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2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo Review - First Drive - VIDEO ENHANCED

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Haven’t many people wondered if BMW was on the right track? First when they introduced, nearly a decade ago, the X5. But that model set the trend in the premium crossover segment. Then, last year, the Bavarians came up with the X6, that represented an even smaller niche within the segment and now they are about to unveil another exceptional model in the spotlights of the Frankfurt Auto Show, the 5 Series Gran Turismo.

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

LISBON, September 8, 2009; A new BMW is on the horizon. It is the 5 Series GT that was unveiled as the PAS, Activity Sedan last March. This week, we were able to drive the production version, officially baptized as the 2010 5 Series Gran Turismo. The plant in Dingolfingen, that builds the 5 Series sedan and touring, will start production in October and on the 24th of that month, the new Bimmer will arrive at dealerships in Europe.

In North America, we may expect the Gran Turismo in December as the 550i with the V-8 engine, while the 535i, the other engine variant that will be available here, is due to arrive in the show rooms in March.

BMW will also offer the 530d, but this diesel model will not be available in America.

Controversial

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When BMW came up with the idea to develop a sporty looking four door limousine, it was soon decided that in the rear the head room of the X5 and the leg room of the 7 Series would be a must. But the team of BMW brand’s design chief Anders Warming had more instructions: the new car had to provide the comfortable feel of a sedan and offer a variable interior. Those four goals resulted in the somewhat controversial tall hatch back that was introduced as the PAS concept in Geneva, while the production version we just drove will debut at the IAA in Frankfurt next week as the 5 Series GT.

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This final version is very, very close to the concept, however the interior had to be adjusted here and there. But the overall result is a truly remarkable model and unlike any other one in the new niche segment of premium hatch backs, that is now a reality with models such as the sleek looking Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera and others that are due to arrive soon.

To prepare the potential customers for the arrival of the 5 GT, BMW started with previews throughout Europe a couple of months ago. The reactions confirmed the ideas of the manufacturer: the high heeled four door hatchback generated a lot of positive reactions.

I asked the BMW distributor in my country, The Netherlands, about their results and the comment was the same: “Most people were positive about the higher entrance and egress and the somewhat higher seating position, but more as important, they also appreciated the leg room and head room in the rear, and the variable interior.”

In Holland, the number of orders already equal the amount of cars the Dutch BMW organisation will get. It concerns several dozens of units, as there will be only over two months left after the market launch.

But with prices of new vehicles being sky high in Holland – an X5 4.8i automatic costs nearly 104,000 euros, or some $147,000 dollar – the premium segment in The Netherlands, that only has 16million inhabitants, is not big. In 2008, half of the segment total of 1,000 cars was for the X5 (300 units) and X6 (200 units). I guess, there the 5 GT will at its best do 200 units in the first full year.

Turning heads

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The slew of GT’s in front of the hotel, that served as a base for the test drives in the area north and south of Lisbon, no doubt looked impressive. Someone at BMW had the bright idea to park a 5 Series Touring, a 7 Series and the X6, so that you could get a good impression of the GT’s serious size. But the GT5 is definitely not out of sink on the road, although it turned heads of practically all BMW-drivers and many others as well.


Click PLAY to watch the 5 Series GT world debut video

Before hitting the road, Anders Warming warmed everybody up with his enthusiastic explanation of the design. Telling us that the GT has been designed from inside out. Pointing at the long bonnet, with the almost invisible v-shape running from the front to the sides, explaining that the for the US obligatory side lights are incorporated in the head light units and showing us how to look at the kidney grille to discover that it is a tiny little bit slanted to the front. The GT’s doors have frameless windows, which go all the way down, also in the rear. However, the little quarter windows cannot be opened at all.

At the rear the L-shaped LED lights simply tell you this is a BMW, both in day time and in the darkness. The lights are ‘connected’ by a chrome strip and the spoiler on the tailgate gives the fastback rear end an extra sporty look.

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BMW used aluminum for the tailgate, but the construction looks sturdy. There is remote opening for the big hatch, while the lower portion of the gate can be opened separately by hand. In that case, there is a vertical opening at the rear for easy storage of smaller goods. In combination with the partition behind the rear seats, that separates the passenger and the luggage compartment, the small opening of the luggage compartment prevents drafts and fumes to get into the cabin. As well as diminishing the noise level in the interior, a goal that BMW was determined to reach in comparison to the X5 or the Touring. This mission succeeded as the 5 GT is amazingly quiet, especially for a hatchback.

