BMW turning five to six with a new philosophy
Out with the frumpy, in with the sleek for BMW’s big, new liftback, writes Michael Taylor
The lid has been lifted on BMW’s new 6 Series Gran Turismo, which will make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Due on sale in SA in November, the 6 Series GT is a leaner-looking, sleeker big executive car that tacitly admits the failings of two generations of the unloved 5 Series GT.
Based around a product-planning philosophy clearly derived from Audi’s A7 strategy, the five-seat liftback will arrive in SA in two derivatives including the 630d and 640i xDrive.
There is no expectation for a full-house M version of the sexier new liftback, though there has been internal pressure put on M’s president, Franciscus van Meel. A future M Performance Automobiles model will be the compromise car, despite the success of Audi’s RS 7 twin-turbo V8 monster and the availability of the M5 powertrain.
M has provided broad hints that it already has the M5’s 4.4l twin-turbo V8 loaded up in an all-wheel-drive test mule that should in 2018 become the M550i xDrive GT, while its new four-turbo 3.0l in-line six-cylinder thumper should power the M550d xDrive GT.
Redesigned inside and out, it has undergone a change of philosophy, with BMW’s designers delivering the sleeker roofline and losing the dumpiness that plagued the 5 Series GT.
Carrying the code name G15, the 6 Series GT will need to be good, as within three years it will be the only 6 Series on BMW’s books. The 6 Series coupe is to be killed off in 2018 to make way for the more upmarket 8 Series coupe, which debuted in May. The 6 Series cabriolet will suffer a similar fate, with the 8 Series cabriolet set to arrive in 2019.
For one glorious year for the 6 Series badge, though, it will have four full production models before that drops to three in 2018, two in 2019 and just one when the five-year-old 6 Series Gran Coupe is retired in 2020.
BMW is tight-lipped on the future of the 6 Series nameplate, but it looks like the 6 Series GT will be the only model between the 5 Series and 7 Series ranges in the longer term.
It’s a big car, joining the five-metre club at 5,091mm, which is 87mm longer than the outgoing 5 Series GT and 154mm longer than the 5 Series sedan. It’s also 1,902mm wide (same as the 5 GT, but 34mm wider than the 5 Series sedan).
A big visual difference to its predecessor is its roofline which at 1,53mm is 21mm lower but it feels like even more because its tail is 64mm lower than before, and it is 72mm higher than the standard 5 Series.
It promises greater rear legroom and high-speed stability by shifting to a 3,070mm wheelbase, which is a full 95mm longer than that of the 5 Series sedan.
The 6 Series GT sits on the same Cluster Architecture platform (Clar) as the 5 and 7 Series and BMW claims that has saved it up to 150kg of weight compared to the 5 Series GT.
Combining aluminium and hot-formed steels throughout the body structure, the platform includes a 12V Flex-Ray power system to pull together the car’s array of suspension control systems. It has air springs as standard at the rear, which includes a self-levelling function, though a full air-suspension system, with constantly variable dampers and active roll control, will be available as an option.
It gains a cleaner and more adventurous version of BMW’s notoriously conservative design language, with a stronger front end and a rear end that looks to be the car’s strongest design feature. Tapering to a crisp, beautifully proportioned tailgate lid, the 6 Series GT claims a slippery drag co-efficient of 0.25 in the cleanest 630i form.
Its extra length has allowed BMW to add another 110l of luggage capacity to the boot, which is now 610l large. That rises to 1,800l with the seats folded flat.
It runs a 40:20:40 rear-seat split-fold arrangement, while the liftback maintains the one-piece status its predecessor picked up in its 2012 facelift to replace its original 2009 two-piece system. Its line-up of petrol and diesel engines doesn’t yet include electrification of any kind, which seems odd.
The cars will only come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, though all-wheel drive (in a package with rear-wheel steering) is optional.
The 640i xDrive GT has BMW’s latest in-line, six-cylinder turbo petrol motor sitting in the nose. Delivering 250kW of power at 5,500 to 6,500r/min, the engine is claimed to push the car to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds.
The only diesel at launch will be the 3.0l, in-line six-cylinder turbo in the 630d. The torque-rich motor reaches its 620Nm maximum at 2,000r/min and if it is stretched to 4,000r/min on the tacho, it should have a claimed 195kW of power.
BMW claims an average fuel consumption figure of 4.9l/ 100km for the diesel car on its 17-inch standard wheels.
The line-up will be padded out in 2018 with a four-cylinder 620d model and a plug-in hybrid version, dubbed the 640e GT. It will run a combination of a disc-shaped electric motor (mounted within the front of the eight-speed automatic transmission) and a 2.0l, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine.
Roomier throughout, the new model will also run BMW’s latest suite of semi-autonomous driving systems, connectivity, remote-control parking and gesture-control setups.
It retains part of the old car’s philosophy, with a higher seating position than the 5 Series sedan, while it can be ordered with a 10.3-inch touchscreen multimedia display and a head-up display that is 70% larger.
BMW is trying to pivot from being a sporty brand to a sporty/ luxury brand, and top-end models will feature front seats with eight different massage programmes and electronically adjustable rear seats.