BMW’s pursuit of niches barely visible to the naked eye continues with the 5-series Gran Turismo. Based on 7-series mechanicals and sharing all its gadgets, the 5 GT is a high-roofed hatchback, with lots of space for rear passengers and their luggage. BMW says it mixes the rear legroom of a 7-series with an SUV’s more commanding seating position and additional headroom. Throw in a dash of swooping coupe roofline and the refinement and luxury of a grand tourer and you have the 5-series Gran Turismo. Or a complete dog’s dinner…?
I’m confused. This BMW 5-series GT sounds like a fancy MPV to me…
The 5 GT sales pitch is certainly complicated. Think of it as an MPV the size of Belgium, a rival to Mercedes R-class, an MPV that’s the size of Holland. The BMW is infinitely better looking though. It only has two rows of seats compared with the R-class’s three. This configuration allows for a more swooping roofline, which, coupled with shallower side glass, makes the 5 GT look a lot sexier than the van-like R-class.
The bluff front-end is very imposing. BMW suits deny it’s identical to the new 5-series’s face, ‘though there will be a family resemblance’.
Nominally the Gran Turismo is part of the 5-series family, which means a price around £5000 more than an equivalent saloon’s. The base 530d SE GT costs £40,810, some £13k cheaper than a 7-series.
Under the skin, the GT shares much with that big limousine, including a massive 3.07m-long wheelbase. The suspension design – double wishbone front end, multilink rear with self-levelling air suspension – is shared with the 7 and the next 5. As are the gadgets: adaptive damping (Dynamic Drive Control), faster Integral Active Steering with rear-wheel steering, Head Up Display, Night Vision and a myriad of safety systems.
And the engines?
The 5 GT goes on sale in the UK this October, with a choice of three engines. The 535i runs the blown 3.0-litre petrol six, but BMW has pared the previously twin-turbo unit back to a single twin-scroll turbo, while maintaining peak outputs of 306bhp and 295lb ft. The 535i GT is claimed to manage 31.7mpg and 209g/km of CO2, with a 6.3secs 0-62mph time. The other petrol engine is a 407bhp twin-turbo V8, delivering 25.2mpg, 263g/km and 0-62mph in 5.5sec. Both cars are limited to 155mph.
We drove the 530d GT, running BMW’s highly evolved 3.0-litre diesel six now producing 245bhp. Press the start button and the diesel’s thrum and subtle pulse can barely be noticed above the air-con’s roar. The engine purrs around town, then roars into life when you press the throttle, with nearly 400lb ft kicking in from just 1750rpm. It feels every bit as powerful and punchy as 0-62mph in 6.9secs suggests, although it manages 43.5mpg. That equates to 173g/km of CO2, right in the middle of the company car tax bands, despite the 530d’s top end performance.
Linking the engine to the rear wheels is a new eight-speed automatic transmission, recently introduced on the V12 7-series. It’s a fantastically smooth unit, perceptively selecting the correct next gear, responding quickly when you mash the throttle, and delivering a 6% economy improvement over the outgoing six-speed ‘box.
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What’s it like dynamically?
The 530d GT drives just like a taller, heavier 7-series. Of course it feels like a big car, with squealing front tyres, a blinking stability warning light and a tendancy to understeer if you ask too much of it in corners. Blame the mass, higher centre of gravity, diesel engine in the nose and a suspension – correctly – set up to deliver impeccable ride comfort. This is the GT’s trump card, with a composed, fluid, cushy ride at all speeds. Any fear that the Germans’ inexorable pursuit of ‘driving pleasure’ would lead to a stiff crashy ride is instantly dismissed. Tyre roar and wind noise are pretty well suppressed too, and the steering is trad BMW: quick and meaty.
Does the cabin put the grand into grand tourer?
In a word, yes. The controls, swooping dashboard and handsome wood inserts are all familiar from the 7-series. Owners will appreciate the seating position, some 5cm higher than in the 7. It feels as if you’re perched omnipotently above other saloons, although those seeking a sports car position can drop down sufficiently. Just don’t expect to see the GT’s distant extremities.
The rear end delivers exactly on BMW’s promise, with as much legroom as a standard wheelbase 7-series, and sufficient headroom for stetson addicts. The split rear seat backs recline, and the perches fold flat or move forward to maximise boot space. With the seats furthest back, the boot can accommodate 440 litres of luggage, rising to 1700 litres if both are folded.
Access to the boot is via a hatch, or if you’re stowing smaller items, you can nudge a different boot release to open a traditional saloon boot aperture. It’s very similar to the Skoda Superb’s twin boot, though less fiddly to operate.
This 5-series spin off is practical, quick, relatively agile and economical. With its luxury interior and superb comfort, the Gran Turismo is a suitable name too. And with the oily bits shared with the 5- and 7-series, BMW’s new niche model will no doubt wash its face. So long as customers understand it’s a sexier take on the MPV, rather than getting scared off by the saloon/coupé/SUV sales pitch. If you fear an SUV will make you a pariah and find a saloon too traditional, the 5 GT could be the car for you.
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