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|Spied: 2011 BMW 5-Series 4-door Sedan|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Wednesday, 01 July 2009 15:09|
The 2009 hunting season gets off to a promising start with these photos of the 2011 BMW 540 4-door sedan.
It's a four hour, 250-mile drive from my house to the land of prototype testing in the California desert and I really hate making the trip if I'm not certain that something will drive through the crosshairs of my viewfinder. I left the house at 8 AM this morning knowing that Hyundai and Kia were already into their summer test session but I was pleasantly surprised that right after the "Boys from Seoul" made a vain attempt to stop me from shooting their upcoming crossovers I was quite pleased to see what appeared to be a BMW 5-Series test mule just 100 yards away. Question, do I concentrate on the Koreans or do I point my lens at the Bimmer? Need you ask?
What these photos show, judging from the level of cloaking this car is wearing, is that we're looking at a prototype 12-18 months from a big time auto show reveal. That means that this 5-Series BMW is looking at a Geneva or Paris 2010 unveiling, just about the time the mid-sized Bimmer is due for an upgrade in a category that is now hyper competitive with the entry of competitors like the Hyundai Genesis in addition to the usual cast of suspects from Audi, Infiniti, Lexus, and Mercedes. The styling changes appears evolutionary from the current version at this point in time with the current shell being treated to nips and tucks at each corner, meaning new front and rear fascias. As this front view doesn't reveal anything unusual, we first suspected that this is the entry-level six-cylinder version.
At first glance, from a distance across the parking lot, we thought that the car was a 7-Series prototype but getting up closer, and with BMW thoughtfully providing a current 7-Series for comparison, it was immediately apparent that we had come upon an enlarged 5-Series, as confirmed by the line of the rear door. What's interesting from this view is the amount of cloaking that the rear quarter panel is carrying, especially along the same line as the concealed taillight. Is BMW toning down even the restrained flame surfacing of the current version, or is there something else that they're trying to hide from our lenses? Time will tell later this summer as the camouflage is pealed away as the test season continues.
Not much more is revealed by this rear three-quarter view except to confirm that with the dual exhausts that this is probably a 5-liter normally aspirated V8 rather than the 6-cylinder version. Clearly, with the current 7-Series in the background, and comparing the length of the rear windows of both cars, this is clearly a smaller version of its bigger brother. Facing increasing competition from the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, we expect that both power and fuel efficiency of its lineup of six- and eight cylinder engines will show marked improvements over the current offerings. And with BMW about to offer a hybrid version of its SAVs which we caught last summer, we wouldn't be surprised to see this next 5-Series offer the same drivetrain as an option.
Not much is learned from this direct rear view of the 5-Series except that it follows the overall form of the 7-Series with the horizontal accent strip. The rear spoiler concealment would indicate that the Bangle butt has been tweaked but probably not too much given that the current 5-Series is probably the most harmonic styling from the end of Chris Bangle's reign as the head of design at BMW. Say what you will, but Bangle's tenure pushed the boundaries of design at BMW, to such a degree that virtually every car manufacturer on the planet has emulated his look. Still even with the radical departure from past practice, any current BMW is instantly identifiable as a BMW. The heavy cloaking of the tail lamp isn't noteworthy except that it probably is concealing some sort of advanced LED setup. We'll keep our eyes on this as the summer progresses and more of the camouflage is removed as the weather gets hotter. (It's 117 degrees today.)
Here's a close-up view of the C-Pillar, and here BMW is going to greater lengths in an attempt to conceal something interesting. What it might be is hard to guess at this point, a testimony to the team that devised the stealth setup on this car. If we had to venture a guess, we suspect that under the strakes of the thermoplastic panel is some sort of distinctive trim element at the base of the C-pillar.
There was a very similar car in the neighborhood where I grew up in Union, New Jersey, and as a young car enthusiast I always thought of these coupes, unfairly it now seems, as a German interpretation of Ford's Thunderbird, since both are four seat, 2-door coupes. While I think that there's a certain timelessness to the 1961 to 1963 T-Birds, I don't think that it compares with the design of this Paul Barcq-designed coupe. Over the last 48 years, the design has stood the test of time, and is a modern-day classic.
Under the hood the care that has been lavished on this car is immediately apparent. While the car does have 122,500 miles on the clock, the 2.8-liter SOHC straight six featuring mechanical fuel injection and the automatic transmission were overhauled 45,000 miles ago. Other recent maintenance includes an overhauled front suspension and new shocks front and rear.
The interior has only one flaw that John says he's addressing. Deterioration and delamination of the wood trim is an issue with Mercedes-Benzes of this era, and John has already replaced the trim on the A-pillars and around the air conditioning unit. Before the car is sold the rest of the dash trim will be replaced, which is an all-day job. Note the correct Becker radio; the dash hasn't been modified to accept a contemporary audio receiver.