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Driven: BMW 5 Series GT

2010-02-26 13:46
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Engine straight-six petrol engine with TwinPower Turbo; V8 petrol engine with TwinPower Turbo; straight-six diesel engine with aluminium crankcase and third-
Power 225 kW @ 5 800 r/min; 300 kW from 5 500– 6 400 r/min; 180 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque 400 Nm from 1 200 – 5 000 /min; 600 Nm from 1 750 – 4 500 r/min; 540 Nm from 1 750 – 3 000 r/min
Transmission Eight-speed Steptronic
Zero To Hundred 6.3 s; 5.5 s; 6.9 s
Top Speed 250 km/h; 250 km/h; 240 km/h
Fuel Consumption 8.9 (209 g/km); 11.2 (263 g/km); 6.5 (173 g/km)
Steering hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering with Servotronic
ABS with DSC, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), Automatic Stability Control (ASC), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Tr
Front Suspension Double-wishbone front axle,
Rear Suspension Integral V multilink with air suspension

Hailey Philander

BMW calls this the 5 Series Gran Turismo. We think it’s a high-riding hatchback suffering a serious identity crisis, but we drive it anyway.

During the media conference of the car’s local launch, attempts were made to explain how, in a need to push the envelope of car design – rather than amble along “like another of our (BMW’s) competitors” – a new niche was summarily created. Hence the 5 Series GT the assembled media had the privilege of driving.  

And since it looks like a 5 Series hatchback with designs on being an SUV and perhaps an MPV over weekends, we can’t help thinking that this 5 Series derivative is perhaps one niche too far, even if BMW reckons it strikes a perfect harmony between the SAV and a classic GT.

BMW’s also used the opportunity to come up with a flexible new definition for a grand tourer. Rather than a traditional four-seater high speed cruiser, it is now (depending on whether you opt for the individual rear seats) a four- or five-seater designed to carry occupants in comfort over great distances. Hmm… At least it is comfortable. 

Tough act

The 5 Series GT is not that great on the eye, though. Sporting the nose seen on the new 5 Series, the front end is a rather brash expression of an already aggressive look. Big and bulbous with double kidneys that are more upright, it is perhaps a little over the top.

When viewed in profile, however, the steep rake of the coupe-like roofline does soften the look quite dramatically. It also makes the car appear a lot smaller than it actually is. Nose to tail, 5 Series GT is just under 5 m, while being about 2.1 m wide.

Despite its “ample” rear end, the 7 Series-inspired rear clusters do look quite appealing, though.

So the styling may be a little off, but at least it is comfortable and has a range of very decent engines. Not too bad, then.

The local engine range comprises 535i and 550i models providing the petrol thrust, while a 530d is the sole turbodiesel campaigner. All models come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

We were given a chance to sample the turbodiesel and the range-topping petrol unit.

Cossetted passengers

Attesting to the car’s high comfort levels, the interior of the 5 Series GT is incredibly quiet, with road and engine noise from the usually rumbling diesel or the emphatic twin-turboed petrol powerplants, not penetrating the cabin at all.

But performance all round is potent. The 530d uses the proven 3.0-litre straight six diesel engine with third generation common rail direct injection and this torquey 540-Nm diesel is ready to fling you out of swooping bends with the flick of a wrist.

Similarly, the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with 300 kW and 600 Nm on tap requires a simple mash of the accelerator to reveal its many facets.

The 535i (with the 35i suffix usually associated with BMW’s twin turbo technology) for the first time in South Africa uses a 3.0-litre straight six while revisions to the twin-scroll turbocharger meaning only a single turbo is required. But the output remains on the money, with the torque peak kicking in from as low as 1 200 r/min. This unit should be very entertaining.

However, despite an impressive engine line-up, the 5 Series GT is not an overtly sporty car with out-and-out dynamism at its core. Sure, it may be dynamic and have all the trimmings of the athletic BMW crowd, but the driving experience, slightly elevated driving position and cabin environment do lend themselves more to cruising than bruising.

Legroom at the rear is amazing. BMW claims it is on par with that found in the 7 Series and the reclining seats do help matters quite significantly. However, when seated on the rear bench, we found the ride with the Comfort setting engaged to be a little too soft. Those with sensitive constitutions would be wise to angle towards the firmer Normal or even Sport modes, perhaps.

The new model also subscribes to BMW’s EfficientDynamics energy saving campaign, so brake energy regeneration is standard along with the introduction of more efficient powerplants and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Clever boot

A big drawcard on this model (at least as far as the carmaker is concerned) is its clever – and generous – load space. The two piece tailgate is a neat little party trick. One option allows opening of the smaller lid beneath the rear screen and another raises the entire tailgate for the loading of larger or bulkier objects.

An added bonus of the smaller lid is that it prevents unnecessary draughts and air temperature changes upsetting those seated in the car.

As for the level of specification, the 5 Series GT is essentially one rung down from the 7 Series in the BMW line-up, which means the standard of equipment on board is extensive.

Options include active steering, night vision with person recognition, Land Rover-like surround view with cameras to provide all round views, rear seat entertainment and two independent rear seats with electric adjustment.  

There's no denying this car is luxurious, but to my mind no less so than a 7 Series (or I'd imagine, even a new Five). If you really want an SUV, BMW has the X3, X5 and even upcoming X1 SAVs worth considering. And let's not forget that other niche, the X6 SAV Coupe...

This 5 Series GT, however, is unlike any BMW I've ever driven. Where cars bearing the blue-and-white propeller usually engage me, this one just couldn't hit the spot. 

530d – R733 000
535i – R737 000
550i – R959 500
Innovations Package (adds adaptive headlights, high beam assist, lane departure and lane change warnings, and active cruise control with stop and go function) – R33 800

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