2009 BMW 5-Series and 3-Series Gran Turismo - Gran Turismo x 2

Huckfeldt

The new BMW 5-series Gran Turismo is (almost) here - displayed as a thinly veiled concept in Geneva. The nearly identical production version is scheduled to make its debut in Frankfurt this fall; it should be in showrooms before the end of the year. But that's not the entire BMW GT story. The company isn't talking about it yet, but we'll see the same theme again with a 3-series Gran Turismo coming three years from now.

Both Gran Turismos are essentially slope-roofed, four-door hatchbacks. The new niche models intend to carve a space between BMW's station wagon models and its X3/X5/X6 crossovers. As such, the new Gran Turismos share features like an elevated seating position, an optional panoramic glass roof, available four-wheel drive, a two-piece liftgate, and split and power-operated reclining rear seats for two.

Scoot the rear seats all the way back in the 5-series Gran Turismo, and BMW claims you'll find 7-series-equivalent legroom and a 15-cubic-foot trunk. Slide them forward, and you get passenger space equal to that of a 5-series sedan while the cargo hold grows to nearly 20 cubic feet. Fold them down, and there's close to 58 cubic feet of cargo space. Aside from its unique interior configuration, the Gran Turismo also grants us an early look at the design of BMW's next 5-series; the revamped sedan and wagon are due later this year. Under the hood, the GT will offer a twin-turbo six and a 400-hp twin-turbo V-8. Neither an M version nor a manual gearbox is planned.

The smaller 3-series GT promises to be the more athletic of the Gran Turismos. It likely will be offered with the full range of go-faster options, such as an M-style body kit, a performance suspension, eighteen- or nineteen-inch wheels, active steering, and adjustable dampers. The optional AWD system will come with an active differential and a rear-biased torque split. Engine-wise, the3-series GT - like other next-generation 3-series models - will see a return to four-cylinder power, with a twin-turbo 2.0-liter replacing the entry-level in-line six; the 300-hp turbo six will remain the top offering, and again, there will be no M version for the Gran Turismo.

Although BMW won't admit it, there's no doubt that the GT formula has been created primarily to attract older, affluent customers (a.k.a. empty nesters). This clientele appreciates a commanding view of the road, easy entry and exit, and a large luggage area. Importantly, they also have money to spend. And spend they will, as the GTs are likely to be priced higher than the corresponding sedans or wagons.

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