Fringe Player – BMW 6-Series GT

BMW’s new hatchback is upon us. It isn’t better than the last one. In fact it’s worse.

Image: carscoops

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.

Image: caranddriver

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.

Image: WardsAuto

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…

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

19 thoughts on “Fringe Player – BMW 6-Series GT”

  1. The third side window is the weakest link.

    Where is the Hoffmeister kink? This is a weirdly apologetic approximation of this key BMW signature.

    They seem bizarrely keen to play fast and loose with BMW’s key design elements, after all the painstaking work to develop and refine them over the years. Bangle had a better understanding of these – his designs were much more radical, yet always instantly recognisable as a BMW.

    1. The C-pillar is very vague and uncertain. I am sure the curvature plots are smooth. That doesn’t mean the DLO at the back doesn’t appear wobbly. I might be alone here when I say that the predecessor looked a lot better and was a pleasant car. This is a very ordinary bit of design indeed. It appears rushed.

    2. Another vote for the 1st generation 5GT, which is a very fine piece of design indeed, particularly the front end which is very well resolved. For the most it seems people weren’t ready for BMW to make a large hatchback, although I’ve seen a fair few around Surrey…

  2. The girlfriend was convinced that the all-new 5 series cannot be anything but a mild facelift when I presented her with that car and its predecessor side-by-side. People criticised the late Luthe-era cars (E38/E39) for being too stylistically timid, but the current generation of van Hooydonk BMWs certainly trumps them in the unexceptionality (sic) stakes .

    My ‘favourite’ bit of that new 6 series GT’s got to be the kink in that crease above the air outlet behind the front wheel. Poshitively shocking, as Mr Connery would put it.

    1. Richard, personally I hope that day is some way off. You do seem very down on BMW: always the criticism.

      I assume (though I’ve not seen it mentioned anywhere) that the seemingly pointless twin door feature of the old 5GT has been dropped. It also featured on the last generation Skoda Superb.

      I also notice that the 5GT had a more convincing Hoffmeister kink.

      Why is there that black plastic filler between the two kidney grilles? It looks awful. It’s the kind of infuriating detail lapse that Opel would make 😉

    2. Jacomo: I’m not entirely sure Richard is ‘down’ on anyone, in fact in editorial meetings he’s regularly accused (by others) of being almost tediously fairminded. BMW and their ilk it seems are allowed away with murder simply because the press’ collective memory still harks back to the von Kuenheim glory days of ‘Ultimate Driving Machines’ and the fanboys will give it a pass regardless. This car is by most visual standards either really ordinary or exceptionally poor depending on one’s standpoint. The previous model’s styling, looks vastly superior by comparison. Note: it was designed and signed off when Bangle was still in charge.

      That filler piece between the kidneys is I believe to house the sensors for adaptive cruise control and whatever semi-autonomous driver aids it’s set to feature. Everybody has something like it now. Some better hidden than others.

    3. There are quite a few BMWs I regard well from recent years. The rear drive 1 two door, the GT3 and GT5, the X3 (!). The Z8, Bangle’s 5 and Z3 roadster were rather good and, generally, BMW have some nice warm interiors that no-one goes for. The GT5 had a super interior. What I don’t like is the front drive opportunism and the humdrum 3s and 5s and 7s which are plain tedious. Every one has a competitor done better for less money.

  3. There is a hint of X3 in the DLO kick just ahead of the C-pillar. This is not a compliment.

    I agree this is a woeful bit of design, but then again I still think the DTW collective hive mind is flat-out wrong about the 5 GT. There was one living near me for a while, and in BMW’s lovely* premium beige colour too, so I had the chance to experience its, er, merits on a regular basis. I can give DTW readers my full-throated assurance that I tried very hard to see what I was missing but I could not and cannot get past the ghastly, whale-approximating proportions and vast behind.

    On reflection, that is unkind. Whales are deeply impressive and graceful creatures.

    1. Well it’s a big car for sure (biggest hatchback ever?) but the proportions are actually excellent. I take it you don’t normally like large hatchbacks anyway?

    2. I’m with the mainstream. I think it’s woeful. But at least it’s woeful in a distinctive way, whereas this one looks like the 3 GT with some more air squeezed inside.

    3. I’m with the mainstream on this one. I think it’s plain ugly. Too tall, too much metal above the wheels, bloated rear aspect, looks like a grinning maniac of a beaver from the front.

      But at least it’s distinctive. This looks like a very weak facelift of the 3 GT. Boo!

    4. Depends – what counts as a ‘large hatchback’? I’m quite comfortable with Type Four Cromas or hatchback Grannies, or R25s, and cars of that ilk. I like XMs. I think the A7 is pretty pointless and some of the detailing is rather less than excellent, but I don’t find it offensive like I do the GT or Panamera. So maybe in the case of the latter two especially, there is something about the sheer scale of a rump that size that causes aesthetic issues. Perhaps an extended rear deck helps break up an overwhelming monolithic form that you get on these cars, or something like an X6. But then, the sheer scale of the BMW designs in a vertical plane has to have something to do with it too – very deep sills to cover the invariably massive wheels, and deep body sides in general. It’s an overwhelming presence, but not an attractive one.

    5. Now the X6, that’s the epitome of offensive to my eyes. Each to their own I guess.

    6. Sam: I had to Google X6. I had simply forgotten that car entirely. Is it BMW’s Aztek?
      Wouldn’t it have been better to ask the designers to do a genuine toy design as in a completely free-choice and make that instead of the X6 which is so clearly a spreadsheet creation?

  4. I’ve been recently thinking that the Gran Coupe would be a natural replacement for my old E38 (once it gets a little less expensive as it approaches 6 years old). This doesn’t look anything like a six series to me, way too tall and plain. There are plenty of Gran Coupes here in Dublin but I think I’ve only ever seen 2 five series GTs. The only benefit I can see to this new car is that it might result in lower prices for the car it replaces. It’s very sad to see the nicest current BMW being directly replaced with a bloated hatch.

  5. Mr Benz has taken the sloping roof BMWs to heart. Mercedes on the other hand have not, favouring the wet bar of soap design for the new tin A class. Benz’s large SUV coupes are doing well in the US, if 20% extra sales for a particular normally square box SUV is regarded as successful. Personally I find Mr Benz’s SUV coupes look cheap, there I said it. But then I’m relatively poor, not being in the banker/financial whizzo class appropriating everyone else’s earnings as a right. Among those folk, being seen in an SUV that is deliberately chopped off at the knees as it were and thus incapable of being useful even to carrying a pooch out back, the mere spectacle of spending wastefully to show how rich you are is a strong drawing card.

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