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BMW 530d SE Gran Turismo (2010) long-term test review

Published: 13 January 2011

Long-term test - 13 January 2011

Recap: last month a torque convertor bolt came loose in our 5GT’s gearbox, was ejected at high speed and cracked the sump. Result: our BMW leaked oil across the CAR HQ car park, because (credit the 5GT’s refinement) our colleague behind the wheel didn’t notice anything untoward as he parked up. Meaning the first we knew of the fault was when security asked us to come and deal with the slick that was emanating from YH59ECD.

Tim Pollard called our local dealer, BMW Sycamores in Peterborough, and attempted to play out the scenario incognito, but we were foiled (no doubt in part for his name also being on record in relation to a Mini Cooper S gearbox fault a few years earlier) and off our car went to BMW’s headquarters in Bracknell.

And after a couple of weeks it returned, with a new sump, various new bits of gearbox, and a clean bill of health. Turns out our long-term test car was an early launch vehicle, and had suffered a gearbox glitch; they had to remove the torque converter bolts before the car was dispatched our way, the implication being that they weren’t quite screwed back on properly...

What’s the best way to bed everything back in? Take our 5GT on track, of course. I’d been invited along to a YouDrive@Porsche event, at £165 half-day at the company’s Silverstone experience centre. Feeling like I was being funny, I took Tim’s BMW.

In the end it shared track space with the requisite collection of Boxsters, Caymans and 911s, but also a Nissan GT-R and a Passat Estate. The latter should indicate that this isn’t some sort a trackday: you don’t flog your car around until the brakes are alight, but instead put it to work over a kick plate and super-slippery ‘ice hill’, helping you discover what your car’s like when something goes wrong.

The former flicks the back end out at 20-25mph (either left or right, but you don’t know which), so you have to react and catch the slide, or you end up spinning – gracefully, and in great comfort in the 5GT’s case – down the wetted, slippery surface. The latter doesn’t flick you sideways, so instead you have to get the car out of shape. You can drive straight through without any steering input or sideways motion, but that would be missing the point. Instead it’s up to you to build your confidence – the speeds are slower than on the kick plate – and get the car moving around, before (hopefully) correcting it. For your average member of the public it’s a great starting point to discover the abilities, limits and behaviour of a car, and more importantly, your own car.

As for the 5GT, it was faultless: it schlepped me to Silverstone in great comfort, had the rear-drive power to make itself slide, and then whisked me home again with a smile on my face. It just needs a proper, boxy boot rather than the slanted hatchback to make it the perfect family car. I know that would make it much like the R-class, but I’m one of the big Merc’s few fans…

For more information on Porsche’s YouDrive experiences visit http://www.porsche.com/silverstone/

By Ben Pulman


Previous reports

 

 

19 July 2010

Smoking oil leak on the 5GT

17 June 2010

Ben Barry's view

20 May 2010

Refused US visas

29 April 2010

The office divide over our 5GT

22 March 2010

The road testy bit

8 March 2010

Hello

   

 

Logbook

 

Total mileage

12,728

Since last report

257

Overall mpg

34.2

Since last report

33.4

Fuel costs

39.48

Other costs

£21 cab home after breakdown

Highs

The space, the long-distance GT bit, speedy assistance from BMW breakdown assistance

Lows

Doors don't shut easily, tiny rear window, jiggly ride. A new executive car shouldn't break down!

 


Long-term test report BMW 530d SE Gran Turismo - 3 August 2010

After the woes of our breakdown, I'm glad to report that normal service has been resumed in the BMW 5-series GT. Which is to say, it's performing as a £40k executive car should. We haven't got long left with the Gran Turismo before it heads back to BMW, so let's hope the copy book remains unblotted in these last few weeks.

I've now had the chance to drive the 5-series saloon and wrote in CAR Magazine (July 2010) how I found the 535i SE a real sweet-spot in the range. It's funny how we've all turned to default diesels in the exec marketplace, yet this single-turbo 3.0-litre straight six petrol was a marvel: punchy, sweet-sounding and not too profligate at 33.6mpg and 195g/km. It was agile and rode really well – something our GT doesn't sadly manage on its 20in rims.

Returning to the Gran Turismo threw this new bodystyle into stark relief. My money would go into a Touring estate, yet there's no arguing with the GT's roomy cabin. It is exceptionally spacious inside, way more so than the Five saloon. And ours is light and airy with the full-length panoramic sunroof.

