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BMW 5-Series GT introduces liftback model

Fri, 22 May 2009

BMW will bring the elevated seating and packaging of an SUV to its 5-series line with the addition of a liftback model called the Grand Turismo or, simply, GT.

The automaker is now revealing the production look for the vehicle, which will debut at this fall's Frankfurt motor show after having been previewed as a concept car at the Geneva show in March. It will go on sale in the United States in December, priced in the low-$70,000s range.

With a prominent kidney grille, the 5-series GT couldn't be mistaken for anything but a BMW. The lower half of the body incorporates a look similar to that of the new 7-series, but above the waistline are clear visual similarities with the X6. Overall, the vehicle is longer, wider and taller than a 5-series and rides on a 7.1-inch-longer wheelbase.

In a first for a four-door BMW model, the doors are frameless, which increases opening for ease of entry. At the rear is a two-piece trunk that uses a patented hinging process that allows for a small porthole opening or a more conventional wide-open liftgate.

Unlike the earlier concept with just four seats, the production model is a five-seater, with rear seats that slide fore and aft and fold down.

For the U.S. market, BMW will sell just one model, the rear-wheel-drive 2010 550i GT. It comes with a twin-turbocharged, 4.4-liter, 400-hp, 450-lb-ft V8 hooked to an eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW says the car will hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, with a combined fuel economy of 21 mpg. The powertrain, outfitted with BMW's Efficient Dynamics technology, includes brake-energy regeneration--a first for a BMW in the U.S. market.

The 5-series GT rides on modified underpinnings from the new 7-series, with a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension that incorporates air springs. Buyers will be able to choose hydraulic steering or an advanced rear-wheel-steer system similar to that on the 7-series. Other options include BMW's Adaptive Drive system, which links electronically controlled dampers with active antiroll stabilization.

Despite a good deal of fanfare created by BMW around the 5-series GT, sales expectations are rather modest, at about 5,000 units annually. By contrast, the 5-series sedan and wagon accounted for more than 45,000 sales in 2008.

By Greg Kable