BMW has just taken the wraps off its new 5-series GT, which goes on sale early next year and shares its design with the next-generation 5-series sedan, also due next year. The concept of the vehicle has proven so popular – at least to BMW’s management - that a smaller version based on the next-generation 3-series sedan has been confirmed for production.

Picking up the 3-series GT moniker, the car will feature the same raised seating position and ride height as the bigger 5-series GT and will also likely adopt a two-tier rear hatch design. It will come with both RWD and xDrive AWD configurations, with power coming from a range of four and six cylinder engines. The computer generated rendering gives us a preview of what the new car may look like, revealing that it will share the aggressive new look that’s being implemented across BMW’s lineup.

Speaking with Edmunds, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer stated that his company has not cancelled plans for a 3-series crossover as it’s “considered a volume builder with which we [BMW] can earn good money.”

Designers will be stressing the car’s coupe characteristics just as they did with the X6 and new 5-series GT. Expect to see extremely short overhangs, pumped fenders and sporty alloy wheels. Pricing will also reflect the car’s positioning above the standard 3-series on which it will be based. Along with an upcoming replacement for the X3, it will give BMW a vital rival to Audi’s A4 Avant as well as the upcoming Q3 SUV.

Its release date is scheduled for late 2011, about the same time that the next-generation 3-series sedan is due.