First Drive Review: 2010 BMW 5-series Gran Turismo
This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2012.
By Jens Meiners of Car and Driver
Among the flurry of fast-roofed, four-door hatchbacks coming to market over the next couple of years, one interpretation clearly stands out: the 2010 BMW 5-series Gran Turismo. Indeed, the unusual, tall proportions of the Bimmer set it far apart from Audi's more conventionally shaped A5 Sportback and A7, as well as the more low-slung Porsche Panamera and rakish Aston Martin Rapide.
But it doesn't look that way simply to stand out. When the idea for the car first began to take shape, BMW executives decreed it should offer the legroom of a 7-series and the rear headroom of an X5. Given those two goals, it's no wonder this new model is no classic beauty.
Better-Looking in Person (We Seem to Be Saying That a Lot Lately)
The 5-series GT is one of the few four-door cars with frameless windows, and the effect is nice on the front doors but wasted on the rears, as small quarter-windows remain upright. The view through the steeply raked rear glass is similar to the one you get from inside an X6 — in other words, nonexistent. Make sure to check the rearview-camera option box. Out front, it's hard to tell where the sloping nose ends.
With some station wagons and SUVs, you can open the rear glass independently of the liftgate, but both are hinged in roughly the same spot. In the 5-series GT, however, you can open the lower portion of the liftgate or the entire liftgate itself. Lowering the bottom part creates a vertical aperture at the rear; lifting the entire thing creates a more conventional hatchback opening. The idea behind the trick liftgate is to enhance the sedanlike characteristics of the vehicle and to protect the passengers from a draft of cold or foul outside air. Whatever; in the end, it really just adds weight to this already heavy machine.
BMW further attempts to keep this hatchback's hatchbackness a secret by cordoning off the passenger compartment from the cargo area with a massive divider. It works; the interior is so quiet you'd never guess you were sitting in something with a huge hatch out back. Honestly, we never were particularly upset with the noise levels found in a 5-series station wagon or an X5, but BMW is eager to point out the improvement. Rear legroom is ample and indeed is similar to that of the 7-series, but you can't control the front passenger seat or huge panoramic sunroof from the rear, as you typically can in a full-on luxury car. The GT is sold as a five-place vehicle, but the designers aimed at creating the impression of four lounge chairs. So the outer positions are exceedingly comfortable, but the fifth person might as well take a seat on a wooden plank. The middle seat can be substituted for a fixed center console, which makes the GT a four-seater.
Two Engines for the U.S.
BMW did not have an example on hand with the 400-hp, 4.4-liter V-8, but we suspect it will be capable of moving the mail; the company claims that engine will achieve 62 mph in 5.5 seconds. Engineers tell us that the 5-series GT V-8 is tuned to sound more quiet and well mannered, as in the 7-series, as opposed to sporty and raucous, as in the X6. Bummer. There are no M versions in the pipeline, although an M styling package will come. No manual gearbox is offered, as all 5-series GT models come with the new eight-speed ZF automatic launched with the 760Li and shared with the next-generation Audi A8.
The 5-series GT doesn't use the current 5- and 6-series' front-end architecture, which used aluminum castings and extrusions in the structural components, as well as an aluminum firewall. Instead, the new model features a far more conventional construction, with aluminum substituting for steel on select components such as the doors and hood. The next regular 5-series sedan will be similarly conventional. The rear axle and air suspension of the GT are almost identical to those of the 7-series.
Drives Well, but It Isn't Particularly Fun
The GT boasts an adjustable suspension with multiple settings, and it does its best to mask the car's two-plus tons. The comfort setting tends to foster bobbing and swinging motions; normal — a good compromise between sporty and soft — makes the driver feel more secure. As soon as the road turns extra-twisty, we advise activating the sport setting, which further firms up the suspension and heightens powertrain responses. The difference between sport and sport plus is nearly indiscernible beyond the latter's relaxing the stability control enough to allow drifting, something we would encourage you to think twice about, considering the GT's mass. Overall, despite BMW's efforts to make the GT as sedanlike as possible — witness all the stuff with the multifunction hatch and cargo-area divider — it's not a vehicle that tempts you to get up at six a.m. on Sunday for a day of spirited driving.
When the car arrives in the U.S. later this year, it will be available only in 550i guise at first; expect to pay about $65,000 for the privilege of owning one. The 535i will arrive later, likely at a $60,000 price point. BMW plans on bringing a quarter — 5000 to 7500 cars — of annual GT production to the States. Why would you drop the coin on one? Well, let's say you desire a higher seating position and the practicality of a liftgate but wouldn't be caught dead in an SUV or wagon and have to have a BMW that still sort of a little bit looks like a regular car. If you fit into that mighty thin niche, the 5-series GT is your car.
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