Variable
By using the underpinnings of the 7 Series, the Gran Turismo had better be called a 7 GT. Anyway, the space offered for the passengers in the rear is as generous as in the 7. The panoramic sun roof adds to the spacious feel inside.

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The two seats in the rear are connected by an ‘emergency seat’ that is hardly of any use and would justify ordering the optional center console. The seats can be moved forward over 4”and the back rests can be adjusted as well. The latter can also be folded forward, as does the divider to create a huge luggage compartment of nearly 60 cu.ft.. With the seats upright the contents of the boot is 15.4 cu.ft to 20.7 cu.ft.

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The seats up front can be adjusted in height to get a view on the road that makes SUV drivers feel at ease. Fit and finish of parts and materials is what you can expect of the German manufacturer, while the interior design adds to the luxury feel. Look for instance at the door nice lines of the door panels that continue on to the rear.

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There is too much to describe when it comes to the equipment, either standard or optional, for the 5 Series GT, but I’d like to mention the new 10.2 inch display in the dashboard that comes with the optional Professional navigation system. It is ideally positioned for the driver and enables him or her to operate the iDrive with hardly taking the eyes of the road.

Enjoy and relax

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The 550i GT is the first model that will reach American dealers in December, followed in the spring by the 535i version. The 550i uses the well-known V-8 with 407 hp and 600 443 lb.ft. of torque. The 535i has a new 3-liter I-6 with 306 hp and 295 lb.ft of torque. The V-8 was not available in Portugal, where we could drive the 535i and the 245 hp strong 530diesel. As the latter has a maximum torque of 398 lb-ft, I expected this to be the ideal version of the two. But surprise, the new gasoline engine might not be as powerful, it performs smoothly and is very willing, as it maximum torque is reached between 1,200-5,000 rpm and that of the diesel engine is reached at 1,750 running to 3,000 rpm.

The 535i does not feel in any way inferior to the diesel, that also runs a bit less quiet than the new powerplant., that is BMW’s first gasoline engine with direct injection and TwinPower Turbo. All engines are teamed to the new ZF 8-speed transmission, that debuted in the 7 Series and does its job effortless and smooth.


Click PLAY to watch the animated walk-around of the 5 Series Gran Turismo

The company’s EfficientDynamics technology is paying off again with this new motor: fuel consumption in the combined European cycle comes to 26 mph, a number that is not bad for a car that weighs nearly 4,400 lbs.

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In both models the interior noise is of a low level, only a little bit of wind noise comes of the the frameless side windows. Sporty driving is made easy and you feel confident too. The 5 GT does not feel its weight and is agile in handling and obedient in steering. Notwithstanding the possibility to really push the car, it is not pushing you to drive fast.

It is nice to drive at ease and feel comfortable. I also tested the rear seat while being driven and also in the back it is quiet and relaxed. Of course, the standard air suspension adds to the comfortable feeling. The system instantly notices changes of load conditions and reacts accordingly.

Dynamic Drive Control is standard and you notice whether you drive in Comfort or Normal mode the 5 GT offers the luxury of a comfortable but firm feeling. Anyone who is in a hurry or a sporty mood, will enjoy excellent handling in Sport or SportPlus.

All GT’s available for driving in Lisbon were loaded with many options and all had and 19-inch wheels. For the presentation BMW used a white GT with 20-inch wheels, which really look good. The best, I would say. That is why I fear the standard 18-inch for the 535i and the diesel will look a bit minimal for such a big car. All wheels have run flat tyres: the 535i gets 245/50 R18 and the 550i gets 245/45/19 up front and 275/40 R19 in the rear.

After two test drives of some 150 miles each, I can add to the feed back of the previews: the 5 Series GT offers what BMW promises: lots of space, flexibility of the interior and – again – ‘Freude am Fahren’.

Specifications:
Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4- or 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
Engine: aluminium DOHC 24-valve inline-six, 
direct fuel injection, twin-turbo, intercooling
Displacement: 182 cu in/2979cc
Power (kw/hp): 225/306 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 295 lb.ft @ 1,200-5,000 rpm
Transmission: sequential 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 120.7 inches
Dimensions: l/w/h 196.8/74.8/61.4 in.
Curb weigtht: 4,700 lbs.
Max trailer load braked (12%)/unbraked: 4,629/1,635 lbs.
Tyres: 245/50 R18
Performance:
 
0-62 mph: 6.3 sec
Top speed (limited): 155 mph
Fuel economy: 26 mpg (European combined cycle)
Base price TBD