BMW has stolen the headlines at the Beijing Motor Show today by unveiling its Gran Coupe coupe, a 16.5ft, four-door, coupe-like sedan that's rumored to be headed into production as a new 8-series flagship.
The Gran Coupe has been designed to fuse the abilities of a GT and a sports car. It's roof is 4in. lower than a current 7-series sedan, and its rear quarters slightly more restricted. As such, it's expected to sire a direct production rival for the Maserati Quattroporte, Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera.
“It's true that the Gran Coupe points to a specific model, a sedan with the presence and elegance of a 7-series but a more dynamic, sporty character: much more of a driver's car,” says BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk. “We're convinced that we should make a car like this.”
The Gran Coupe's production version will come along in 2012, according to BMW insiders. Underneath it will use the same "backbone" platform that underpins the current 5-series, 7-series and 5 GT. The car will offer the same mix of six- and eight-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines as those cars, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The Gran Coupe picks up on the work started four years ago with the Concept CS show car, which appeared at the Shanghai motor show in 2007.
“We all liked the idea of a more dynamic flagship four-door back then,” explains van Hooydonk, “but we put the car ‘on ice' while working on ‘Project I' [BMW's new Megacity electric-only brand], which has been a bigger priority. Now we've had the opportunity to revisit the CS and update it, and I think everyone inside of BMW is pleased with the results.
“We drew inspiration from classic BMWs like the 3.0 Csi. Our intention was to create a car with a distinct character: I'm hoping you can tell that it's not a 7-series replacement. The Gran Coupe is much lower, and a little wider than a 7, and has a much more fluid roofline.”
So, will BMW bring back the 8-series badge for the car? “It's not my decision to make,” says van Hooydonk. “I don't think of this car as an 8-series, but our marketing department may think differently. Either way, their work is just beginning, and I know that often it can take longer than our design work!”
As well as testing the water for a BMW-built rival for the Audi A7, the Gran Coupe is intended to distill and concentrate BMW's design values. As such, it's likely to have a far-reaching influence throughout the styling of many of BMW's future model lines. That means we should expect to see the Gran Coupe's long wheelbase, vaulted hood, shark nose, rearward set glasshouse, low silhouette and short front overhang become part of BMW's trademark design language, as well as its asymmetrical kidney grille, wide frontal air intake and frameless doors.
Jim Holder/Matt Saunders/Autocar