Ten years ago BMW created a new class of vehicle they chose to call the ‘Sport Activity Vehicle’. The BMW X5 was an attempt, and a very successful one at that, to create a road-biased SUV, with the luxury and handling capabilities of a sedan. Then, two years ago, the X6 was introduced. Heralded by BMW as a combination of SUV (high ground clearance, all wheel drive and all-weather ability, large wheels and tyres) with the stance of a coupé (bold styling, dramatic sloping roof), the company created another new niche for themselves and called it a Sports Activity Coupé (SAC). It seems the alchemy at Munich has continued and the latest result is the new 5 Series Gran Turismo, or 5 Series GT, which BMW have christened a Progressive Activity Sedan (PAS).
If you’re confused about who this high-riding 5 Series with an X6 roofline is aimed at, you’re not alone, because it hasn’t been clearly defined. What BMW have said though, is that the new 5 Series GT is an exercise in innovation and breaking the mold, thus it will appeal to those wishing to do the same. But regardless of where the new car fits into the BMW model line-up, or the passenger vehicle market for that matter, what is crystal clear is that BMW have created another great motorcar.
Although falling under the 5 Series banner, the new GT is built on the 7 Series platform and in fact shares many of the 7′s technology too. Perhaps it’s this 7 Series pedigree coupled with the higher ride that gives the new 5 GT an air of aristocracy over that of the new 5 Series. The BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo’s sleek exterior profile is a product of the 3 070 mm wheelbase, coupé-like roofline, as well as four doors with frameless windows. The front of the car is characterised by BMW’s new face, first seen on the new 7 Series, that being a short overhang, upright kidney grille and large air intakes. For the first time the daytime driving light function is provided by LED illuminated corona rings within the headlights. LED technology features prominently in the rear tail lights too, which wrap around the tailgate and add proportion to a tall rear end.
It is the tailgate and adjustable rear seats, that to large extent, make the new 5 Series Gran Turismo what it is. Capable of opening in two stages for either quick access, or for maximum convenience when transporting larger items, it is electronically operated and is the gateway to a well thought out cargo area. With the rear seats in their standard postion luggage capacity is a useful 440 litres. When required, the rear seats may be moved individually to the front by up to 100 mm, with legroom still remaining equivalent to the BMW 5 Series Saloon, which increases luggage capacity to 590 litres. Once the rear seats are folded down, together with the partition behind them that offers an acoustic barrier, luggage space increases to its maximum capacity of 1 700 litres.
The 5 Series GT is available with two rear seat configurations. Standard on all new GT models is a 60/40 split configuration, which allows the rear seats to be adjusted individually, fore-and-aft, as well as the backrest angle. As an option, two individual comfort seats may also be specified for the rear, these boast multi-way electronic adjustment for superior comfort. Rear legroom is generous and on par with that of the 7 Series, but as comfortable as the rear seats are, we would have liked more lateral support. Up front, the seats are supremely comfortable, as is the driving position which, being slightly raised, offers a good view of the road. Only the rearview is limited by the tapered rear window, but the 5 Series GT is fitted with front and rear park distance control, including a camera, so parking is made easy. Also standard across the model range is a panoramic sunroof that extends from above the front passengers to those in the rear.
Of course, the quality of interior craftsmanship is of a very high standard, with many design elements and functions being carried over from the 7 Series. Standard equipment includes the latest version of BMW’s iDrive paired with a 10.2-inch LCD display; satellite navigation; bluetooth connectivity; Aux-In and USB ports for portable media players; an 80 GB hard disc for navigation data and the user’s private music collection; climate control; and Integrated Owner’s Manual for quick reference. Some of the optional features include four-zone automatic air conditioning (standard in the BMW 550i Gran Turismo), a DVD entertainment system at the rear, a Head-Up Display, front mounted side cameras, as well as an electrically swiveling towbar.
Three models of the new 5 Series GT are available in South Africa, namely the 530d GT, 535i GT and 550i GT. We drove the 530d and 550i models on the launch and were impressed by the performance of both engines. The diesel produces 180 kW and 540 N.m of torque from 1 750 rpm, enough to launch the near 2 tonne car to 100 km/h from rest in 6.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 240 km/h. Driven carefully, BMW claim a fuel consumption figure of just 6.5 l/100km and a CO2 rating of 173 g/km.
The similarly capable, petrol powered, 535i, uses BMW’s 225 kW, 400 N.m twinturbo 3,0-litre straight six to achieve an identical sprint time from 0 to 100 km/h of 6.3 seconds. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h, while consumption is said to be 8.9 l/100km with CO2 emissions of 209g/km.
The powerhouse in the range is the 550i GT, which has a 300 kW, 4,4-litre, TwinPower Turbo V8, producing 600 N.m of torque from 1 750 rpm. Burying the accelerator pedal will see the 550i GT rocket from standstill to 100 km/h in just 5.5 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 250 km/h. BMW claim the V8 requires just 11.2 l/100km of premium octane and emits 263g/km of CO2. All GT models are fitted with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission as standard and in case you were wondering, BMW say there are no plans for an M GT model.
With plenty of torque both the 530d and 550i GT’s we drove, hauled the 2 tonne car along with alacrity. Excellent sound insulation adds to the 5 Series GT’s luxurious nature and, using BMW’s Dynamic Drive Control, the suspension settings and ride quality can be adjusted between Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes, depending on the road conditions or your cruising pace. We found the Normal and Sport modes to be all that was required, as the Comfort setting was too ‘wallowy’ and the Sport+ setting seemed a bit too firm over the bumps.
The new 5 Series Gran Turismo is certainly worthy of the GT badge and its implied abilities. It has a well balanced chassis that rides and handles beautifully, especially considering the overall dimensions (4 998 mm long, 2 132mm wide) and weight of the car, plus it has all the luggage capacity and comfort one would expect. But it is lacking something and to help explain we need to call upon one of BMW’s previous catch phrases “Sheer Driving Pleasure”. Yes, the 5 Series GT is undoubtedly a pleasure to drive, BMW now call this ‘Joy’, but it seems there is less of the ‘Driving’ element present in the new car. While the 5 GT handles and drives competently, there is not much BMW character imbued through the steering wheel. Somehow it’s been lost in translation between the 7 Series platform and front suspension, the X3 like ride height and the rear air suspension from the next generation of 5-series Touring. It’s an aspect of the driving experience that may concern BMW diehards, but won’t affect the majority of first time buyers that BMW are hoping to attract with the 5 Series GT.
So, whether dreaming up new classes of vehicles will prove successful remains to be seen. BMW South Africa say they expect to sell around 50 GT’s this year and have already received orders prior to this week’s local launch. One thing’s for sure though, the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is an accomplished car.
|BMW 530d GT||R733 000|
|BMW 535i GT||R737 000|
|BMW 550i GT||R959 900|
Price includes a 5 Year/100 000 km Motorplan, non-contributing service and maintenance contract.