The braintrust at BMW believes they have the answer for customers who want the everyday versatility of an SUV combined with the luxury of an executive sedan – and that answer is the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.
By Mark Hacking, Spartanburg, South Carolina
In a sneak peak held at the BMW plant in Spartanburg, in the US of A, journalists had the chance to see the new five-door in person and go for a ride around a test track – albeit not at the controls.
This is an interesting approach to introducing a new car and the same tack that Porsche took in giving writers a first taste of the Panamera earlier this year. Travel thousands of kilometres to be chauffeured around in the back of a new German luxury car? Why not?
There’s method to this apparent madness, though; with both the Panamera and the 5 Series GT, the respective manufacturers are keen to position their cars as viable luxury “four-door coupes” for the whole family with plenty of head- and legroom in all seating positions.
Here, then, are the first impressions from this back-seat driver.
In speaking about this new shape of car, BMW referred to research that indicated a wagon could never be considered a true luxury ride because the back seat passengers are, in effect, always sitting right in front of the cargo area.
Being a big fan of wagons, particularly those of the Germanic variety, I’d never considered this point at all.
When you stop to think about it, this makes some sense; in a sedan, all the passengers can be separated from their gear in a quiet and comfortable cabin, not so in a wagon or hatchback.
Based on the platform of the new 7 Series, the 5 Series GT offers more room than a standard 5 Series, a higher seat height (close to two inches higher than the 7), greater interior volume overall (including headroom comparable to an X5), adjustable rear seats and the added functionality of a dual-mode rear tailgate that operates as a boot or a hatch.
If the pre-production models we saw are any measuring stick, BMW also plans to load up the GT with some serious luxury amenities.
There will be two different interior configurations distinguished by the backseat layout. The base GT will come with a 40-20-40-split rear bench that can hold three passengers and fold flat to accommodate more gear.
There will also be an optional “luxury seating package” with power-operated flat-folding 2+2 seats. In both configurations, the rear seats can be moved forward and aft, while the angle of the seatbacks can also be adjusted.
Other interesting aspects of the interior include the tremendous glass area. The 5 Series GT features very large and frameless door windows that give the cabin a light and airy feel.
This characteristic is promoted even further with the optional panoramic moonroof that consumes a massive 55 per cent of the roof surface area.
Of course, being a BMW, this new model will definitely not be all show and no go. In most markets, the first model released will be the 550i GT, which will be powered by the twin-turbo, 4.4-litre V8. This engine produces 300kW of power, 609Nm of torque and promises to propel the 550i GT from a standing start to 100km/h in 5.4 seconds.
This engine will be paired with a brand new eight-speed automatic transmission, cop that Lexus, for improved efficiency during those blasts along the autobahn.
The driver will have the choice of three dynamic settings, normal, sport and sport plus, that control the car’s shift characteristics, throttle response, level of steering assist and traction control.
Another unique development for the 5 Series GT is the inclusion of a brake energy regeneration system.
Similar in approach to technology used with hybrid cars, this system uses an electronic clutch to engage or disengage the alternator as needed.
Under deceleration or braking, the alternator gets charged; when freewheeling, the alternator is disengaged, so it draws less power from the engine, thereby improving engine efficiency. The 5 Series GT is also equipped with a more powerful battery that needs charging less frequently.
While I’m not 100 per cent convinced that I want a four-door coupe over a sedan or a wagon, the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo does represent an interesting third choice.
In person, the car is far less awkward looking than pictures would indicate and the passenger cabin is certainly a step up from the regular 5 Series.
While pricing has not been released, the 5 Series GT will be more expensive than a comparably equipped 5 Series sedan, so only time will tell if this new shape resonates enough to demand such a premium.