A gaggle of Canadian automotive journalists got a world premier Friday, with the unveiling of the BMW 550i Gran Turismo at a lunch meeting with new BMW Canada president Franz Jung.
It was look-but-don't-drive, and in return for being given permission to debut the car here, BMW Canada had to promise Head Office that we couldn't take our own pictures.
Not sure what difference that would make, but those shown here obviously weren't taken inside the Royal York Hotel.
As the Gran Turismo ('Grand Touring') label implies, the car is intended to be the ideal car for long distance travel, with performance, luxury and carrying capacity.
When I saw a photo of the rear three-quarters view, my first thought was, "X6". Not a compliment, incidentally.
But the Gran Turismo looks a lot better in the flesh / metal than in pictures.
The Gran Turismo is a hatchback, but possibly a hatchback that even Americans might love.
Because the most unique aspect of the car is the dual-function tailgate. Perhaps a little like the separately-opening rear window in some station wagons (I think the original Ford Taurus claims credit for this) the Gran Turismo has a fully-opening tailgate, yet the vertical metal section below the rear glass can also open, giving access to the 'trunk'.
In this mode, the cargo hold is completely sealed from the passenger compartment, reducing or possibly eliminating the noise that can be transferred into the cabin in some hatches.
The rear seat back is a 40 - 20 - 40 split, or all segments can be folded to create a flat floor with about as much total volume as an X5.
Elsewhere, the new front end has a more prominent and more vertical twin-kidney grille. Various character lines highlight the 'power dome' motif on the hood. Expect these details to grace all 5 Series when that line arrives late next year.
Mechanically, the new 5 Series follows BMW's increasing blurriness between marketing descriptions and technical componentry; it will be based on the new 7 Series architecture.
The Gran Turismo will initially be offered as a 550i, with the 400 horsepower twin-turbo 4.4 litre V8 already used in the 750 and X6, and an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Other engines will follow.
In each case the Gran Turismo will be positioned (read: priced) above the corresponding 5 Series sedan model. BMW Canada isn't saying how much above, but that it wouldn't be as high as ten grand. I’d guess maybe $4,000 to $5,000.
BMW feels the intended customer will be someone who may be a 5 Series customer, but wants to move up a little in size, luxury and, especially, functionality, without going the SUV route.
With SUVs becoming less politically correct, a happenstance I have been praying for for two decades now, the time might just be ripe for a car like this.