The revised BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo aims to convince buyers that a bigger and bulkier 5 Series is a viable proposition. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is a uniquely styled five-door executive car that certainly won't be for everybody but it is unique. And more appealing in the revised form we're looking at here with improved efficiency, smartened styling, an updated cabin and extra boot space. Choose it over a Touring estate if you want more generous rear legroom and superior ride quality.
You might think that with its 7 Series luxury saloon, its huge 5 Series Touring executive estate and its X5 luxury 4x4, BMW had pretty much covered all the bases for well-heeled business-minded family buyers. Not a bit of it. The Bavarian maker also thinks there's room in the market for a model that combines the best bits of all these cars: long distance comfort, practical carrying space and purposeful elevated SUV style. It's called the 5 Series Gran Turismo. Launched in 2010, it proved BMW's growing mastery of the niche market. We've already seen the dramatic X6 which straddles two executive market sectors in trying to offer the rather unlikely combination of Coupe and SUV. And the 6 Series GranCoupe that combines sports car looks with executive saloon space. With the 5 Series GT though, the Munich brand tried to go even further in extending SUV style into a guise that might also be palatable to buyers of large, expensive saloons and estates. It proved to be the German brand's biggest challenge yet. Not everyone liked the looks and some couldn't see the point. Still, BMW have persevered, even extending the 'Gran Turismo' hatch concept by bringing us a more compact 3 Series version. But it's a much improved, more efficient and slightly better looking version of the original 5 Series model that we're looking at here. How does it stack up?
Virtually all 5 Series Gran Turismo UK sales to date have been of the 3.0-litre diesel variant. Power of this model has now risen from 245 to 285bhp and torque is up to 560Nm. Perhaps more tempting though for executives will be the GT lead-in model, the 520d. Powered by the same 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo diesel engine fitted to the 5 Series Saloon and Touring,it develops 184hp and 380Nm of torque. Top of the diesel line-up is the 313bhp 535d. Petrol people select from either the 535i GT, which employs a 306bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol unit, or the 550i GT with its 407bhp 4.4-litre V8. The 0-60mph sprint is measured at 6.3s in the turbocharged model and just 5.5s in the V8. All models get BMW's Dynamic Drive Control system that allows the selection of four modes that govern the steering assistance, throttle response and the gear shifts made by the eight-speed automatic transmission. There's also the option of xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive to get all that power onto the tarmac more effectively. That the 5 Series Gran Turismo is targeting a more luxurious end of the market than the 5 Series saloon is confirmed by its use of underpinnings from the 7 Series. Double wishbone front suspension is combined with an air-sprung multi-link rear. There's also the option of Integral Active Steering, the rear-wheel steering system found on the 7 Series which improves the handling and low-speed manoeuvrability of these substantial cars. BMW's Adaptive Drive System is also available, allowing owners control over the suspension settings and the roll stabilisation functions.
Design and Build
The front end of the 5 Series GT has been massaged a little, with 'eyebrows' over the front headlights, indicators integrated into the door mirrors and a wider air intake below the redesigned kidney grille. Like we said, subtle stuff. Move round to the rear and the back now looks a bit less droopy, as the bumper looks neater. Despite this, available luggage space goes up to 500-litres, which is a bit of a result. Despite the elevated seating position, headroom is on a par with that of the X5 and rear passenger space compares to that in the 7 Series. There's also the Gran Turismo's clever two-piece tailgate. Since it debuted on the Skoda Superb, the two-piece tailgate concept has provoked chin wagging and head scratching across the industry. The 5 Series Gran Turismo sports BMW's version of this neat innovation, a boot which can open like that of a conventional saloon when you want to load small items and avoid exposing the cabin to the elements, or as a full hatchback when big objects need to be heaved inside. The practicality of this car is further enhanced by rear seats than can slide back and forth by 100mm to increase legroom or boot space as required. A three-berth rear bench is included as standard, but customers can also order a more spacious two-seat rear with a chunky centre armrest. The dash design and controls are lifted from the 5 Series and display the requisite class and quality. After some familiarisation time, the iDrive control interface shouldn't present a major problem and its usability has been further improved with this latest round of improvements.
Market and Model
Pricing starts from a lower point these days, thanks to the introduction of the 520d derivative. Expect to pay somewhere in the £35,000 to £60,000 bracket. Standard specification on the 5 Series Gran Turismo isn't at all bad. Yes, you still get the most annoying indicators known to man, but you also get a full length panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, full leather and heated front seats. Take a trip to the options list and there's loads more for buyers to choose, from reversing cameras and side-view cameras to a night vision system that can recognise pedestrians and a head-up display projected onto the inside of the windscreen. BMW isn't predicting a massive uptake of the 5 Series Gran Turismo by UK buyers. Customers, we're told, will be those who want the practicality of an SUV without the ostentation and those seeking limousine luxury in a sleeker package. BMW is also hoping to make headway with those people who just want something a bit different and the Gran Turismo does appear to offer that.
Cost of Ownership
While we remind ourselves that this is a car aimed squarely at the US and Chinese markets, it's worth remembering that it's also been engineered to pass the stringent Euro VI emissions regulations. The diesel cars have been treated to a whole slew of post-combustion processes, such as the fitment of a clever urea trap in the exhaust system to cut down on NoX emissions. The injection systems of the BMW petrol engines have also been incrementally improved, with even tinier holes that a fine mist of carefully measured petrol can be squeezed through, allowing for the car to be more efficient in its warm up cycle. Even the turbo waste gates are now electronically controlled by tiny motors. How does this affect you? Not hugely, it has to be said. The engines might meet Euro VI, but you're not likely to notice that much of a difference at the pumps. Choose a petrol-engined 535i and you'll get 34.6mpg and 192g/km, which is a fair return for a car with 302bhp that's bigger than some central American republics. It's helped to these numbers by Auto Start-Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration and the ECO PRO function to aid with economical driving. Advanced ancillary units, such as the on-demand coolant pump and the electronically controlled oil pump, further enhance intelligent energy management.
The changes made to this improved 5 Series Gran Turismo aren't very far-reaching - tweaks to the styling, a slightly bigger boot and a wider more efficient engine range. Still, if you liked the idea of one before, this package of updates could be all the incentive you need to go ahead and try one. Overall, on paper at least, it's hard to fault the thinking behind this car. You'd think, after all, that there would be a significant number of luxury saloon buyers wanting SUV-style road presence, plenty of SUV owners needing something a little less in your face and even a fairly large-sized batch of executive estate customers wanting something a little more interesting this time round. Now all of these people had options before this GT came along of course, but these always required compromising on the core values that each group held dear. In contrast, this BMW offers more of what they want with none of the concessions normally needed. Of course, there's always the danger that in trying to be too many things to too many people, you can end up pleasing nobody, but then this German brand has never been a company averse to taking a few risks. In this case, that's brought us a fascinating blend of upmarket class, refinement, and practicality that once more proves the Bavarians' mastery in making large heavy cars handle like much smaller, sportier ones. It's over long distances at high speeds though, that it really comes into its own. A Gran Turismo - just as BMW promised.