A small confession, however: I have hardly ever used the twin-hinged boot in saloon format. You end up having to bend over to slide things through the small opening and there's no vertical drop-through – so you really do end up sliding things in. Which is why I always open the tailgate in hatchback-style. It's seriously heavy and those gas struts pictured could probably replace the MacPherson struts on a Mini.

By Tim Pollard


Smoking oil leak on the 5GT – 19 July 2010

Oh dear, the 5-series Gran Turismo has gone spectacularly wrong. CAR's publishing boss Stephen Worthy was driving back to our Peterborough HQ from London when he noticed bystanders pointing and pulling strange faces at the 5GT.

As he pulled up in a car parking space at CAR HQ, he saw smoke and steam gushing from underneath. Uh-oh. Turns out the 5-series dumped all its oil. You can read the full story in the new August 2010 issue of CAR Magazine out on 21 July, but suffice to say it's been a major new-car drama in an age where we're used to meticulous reliability.

What caused the sump to crack? Turns out that a torque converter bolt within the ZF eight-speed auto had worked loose and shot out of the transmission at high speed. Must have been quite a force - it cracked the sump from within.

BMW sadly cottoned on to the fault once we'd been towed to our nearest dealer and insisted on taking the GT back to investigate. We always like to mystery shop our long-termers, but on this occasion that was not possible. The Bracknell HQ took the car for a good three weeks and reported back that it had never seen this fault before on a 5GT.

Turns out that our particular car had been taken in for some work on its auto 'box before its time on our fleet. It was an early launch vehicle that would've been used on the media first drives before coming to CAR. The implication being that the torque converter bolts had not been correctly reinstalled, leading to this later fault.

Anyhow, after the high drama and pools of oil littering our car park, the 5GT is now back and behaving normally. Which is to say, transporting four or five adults in miraculous comfort and punchily silent performance.

We're still fathoming out the 5GT and even the more sceptical members of the CAR team have become begrudging fans of its roomy chauffeuring skills. But this serious fault has won it few brownie points.

By Tim Pollard


17 June 2010 - Ben Barry's view

Really liked the new 5-series saloon, but I’m not so sure about Tim’s 5GT. The ride isn’t great and it feels like a big bulky thing to drive.

I also wonder just who is going to be pampered in those back seats (they’ll either by empty or have kids in them, I reckon, or perhaps it’s a niche product for the posh airport taxi market), and why they wouldn’t be equally well served by the regular 5-series...

So, not great to drive and perhaps bigger for no real reason. Munich chasing its tail?

By Ben Barry

 


20 May 2010 - BMW 5 GT: refused at US immigration

Just heard that the 5-series Touring won’t be going to the US, because the 5GT and X6 already do its job. Travesty.

By Ben Barry


29 April 2010 - The office divide over our 5GT

The rate at which we’re rapidly accruing miles pays testament to the popularity of the 5GT. It’s strangely dividing in the office: most of us rate it very highly in some departments while hating other characteristics. But when a long motorway slog is on the cards, an unseemly squabble has been known to break out over the big BMW’s keys.

That’s largely due to the space on offer. Ben Pulman and I drove up to Anfield a few weeks ago and didn’t think twice about taking the 5GT. The ride, which we have criticised for rumbling around town on those enormous 20in rims, is most settled at M-way speeds and the 3.0-litre diesel a hushed background babble. The cruise control is pleasingly intuitive, road noise refreshingly low and the seats comfy. It’s a superlative long-distance tourer, just as its name implies.

The passenger space on offer is another boon for longer trips, when the ability to really stretch out in comfort pays dividends. The 5-series Gran Turismo is massive inside and rear-seat passengers have as much room as a LWB 7-series, plus the ability to slide each seat forwards or back and adjust the backrest angle.

Of course, the flipside is that our 530d can be a pig to park. Rear visibility is atrocious (most of the back window is in fact covered up by a black graphic) and you’ll rely heavily on the rear-view camera. And just check out the photos of the GT parked up next to an outgoing E60 5-series. It’s Little and Large all over again.

One other small gripe. Those frameless doors can be really hard to shut properly. You slam them shut and try to lock up, only to notice they’re ajar. The system refuses to lock and unless you notice the lack of central locking thunk-flash, or do a visual check along the flanks of the car, it’s all too easy to walk away leaving the car unlocked. Not good.

By Tim Pollard

 

 

The road testy bit - 22 March 2010

So we've racked up a fair few miles in the 5-series GT already. No sooner had it arrived than it was whisked down to the south of France for February's cover story, acting as a photographic chase car for the rapid Golf R vs Megane 250 vs 911 GT3. That added a couple of thousand to the digital odo in just a few days.

