BMW will try to persuade more drivers of mainstream cars to take a turn upmarket when it launches a new jumbo multi-purpose model this summer.
Volkswagen's Touran and the Ford C-Max are being targeted as conquest models for the 2 Series Gran Tourer, a bigger version of the Active Tourer, the brand's first MPV, launched last year. Capable of carrying seven occupants and with versatile packaging, it represents a radical departure for the German firm and a significant fresh business opportunity in the corporate sector.
"Of the 4,500 units we expect to register in the next 12 months, 40% are likely to go to corporate customers and while the numbers may not be big, we think they will come from mainly conquest customers, so we're opening the door on a fresh sales area," said BMW UK corporate sales manager Matt Bristow.
"This is a good opportunity for us. The company car driver is a retail customer but for the fact that he doesn't pay cash for his car. He has all the same reasons to desire a product and our view is that this is an ideal family vehicle, rather than jobs need transport.
"This is a very attractive proposition for premium buyers who have always wanted seven-seat practicality and who simply haven't had the choice in the past. But we'll also be trying to tease people to upgrade from the mainstream brands in the segment."
Despite being only slightly longer and marginally taller than the five-seat Active Tourer it is based on, the Gran Tourer looks and feels much bigger – particularly so on the inside. Second row seats slide a full 13cm to provide limousine-standard legroom or extend luggage space from 645 to 805 litres, depending on need. Folding all the rear seats opens up a huge, van-like 1,905 litres of cargo space in the most capacious BMW yet.
While smooth styling produces segment-best aerodynamics for optimum operating economy and quieter running, the bulk of the Gran Tourer impacts on the traditional handling prowess of the brand, although it copes well enough with twisty roads and has impressive ride quality.
But, for all its practicality, the car retains the BMW premium aura with an interior that is as luxurious and as neatly detailed as a 7 Series and that has an impressive list of standard equipment that includes an automatic tailgate, sat-nav, twin-zone automatic climate control and a novel three-way split fold backrest arrangement that allows easy access to the rearmost seat row.
"Overall interior space is the most likely reason this car will be chosen by users. It's tailor made for family drivers who need to make use of additional seats on a regular basis," said Bristow.