What's New for 2010
The 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is an all-new model.
We're not quite sure what to make of the 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo. Now, that's not to say it's a bad car — far from it. No, our conundrum lies in two basic questions: "What is it?" and "Who is it for?" One might call this new 5 Series Gran Turismo a wagon, but you could call it a luxury hatchback, too. And as for the intended audience, is the 5 GT intended for sedan shoppers looking for added cargo space, or is it meant for crossover SUV drivers desiring something smaller? These are questions not easily answered.
One doesn't learn much just by looking at the car's specs. The Gran Turismo rides about 2 inches taller than a 5 Series sedan but almost 4 inches lower than an X5 crossover SUV. Even the car's name is misleading; the 5 Series GT actually uses many of the same underpinnings as the 7 Series and has just as roomy of a cabin. Yet the GT's ride quality isn't as luxurious as that of the 7 Series, and what initially feels like sporting intentions when driving quickly fades due to the car's large size and added heft.
The main draw for the GT is undoubtedly its fastback-like rear hatch. The two-section rear hatchback gives owners the choice of opening the back like a conventional sedan trunk or like a larger, wagonlike liftgate. This sort of trunk-or-hatchback utility is unique in the American automotive marketplace. Split-folding rear seats allow for a crossover-like 60 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, and you even get a few extra cubic feet of trunk space out of the deal (as compared to the 5 Series). However, the raked rear hatch limits utility when compared to true wagons or crossovers that can haul bulkier items.
The 5 Series Gran Turismo is offered in a 550i GT guise that's powered by a twin-turbo V8 (the same one found in the 7 Series) paired to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. A 535i GT is also available, and features an inline six-cylinder engine with a single twin-scroll turbo. Both models can be had in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, the latter designated by the xDrive moniker.
With all of the design variations inherent in the 5 Series Gran Turismo, it's pretty obvious that this car exists in a specialized automotive niche without any direct competitors. In the end, you'll have to ask yourself one simple question: "Do I have a need for a luxury hatch/wagon like the 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo?" If the answer is "Yes!" BMW has the car for you. If your reply is "No," conventional wagons with better handling (Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series wagon, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon) or crossover SUVs with more utility (Acura MDX, BMW X5) will likely be better choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is a luxury sedan with a large, fastback-style rear hatch that can be opened like a traditional trunk or as a large tailgate. It can seat up to five passengers and is offered 535i and 550i trim levels that correspond to the two engine choices.
Standard features for the 535i include 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, heated exterior mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, wood interior trim, leather upholstery, full power accessories, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats and sliding and reclining rear seats. Also standard are Bluetooth and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD/MP3 player. Besides the upgrade to the V8 engine, the 550i adds Navigation with voice recognition and real-time traffic, BMW's iDrive system, auto-dimming mirrors and a universal garage door opener.
Most Gran Turismo options are grouped into packages. The Sport package adds 19-inch wheels or 20-inch alloy wheels with performance tires (for the 550i only), an adaptive suspension, multicontour seats and a sport steering wheel. The Driver Assistance package adds a blind-spot monitoring system, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. The Premium Sound package upgrades the stereo and adds a USB port and iPod integration, and the Convenience package adds a power tailgate, soft-close doors and keyless ignition/entry. Auto-dimming mirrors and the universal garage door opener are also included in this package for the 535i (standard on the 550i).
There also plenty of options related to seating upgrades. The Cold Weather package keeps passengers cozy with heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Active Ventilation Seat package adds heated and ventilated multicontour seats, while the Luxury Rear Seating package includes heated and ventilated rear seats, four-zone climate control and rear and side window sunshades. In addition, this package gives buyers the choice of replacing the rear middle seat with a permanent center console, making the GT a four-seater.
Stand-alone options include many of the above-listed items, plus four-wheel active steering, a head-up display, navigation for the 535i, a rearview camera, side and top view cameras (for the 550i GT only), advanced Bluetooth phone connectivity, a ski bag, satellite radio, rear-seat DVD entertainment and night vision with pedestrian detection.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 BMW 535i Gran Turismo is offered with an inline six-cylinder engine with a single twin-scroll turbo, while the 550i sports a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. The 535i produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and the V8 makes a healthy 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is the only transmission available. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but buyers can also opt for the xDrive models with all-wheel drive.
In testing, a 550i GT accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 5.3 seconds. We expect the 535i to trail by about a second. The EPA estimates 535 fuel economy at 19/28 mpg city/highway and 22 mpg in combined driving. The 550i is rated lower at 15/21/17 mpg. You can also expect to drop 1 or 2 mpg for xDrive models.
In an effort to increase efficiency, both engines incorporate a regenerative braking system that charges the battery when the vehicle is coasting or braking. Unlike a hybrid, though, this system does not provide added power to propel the car. Instead, it augments conventional battery charging for powering the GT's many electronic accessories.
Standard safety equipment for the 2010 BMW 5 Series GT includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The brakes also feature brake fade compensation, hill-hold and brake drying functions. Optional blind-spot detection, head-up display, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, rear- and sideview cameras and night vision with pedestrian detection are also available.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 BMW 5 Series GT's cabin is on par with the brand's luxurious 7 Series flagship. Almost every surface is adorned with supple leather, rich wood trim or well-textured plastics. BMW's latest-generation and greatly improved iDrive interface is standard, simplifying control of the navigation and entertainment functions.
The front seats easily accommodate larger folk and offer seemingly endless seat adjustments. The rear seats are just as comfortable and can be optioned with many of the same amenities as the fronts. As expected, the rear seat middle position is less comfortable than the outboard positions, but it comes in handy when needed.
The GT's distinctive rear hatch is the real star of this show, and its functionality proves it is more than a styling flourish. The dual-access tailgate consists of two sections that allow for a traditional trunklike opening or a full hatch. The smaller trunk section holds up to 15 cubic feet and allows for speedier loading. A removable rear package tray creates a substantial partition between the trunk and cabin and stores neatly under the trunk floor when not in use. With the rear seats folded and package tray stowed, the GT can handle much bulkier loads — up to 60 cubic feet.
On the road, the 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo rides a bit more stiffly than the big 7 Series on which it is based. Ruts and bumps are transmitted more readily into the cabin, but this also translates to a more connected feeling to the road. Power from the turbo V8 is strong and the eight-speed automatic seems well-matched to this engine, providing quick, almost seamless shifts when driven conservatively. The steering is well-weighted and lightens up considerably at lower speeds. When combined with the optional four-wheel active steering, the GT feels much more maneuverable in parking lots, thanks to a smaller turning circle.
Around town, the 5 Series GT remains calm and composed, insulating passengers from the harshness of the world much like any 5 Series would, with wind and road noise going largely unnoticed. When taken on winding mountain passes, the GT initially feels confident and nimble, but if driven closer to the limit, the taller ride height and added weight make themselves known. Body roll is more pronounced compared to that of the 5 or 7 Series, but the advanced suspension components and electronic aides should compensate enough to please all but the most demanding of drivers.