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BMW to start building sportvans

Could this portend the impending doom of the SUV as family car? BMW will be adding sportvans to their lineup beginning with the F5 in 2009. The basis for the F5 will be provided by the X5. Following on the heels of the F5 will be a van based on the 3-series called, quite naturally, the F3. Underneath the five-door five-placers will likely be found several power options, as well as available all-wheel drive with rear-wheel drive standard. The rhetoric is that large diameter wheels will be avoided, as they mainly detract from ride quality, add unsprung weight, and don't help handling as much as you'd think. The picture seems to run contrary to that statement, as the wheels fill the openings, but perhaps the graphic artist just got a little crazy.
[Source: Motor Trend via Topspeed]

These vehicles are aligned with the European "people mover" design ethos, as oppposed to the minivan convention here in the US. Both have their place, and we'd love to get some cool, fun-driving people movers over here. There's no need to make the step-in height ridiculous, as it is with some SUVs, in an attempt to lend "off-road" cred to a vehicle that will never see terrain rougher than a Scout camp parking lot. A nice, carlike entry and egress with comfortable, slightly higher seating positions and plenty of passenger space would be a good trend to start. Lower heights would equal a lower center of gravity, always welcome for those of us who like to occasionally overcook exit ramps. With the Roundel on the nose, you can be sure that the suspension engineers are making it behave in a familial manner, and they must be happy about removing any trucky pretenses from the platform, as well. Even if it costs as much as the Mercedes R-Class, it'll likely have far more joie de vivre, and hopefully it pushes other manufacturers to flood to the practicality of this form-factor.

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