We've already passed 9000 miles and it means we've already sussed the 5's dynamics. The GT is based on bits from the newest 5- and 7-series architectures, so it comes as no surprise that it feels so familiar. On two counts: so many items are shared that physically much of the 5 GT's switchgear is a mirror image of its cousins; and the feel and responses as you drive fizz with the same genes.

This is the second BMW I've owned for an extended period (the first was the current E90 3-series when it first came out) and they really do share plenty of DNA. The door handles open with that same heavily engineered precision. The seats and wheel adjust for a perfect driving position. And all the controls have a well judged weight and response. They might have upset a few purists in recent years, but BMW still does a fine line in driver focus.

So here's a two-minute road test verdict. The 3.0-litre straight six diesel is a gem. It's been around now for a while, upgraded and fettled by Munich's derv boffins, and has been refined to borderline genius level. Compare its 245bhp, 398lb ft, 44mpg and 173g/km CO2 rating to the competition 3.0-litre diesels (and a rogue hybrid):

• Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro 240bhp, 368lb ft, 42mpg, 179g/km
• Jaguar XF 3.0 Diesel S, 275bhp, 442lb ft, 42mpg, 179g/km
• Lexus GS450h, 341bhp, 272lb ft, 36mpg, 179g/km
• Mercedes E350 CDI BlueEfficiency, 231bhp, 398lb ft, 41mpg, 181g/km

BMW does still produce great engines, and the straight six's manners match the promise on the road. It's cultured and refined at all times, devilishly fast for a car so big (0-62mph takes a claimed 6.9sec) and we're averaging 35mpg so far. That's 4mpg ahead of my prior Jag XF 2.7 Diesel steed.

It's not all raving compliments and awards nominations. Our biggest gripe concerns the 20in wheels. They unsettle the ride and the Gran Turismo jiggles and hops where it should float and smother. Thing is, the GT is such an enormous car, it'd look under-rimmed with anything much smaller.

One other road-test observation thus far. I had worried that the eight-speed auto transmission would be ratio overload; it'd surely hunt up and down with so many gears to choose from? Far from it. The ZF box is a marvel of slurred changes, making the 5GT quiet and hushed at a cruise and responsive when you want to press on. Still not sure about the pistol-grip gearlever though.

By Tim Pollard

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Long-term test update: 8 March 2010

And so to our first taste of the new 2010 BMW 5-series. Munich's launched a niche version first in the strange shape of this, the 5-series Gran Turismo. The GT is a new addition to the 5-series range, adding a Skoda Superb-alike twin tailgate that lifts like a saloon boot or a tailgate hatchback depending on which rubber pad you thumb. The thinking goes that this offers the best of both worlds – the convenience of a hatchback, the rear accommodation of a 7-series and the raised ride height of an SUV with less of the societal baggage.

To find out if this complex recipe stacks up, we've just added a 5-series GT to our long-term test fleet and will be trying it out over the next six months. We've plumped for the 3.0-litre turbodiesel, as the vast majority of British buyers will do the same and ours is in 'boggo' SE spec. Not that there's much basic about our new Five.

Truth is, we didn't actually spec this car as it was plucked off the BMW roster. But it's a typically customer specced car, we're told. Our 530d GT SE listed at £40,810 and had the following tally of options added at the factory:

20-inch double-spoke-style alloy wheels, £2430 (!)
Anthracite headlining, £270
Exterior trim with high-gloss Shadowline, £190
Head-up display, £920
BMW Professional media, navigation and Bluetooth package, £2415
Reversing assist camera, £310
Front electric seat adjustment with driver memory, £885
Front side-view cameras, £300
Sport leather steering wheel, £110
Visibility package with adaptive xenon headlamps, auto high beam, auto wipers and headlamp wash, £1200

That's a grand total of £9030 on extras. Phew. Seems quite steep and I'd certainly do without a few of the optional toys. I'll reserve judgment on most, but the 20in alloys are already too keen to rumble and roar where they should purr, while the side-view cameras for nosing out of T-junctions are surely a lens too far. The reversing camera is much better, especially since the 5 GT's rump is very high, although the rear-view camera has been getting filthy in the recent winter weather.

But I love the head-up display, which includes sat-nav instructions as well as speed and basic warning icons. The xenon headlamps are a boon at this dark, dank time of year, too, and I'm enjoying getting to know the automatic high beam assist. I tend to be in the 'what's wrong with DIY' school of technology, but the auto-dippers seem to be a useful aid at night time, allowing you to concentrate on driving instead of stabbing the indicator stalk.

More on the driving manners of our 530d GT SE next time. There's much to report...

By Tim Pollard

 

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