BMW: Trying To Make Sense Of It All

As you might be able to tell, this had rapidly descended into a week of BMW themed items. I’ll be honest, this wasn’t intentional, but once something has started there’s no reason to stop it.

Today I was reading about the forthcoming BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe, revealed at this year’s Geneva Motorshow. To be perfectly honest, I’m struggling hugely to understand the point of this huge vehicle:

To put it into context, the old 740i in Tuesday’s ICAT was about 5 metres long. The new 6-Series Gran Coupe is just about dead on 5 metres in length, and only 65mm shorter than a contemporary 7-Series. BMW is marketing this machine as a four-door coupe; a concept which really goes against the very principle of what a coupe is, traditionally being a two-door bodyshell. But in reality, with quad openings, it is a saloon by any other name.

Which leads me to the further question of who exactly is this car aimed at? Pricewise, in the UK it’s going to start at £61,000 for the most basic (albeit still rather well specced model), whereas the slightly larger 7-Series costs from as little (!) as £57,000. I’m sure the ad men would say clearly the Gran Coupe is aimed at a much different customer; those who wish to drive themselves rather than be chauffeured. They might also add that the Gran Coupe is more rakish and stylish than the 7-Series, but when you consider them in profile I’m not convinced the difference is so marked:

This is the 6-Series Gran Coupe, I think. Yeah I’m fairly sure.

This is the 7-Series. Though let me just check…

Yes there is clearly less headroom in the rear of the Gran Coupe, but unless you’re in the habit of driving around basketball players in top hats, I can’t really see it being an issue. The GC also has a few more droopy and swoopy bits, but they’re hardly poles apart. The engine choices are broadly similar, as are the transmission setups and the overall chassis underpinnings. Genuinely, for me, this is perhaps one market segment too far. However, this is not the first time BMW has strayed into the outer reaches of the car-buying market. Take the 5-Series GT as proof the Bavarians will often give you the answer to a question you’d never even dreamt of asking, let alone wrote down and sent off to their shiny headquarters.

BMW brands the 5-Series Gran Turismo as a Progressive Activity Sedan. What that actually means…I’m not sure. Size wise, again it’s knocking on the door of the magic 5 metre marker, with interior space bigger than 5-Series Touring and a bit more headroom than the X5 SUV. At £45k it’s a lot more expensive than the 5-Series Touring which starts at £32k, but level with the X5. Just without the 4×4 off-road capability of BMW’s established SUV. To try to make some sense of this, lets look at them all in profile:

This is a regular 5-Series saloon, and very nice it is too.

This is a 5-Series Touring. Also very nice, and great if you need to move dogs or wardrobes.

Here’s the 5-Series GT, which has both a saloon boot and a hatchback all in one. BMW borrowed this idea from Skoda. It also has a more swoopy coupe-like roofline compared to the saloon.

And this is the X5. The off-roader.

Any clearer? I didn’t think so. The key perhaps lies in the American market (as ever) where the 5-Series Touring didn’t prove to be particularly popular. The result being the bloated GT is the replacement for the regular estate 5-Series, though given the US market’s obsession with all things SUV, surely the X5 answers that question anyway? Although if that high, straight roofline of the regular X5 is cramping your style far too much, there is always this:

The X6. Urgh.

Yes, the X6. A 4×4 Sports Activity Coupe with a swept back roof and 4WD grubby bits. There’s also an M version should you feel the need to be truly vulgar about your personal wealth/ability to be taken in by marketing.

As I said earlier in the week, BMW used to be a company that produced similar looking saloons in different lengths. The above evidence makes it rather clear that those days are long gone. BMW is not concerned with making the best driver’s cars, it now seems more bothered about filling every little market niche, on the off-chance that one person might need a vehicle of that kind.

Even 10 years ago I would probably have been able to explain the brand rationale behind Bayerische Motoren Werke. These days, I’m really not so sure. I’m glad the company still produces little glimmers of awesomeness like the 1M, but given that the latest M5 features synthesised engine noises I worry that nothing is sacred in Munich anymore.

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