BMW’s new hatchback is upon us. It isn’t better than the last one. In fact it’s worse.
When the mighty Vierzylinder announced the 5-Series GT in 2009, it was met with almost universal ridicule. So much so, its passing last year was at best unmourned and in some quarters, openly celebrated. There was little wrong with the 5-GT, a large, practical hatchback with a cavernous interior and all the versatility this layout entails. No, the big problem appears to have rested upon the fact that BMW produced a vehicle which placed practicality and convenience above style. A conceit which didn’t play all that well with the marque faithful, or indeed the press.
Its successor, now badged 6-Series is aimed further upmarket. Word from Munich is that it will indirectly replace the outgoing 6-Series Gran Coupe, a car which despite its elegant lines, was not the sales success hoped for. What we can conclude however is that the 5-GT managed to justify its business case – there can be no other reason why BMW would sanction another. And while the outgoing car wasn’t a success in Europe – the bulk of those sold it seems entering service in the livery trade – I’d assume China is the answer to that question.
The auto-tabloids have been quick to conclude the new model is a good 50% better looking than the outgoing car. I disagree. Firstly, apart from a slightly heavy-handed tail, the old 5GT was pleasantly gimmick-free and if not entirely elegant, was at least possessed of a certain gravitas. The new car is lower and longer than the outgoing car, so in silhouette at least, it does appear sleeker. However, on the basis of the launch photos, the amalgam of current Petuelring style, already tarring the latest 5-Series saloon, does the 6GT few visual favours either.
The 6-Series GT, like its forebear is likely to remain a rare sight in these parts, after all, it’s unlikely to have been targeted at European tastes. But it does highlight another imminent new release, which is likely to play out in a more fecund manner in this neck of the woods. BMW is readying a new 3-Series model, which given the current stylistic direction of travel is likely to cleave to the overwrought styling theme which seems to be the spinning propeller’s current default.
Adrian van Hooydonk has been BMW’s design leader since the departure of Chris Bangle in 2009. It’s become increasingly clear that in the Californian’s wake, a regressive shift has taken place in Munich, and whether or not this can be entirely laid at the Dutchman’s feet is debatable. Less so is the fact that it has happened on his watch.
Bizarrely, one can almost track the regression of BMW’s design coherence and painstakingly honed aesthetics in parallel with the recession of the van Hooydonk hairline. (Some critics even suggesting that Adrian’s fringe was in fact the talented one) Now obviously, it’s his business how he chooses to present himself, but for an individual in such a senior design position his apparent denial of tonsorial realities does raise questions around visual judgement.
Something’s got to give. Adrian clearly needs to show his comb-over who’s boss just as BMW needs to get a grip on its current over-wrought styling theme. But hope is not entirely lost. New appointee, Josef Kaban I notice, is in possession of the sort of luxuriant locks that wouldn’t be out of place in a L’Oréal advert. One could even be tempted to call him heir-apparent…