Requiem for a 5-Series

As BMW readies a new 5 GT for 2017, we pay tribute to their 2009 niche bender.

Image: Zombdrive
A rump that only it’s mother could love? Image: (c) Zombdrive

Back in 2009, BMW introduced the 5-Series GT – a car few have felt much affection for, the poor thing. It’s unclear why BMW felt they needed it. When it first appeared as the Progressive Activity Sedan concept in 2007, it seemed BMW were just toying with niches in a similar manner to their Swabian rivals in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim.

But PAS was no R-Class, being far more saloon-like in concept and appearance, even if the desirability of a 5-door BMW hatchback as large as a 7-Series seemed questionable even in those innocent pre-crash days.

Sitting on the F07 floorpan, the 5-GT was nominally aimed at the US market, where estates had fallen dramatically out of favour. Packaged to maximise passenger space, it featured a interior described by Autocar as ‘very special’. However, the car’s steeply sloping tail not only compromised luggage space – (440l or 1700l with the seats folded) – and some way short of its 5-Series Touring sibling, it also robbed rear seat headroom.

Furthermore, the provision of just two rear seats made it less of a family load-hauler and more of a high class minicab – perhaps the car’s true spiritual calling. Autocar found more to be ambivalent about in the chassis dynamics, decrying the ride by observing; “every now and then the rear suspension seemingly gives up, sending a shock crashing through the cabin.” They summed up by damning it in the following terms; “It is trying to be too many things for too many people, and as a result it satisfies none.”

So a bit of an orphan, the 5-Series GT and that’s before we even touch on the troubled subject of the car’s styling, a subject around which there is almost universal accord. In fact, taking their cue from Porsche, a BMW insider recently sealed the coffin lid on the current car’s style, suggesting the forthcoming G32 version – now in the late stages of proving will present a ‘much more elegant form.’ 

Okay, it’s no beauty, but perhaps the GT’s stylistic deficiencies have been overplayed.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

6 thoughts on “Requiem for a 5-Series”

  1. The boring reason for this car is that Europe’s older drivers like the higher H-point and hatchbacks are more useful than saloons (even if saloon snobs deny this). Motoring writing orthodoxy can’t accomodate this line of thinking.
    Note: I define a saloon snob as a person who pretends not to see the point of any other format and they are a creation of the prestige brands who chose to argue that hatchbacks lacked status, just until the saloon market’s decline became unavoidably apparent.

  2. Although I fit into Richard’s ‘older drivers’ category, I don’t think that ease of access is the reason I appreciate the GT. Compared with a saloon,it’s spacious, versatile, has good visibility and doesn’t really compromise on other BMW virtues (or vices). It’s not elegant, but it’s not actually a clumsy design and, unlike the X6, it’s not odiously aggressive. I don’t think I’d ever want one, but I don’t find its existence personally offensive (unlike every X6 I see). Lukewarm praise, maybe, but I think that the lukewarm is often under-appreciated.

    1. I’m more of a fan of the 5GT than you but I completely agree on the parallel with the offensive X6. I actually think the GT has a great stance, and while the rear is a touch heavy the front end is very sharp, and much better executed than on the 5 saloon or the 7.

  3. Saab (sorry for bringing that back from the dead) was prestigious and a hatchback; its demise came as a saloon. While I think the styling of the 5-GT is heavy handed and unresolved I can see the logic of the model. As a member of the bus pass demographic I can report that most of my acquaintances drive hatchbacks, estates or SUVs because of convenience. Try hauling a bag of compost from the depths of a large boot.

    1. Much as I like Saab, surely their problem lay in that they never reached the point where the public saw them as being as prestigious as BMW or Mercedes. Audi overtook them in in the early 90s. And Saab had a saloon 900 as well as a hatch. I remember the saloon/hatch debate raging over the Scorpio and the Rover SD1, XM and R25. The journos often trotted out the line that a saloon was the only proper format for a posh car.

  4. With BMW being such a conservative brand, I was highly critical of the GT and its very raison d’être (trying’ me best here, Laurent!). Thanks to the arrival of the 2-series Active… van, the GT appears a lot less offensive than it used to, but I’m still no fan.

    I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that this car is actually an engineers’ product, rather than the outcome of some particularly daft market research. But then again, in my perfect automotive world, BMW would only build cars bigger than a 3-series, all of which would be equipped with straight six engines of 2-3.5 litres of capacity.

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