 5-series GT unique but in a more striking package. This progress is evident in the nomenclature change to 6-series Gran Turismo. But doesn’t BMW already make 4 door 6-series? They do indeed – the Gran Coupe which they will continue produce alongside the new GT variant. Interestingly BMW hasn’t built a single two door 6-series coupe since February. The model is set to be discontinued when the fascinating new 8-series makes its debut.

What sets the 6-series GT apart from its predecessor? According to Senior VP of BMW Design, “The new BMW 6-Series Gran Turismo is geared towards discerning customers who place great importance on individuality. It is an eye-catching statement, packaged into a flowing, sculptural design language which gives the car a modern and sporty feel. The raised seating position ensures an imperious brand of driving pleasure, and the luxurious levels of space provide everything you need for a relaxing journey,”

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Similar yet sleeker profile to the outgoing 5-series GT

Longer and sleeker are fitting words to describe the 6-series GT. With an exterior length of 5,091mm (an 87mm increase over the 5-series GT) and a height reduction of 21 millimeters (1528mm) all add up to the stretched proportions of the car. The front of the car is instantly more aggressive than its softer predecessor. Large new LED headlights extend right into the trademark kidney grille which features active air flaps first seen on the 7-series. The profile of the Gran Turismo highlights a more defined character with a long bonnet and strong shoulder line with slim frameless windows. The roofline flows elegantly to the rear end which features interesting sculpted LED tail lamps reminiscent of those on the i8. The new model is available in three equipment lines; Luxury, Sport and M-sport. Each variant has unique styling, colours and wheel designs.

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Sleek flowing profile, shown here in Luxury line

The interior of the new GT is instantly recognisable as a BMW. No doubt this is a very luxurious well-built interior but it lacks the charisma of the exterior. The cockpit is tailored to the driver however all occupants have an abundance of space. A range of colour options and designs are available for leather and trim, which again is dependent on the equipment line. Also available is exclusive nappa leather which lifts the premium ambience of the car. The GT features the company’s latest iDrive system  which takes the form of a freestanding touchscreen display. A highlight of the extensive option list is the 1400w Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system.

What about rear passengers? The GT features three fullsize seats. Despite being lower than its predecessor it actually offers greater headroom. ISOFIX anchors are standard and allow for up to three child seats to be fitted. There is the option to fit the car with rear sports or comfort seats which are ventilated and have a massage function. The rear seats also offer electric adjustment to provide further comfort for longer trips. Should you be using the GT for its intended purpose the boot is a massive 610 litres (110l larger than the 5-series GT). With the split rear seats folded flat capacity expands to a cavernous 1800 litres. A trailer coupling can be optioned on the GT which has a maximum towing rating of 2100kg.

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Classic BMW driver focused interior

All engines are aluminium in construction and feature BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology. There will be two petrol engines and one diesel on offer. The 630i Gran Turismo is powered by the familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder which produces 190kW and an impressive 400Nm of torque. 0 to 100km/h is dispatched in 6.3 seconds all while using a claimed average of 6.6l/100kms. Next in line is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder powering the 640i GT. Power peaks at 250kW with 450 newton meters of torque from as low as 1380rpm. The 640i is capable of sprinting to 100km/h in only 5.3 seconds. BMW provides a rather optimistic claim of 8.2l/100km on the combined cycle. As for diesel fans there will initially only be the 630d GT on offer. Again it’s powered by BMW’s well known 3.0 litre six-cylinder engine which produces 195kW and 620Nm. All engine variants are available in either rear wheel drive or BMW’s xDrive configuration.

No modern car would be complete with a suite of modern driver aids and the 6-series GT is no different. The new car comes standard with Collision and Pedestrian warning, City Collision Mitigation and cruise control with braking function. These systems can further be upgraded to Active cruise control with Stop and Go function. This amazing system is operational from 0 – 230km/h. What is truly impressive is that the system not only senses the vehicle directly ahead but even the one in front of that making stop and go traffic stress free. The optional Steering and Lane control Assistant helps keeps the driver in the intended lane while Lane Departure Warning alerts the driver if the vehicle is straying from its lane. The list of driver assistance systems is endless and further paves the wave to a fully autonomous future.

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Amazing sculpted LED lights

The biggest problem the 6-series GT faces comes from within the BMW family – the new 5-series Touring and the 6-series Gran Coupe. The 6-series GT has all the ingredients that make modern BMW’s great. BMW certainly hoped the original 5-series GT would prosper yet it was a disappointment for the German brand. I loved the 5-series GT and the new car is no different. It’s an arresting and distinctive car for those who want to make a statement. Will the world understand this concept a second time round and has BMW differentiated the GT enough for it to succeed? Only time will tell but I certainly hope so. Bring on a comparative test against the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo.

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