In a signal of how seriously BMW is taking the Chinese car market these days, the German carmaker today revealed a new long-wheelbase version of the 5 Series to be produced and sold exclusively in China.
Distinguished from the standard model by a wheelbase that has been lengthened by 5.5 inches to 119.3 inches, the new China-market 5 Series stretches to 196.1 inches overall - or just 2.4 inches shy of the existing short-wheelbase 7 Series. The added length is concentrated wholly within the rear door, easing entry to the rear and extending rear-seat legroom, according to BMW. Trunk space remains unchanged at 18.4 cubic feet.
The move by BMW to introduce a long-wheelbase version of the 5 Series mirrors that of Volkswagen, which has offered a stretched version of the fifth-generation Passat in China for the past five years with great success. The decision was driven by the typical Chinese car owner's practice of employing a driver. "We wanted to create added space for rear-seat passengers," says BMW.
Three versions of the new long-wheelbase 5 Series will be offered for sale in China, each running its own version of BMW's classic inline six-cylinder engine. They include a base 177-horsepower 2.5-liter 523Li, 218-hp 2.5-liter 525Li, and the top-of-the-line 258-hp 3.0-liter 530Li.
Inside Line sources also say there is a chance selected V8 models could be added to the lineup in the future, as the company first wants to gauge reaction to the new car, then make a decision on how to proceed in the future.
Production of the long-wheelbase 5 Series will take place at BMW partner Brilliance China's plant at Shenyang in the province of Liaoning in Northeast China. That's the same site that currently turns out the BMW 3 Series for the China market. BMW has not announced any volume targets or whether there are plans to export the new car to other Asian countries.
What this means to you: It is a telling sign when one of the world's foremost carmakers begins tailoring its models to suit the Chinese market. Are we witnessing a shift in the priorities of BMW? It would seem so!
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