During our BMW X6M first drive, we were invited to BMW's manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, SC. One reason was to witness the $750 million expansion of the plant. This move will see a 60% growth on its size, increasing production capacity from 160,000 to 240,000 units by 2012, taking BMW Group's investment in the plant to $4.2 billion. You can see part of the expansion, including the new paint shop in the X6M video at eurotuner.com
BMW also invested more than $12 million to expand its landfill methane "Gas-to-Energy" program, which will use two gas turbine generators capable of producing 11,000kW of electricity, or almost 30% of the plant's current electrical demand. To date, the project has saved BMW an average of $5 million a year in energy costs, which will rise to $7 million with the new turbines.
The methane program has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 92000 tons per year, equivalent to planting 23000 acres of trees annually, which is 30 times NYC's Central Park. This has resulted in BMW Manufacturing being ranked seventh in the EPA's top-20 for generating the most green electricity on-site. You can read more about the plant in the News pages at eurotuner.com
The second reason to visit Spartanburg was for a sneak peak at the 2010 5-Series Gran Turismo. Again, it was first announced at eurotuner.com but it's not a video game release! Instead, it's a fascinating derivative of the new 5-Series, developed from a concept unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March.
BMW is describing it as a sports activity vehicle. It looks like a tall 5-Series coupe, has the legroom and comfort of a 7- thanks to a 120.7" wheelbase similar to the 750i, and boasts the practicality of an X5.
In fact, the coupe-style rear accommodates an ingenious tailgate that can be opened like a sedan or a hatchback, depending on the situation. What's more, the rear shelf is extra thick and insulating, making the 5GT feel and sound like a sedan inside. Yet, you can fold-down the rears seats and remove the shelf to gain a huge cargo space, with split-folding seat options as well.
And it doesn't stop there. The rear seats can be moved 4" fore and aft to increase either legroom or trunk space. They can also be reclined for greater comfort, making the 5GT the long distance, grand tourer for four adults its name implies (five adults with a rear bench seat).
Codenamed F07, it's related to the F10 5-Series that will replace the current E60 in 2010 (F11 is the wagon). All will share the F01 7-Series front and rear suspension modules, while the 550i model will also get its 400hp 4.4 liter V8 twin-turbo and eight-speed auto. Yet the F07 floorpan is different to the F10, F01 and X5.
The cars we saw were pre-production models, with some incomplete finishes but were mechanically sound. So we took the opportunity to get some seat time. With reclining rear chairs, we took the prime passenger spots and kicked back to witness the 5.4sec 0-60mph sprint.
To be honest, the 5GT experience seems closer to a 7- than the current 5-Series. It was extreme quiet, luxurious and missile-fast. Its composure in the corners was surprising given its height and inevitable weight, yet the 5GT seemed to shrink around you as the speed increased; a trait typical of all BMWs.
The 550i Gran Turismo is a very European concept brought to you by Europe's leading sports sedan manufacturer. Many car makers have been playing with similar concepts, but none have successfully combined high-speed prowess with luxury and versatility in a package that's bound to find plenty of converts. We hope to look closer at the 5GT when it arrives on these shores in 2010.