Full 2012 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo gains BMW Apps as a stand-alone option, including smartphone integration.
The concept of a vehicle that drives like a sport sedan but also offers the practicality of a sport-utility should make sense to a wide range of people, including those who enjoy driving as well as those who have active lifestyles. With them in mind, BMW believes it has built the last vehicle they will ever need: the 2012 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo (GT). With prices beginning at about $60,000 and the potential to reach $90,000 when fully loaded, the 5 Series GT might also just be the last vehicle you can afford.
The 5 Series Gran Turismo's dual-mode hatchback -- its distinguishing feature -- is pretty clever, though. You can open just the lower part (similar to a sedan's trunk lid) or you can lift the whole hatch upward. Fold down the split rear seats and there's 60 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, less than most compact SUVs but four times the trunk space of a 5 Series sedan. The rest of the GT's interior is pretty much just a more spacious 5 Series, and as such boasts excellent materials quality and plenty of features.
A choice between a turbocharged inline-6 or a turbocharged V8 ensures reasonably frugal fuel economy as well as stout performance, while optional all-wheel drive (xDrive) offers steady footing in inclement weather. And unless you consider the four-seat Porsche Panamera hatchback sedan or the Audi A7 its peers (neither one is really an exact match), the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo truly is in a class of one.
Most families, however, will probably find a conventional wagon like the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon to be more stylish. Meanwhile, crossover SUVs such as the Acura MDX or BMW's own X5 are more practical overall. But if the Gran Turismo's sport sedan/SUV cross-pollination seems like a neat idea, this BMW will no doubt work out well for you.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is a large, luxury sedan that seats five with fastback-style treatment that can be opened like a traditional trunk or as a generously sized hatchback. It's offered in 535i and 550i trim levels that correspond to the two engine choices, each of which can be paired with either rear- or all-wheel drive (xDrive).
Standard features on the 535i include 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights with washers, foglamps, auto-dimming and heated exterior mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats, driver memory settings, and sliding, reclining and split-folding rear seats. Also standard are Bluetooth, BMW's iDrive electronics interface and a 12-speaker sound system with HD radio, a CD player and an iPod/USB interface. Besides the upgrade to the V8 engine, the 550i adds 14-way "multicontour" front seats, a rearview camera and navigation with voice recognition, real-time traffic and online information services.
Most Gran Turismo options are grouped into packages. The Sport package adds 19-inch wheels (or 20-inch wheels for the 550i only) with performance tires, gloss-black exterior trim, multicontour front seats (otherwise lacking in the 535i), a sport steering wheel and increased top speed limiter. To that list the M Sport package adds M-specific wheels and steering wheel, an anthracite headliner and an aerodynamic kit.
The Dynamic Handling package adds an adaptive suspension. The Driver Assistance package gets you a blind-spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and automatic high beams (535i), plus top- and sideview cameras and a head-up display (550i). The Premium Sound package adds a 16-speaker surround-sound audio system and satellite radio. The Convenience package (550i only) adds a power liftgate, soft-close doors and keyless ignition/entry.
There are 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 Luxury Seating package adds heated, ventilated, multicontour front seats with actively adjustable side bolsters, while the Luxury Rear Seating package includes heated and ventilated rear seats and four-zone climate control. In addition, this package replaces the rear middle seat with a permanent center console and makes the GT a four-seater.
Stand-alone options include many of the above-listed items, plus four-wheel active steering, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, navigation for the 535i, a rearview camera, side- and top-view cameras, advanced Bluetooth smartphone connectivity (including Web radio and social networking), a ski bag, satellite radio, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and night vision with pedestrian detection.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 BMW 535i Gran Turismo comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The 550i bumps it up with a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 cranking out 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only transmission available. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but buyers can opt for xDrive models with all-wheel drive.
In Edmunds performance testing, a 550i GT accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 5.4 seconds. We'd expect the 535i to trail by about a second. The EPA estimates 535i fuel economy at an impressive 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 22 mpg in combined driving. The 550i is rated at 15/22/18 mpg. Expect xDrive models to net 1 or 2 mpg less.
Standard safety equipment for the 2012 BMW 5 Series GT includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. 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, rearview and sideview cameras and night vision with pedestrian detection are also available.
In government crash tests, the 5 Series Gran Turismo received an overall five-star rating, with four stars for overall front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Edmunds brake testing, a 550i GT decelerated from 60 mph to zero in 112 feet, an impressive result for a vehicle tipping the scale at more than 4,800 pounds.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 5 Series GT's cabin is up to 7 Series standards, with nearly every surface adorned with supple leather, rich wood trim and textured plastic. BMW's latest-generation iDrive system is standard, offering a well-designed interface for the navigation and entertainment functions. The front seats easily accommodate larger folk and offer seemingly endless seat adjustments, while the rears are just as comfortable and can be optioned with many of the same amenities as the fronts.
The GT's distinctive rear hatch offers functionality beyond mere 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 the package tray stowed, the GT can handle much bulkier loads of up to 60 cubic feet.
On the road, the 2012 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo drives pretty much like a regular 5 Series. The turbo V8 pulls strong and the eight-speed automatic seems well matched to this engine, providing quick, almost seamless shifts when driven conservatively. Going with the inline-6 should suit the vast majority of buyers just fine, however.
Regardless of which engine you choose, the Gran Turismo comes standard with BMW's Driving Dynamics Control, which alters the suspension, steering, throttle and automatic transmission response based on four driver-selected settings. This is a nice idea in theory, as it allows drivers to set up the car as they'd like, but in reality none achieve the sort of control feel the 5 Series used to possess. More importantly, the GT suffers from a notable lag in throttle response, particularly in Comfort and Normal driving modes.
Around town, the 5 Series GT remains calm and composed, insulating passengers from the harshness of the world, much like any 5 Series. Wind and road noise go largely unnoticed. Driven on winding mountain passes, the GT feels confident and nimble. Taken closer to its limits, though, the taller ride height and additional weight contribute to more pronounced body roll than a 5 or 7 Series sedan, although advanced suspension components and electronic aids compensate enough to please most drivers.