Let’s talk branding and market for a moment since the 6GT is throwing everyone off. While the segment is difficult to address if you’re unfamiliar with what’s between the $50,000 5-Series and $80,000 7-Series, this vehicle has a pretty simple rationale to it as long as you take it piece by piece. So, that’s exactly how I’m going to break this down!
Odd Numbered Models vs Even Numbered Models
Don’t think of the odd numbered BMWs as 4-doors and the even numbered BMWs as 2-doors, you’ll end up choking a puppy. Instead, think of the odd numbers as being more “daily” minded and the even numbers being more “dynamic” minded. This divide is why you can expect the odd numbered cars to continue to get a little bit softer and easier to live with daily (including reliability) while the even numbers will be the more stylish and driving focused cars (which means less ease of ownership). This is a major difference between a primary car and a supplementary car, and those uses completely change how people respond to living with a product.
Why Did the Hatchback Version of the Sedan Become the Hatchback Version of the Sedan Version of the Coupe Version of the Sedan?
The reason it switched from a 5 Series to a 6 Series is to place it into a different market, a thriving market. Without getting into a ton of other information — besides that this segment’s buyers research cars and require four doors but want the prestige and experience of a sportscar/luxury car feeling — all you need to know is that BMW is transforming the 6 series range into a Panamera fighter. The midsized sedans that start around $50,000 (A6, 5-Series, E-Class) are very different from the midsized “sports” sedans that start over $70,000. By moving the Executive GT up in market BMW will not only find more buyers but enjoy higher transaction prices and a huge value advantage within the segment.
But Why Is It a Slopey Hatchback Instead of That Sexy Gran Coupe Sedan or a Wagon?
You are going to see a flurry of sedans coming out with hatches in back instead of trunks. The reason for this is to better differentiate between a more traditional sedan. Automakers don’t want to go through the misunderstanding that pummeled the reception of the Ghibli. That Maserati is a vehicle set to compete with the A7, 6-Series Gran Coupe, and CLS. When compared in its correct segment all of a sudden it becomes a decent value for a Maserati. But marketing messed up and allowed everyone to compare it to the 5-Series, A6, and E-Class and that $20,000 segment difference confused us all and made the car appear to be a horrific value. Had Maserati presented the Ghibli with a hatch it would have been automatically understood as an alternative to an $85,000 Panamera with a $15,000 discount rather than a $60,000 A6 with a nearly $12,000 mark up.
BMW took notes, hopefully Mercedes did as well with their upcoming CLS.
Why Does It Look Gross?
Knowing that the target is undercutting the Panamera you obviously need to attack that Porsche’s weakness which is usability, specifically the fact that it only seats two in the rear and has a low seating position.
Now remember that BMW would have benchmarked the LAST generation Panamera, not the NEW generation.
You’ll notice BMW created a very open cabin that includes enough headroom for higher seating positions and a rear that aims more for a bench instead of bucket seating. BMW went this route because many of the buyers that used to purchase the short-wheelbase forms of the S-Class, 7-Series, A8, XJ, and LS were the primary buyers of this new Panamera segment. That’s why you’ll notice that most of the flagship limos are only available in their LWB forms in the US now.
So BMW figured out a way to offer a fullsize luxury sedan interior in terms of materials and design while moving the 5GT up to be shopped against the Panamera with the additional benefit of over $10,000 in retail feature and technology gains.
The reason why it looks too bulky is because BMW wanted the interior space and exterior shape to match their crossovers. That’s part of branding, get people to recognize a shape and immediately associate it back to you. The big body and tall greenhouse for a sports sedan all throw off the proportions at that ride height. But compared to the last generation Panamera the car probably looked fine and was pushed forward into development. No one really counted on the new Panamera totally redeeming Porsche design wise.
Will This Continue On in the Future?
Honestly I think BMW is struggling to keep up. They made the right move turning the 6 series into an entry in the Panamera segment but the design doesnt accommodate the market for higher performance variants or alternative power sources (at least to me anyways). Mercedes is attacking this segment with both the next CLS and a 4-door version of the AMG GT. The 6GT is too much a lowline CUV to go M6GT and so on, but you have to work with what you have until a redesign or new generation can be launched. Like Mercedes though, BMW could have M create a separate slopeback to take the on the Panamera Turbo and AMG GT-4.