2010 BMW 5-series Gran Turismo / 535i Gran Turismo

2010 BMW 5-series Gran Turismo / 535i Gran Turismo 2010 BMW 5-series Gran Turismo / 535i Gran Turismo
Second Drive

Trying to describe the BMW 5-series Gran Turismo can sound a bit like trying to solve a riddle: What has the rear seat of a 7-series, the driving position of an X5, and the over-the-road dynamics of a 5-series?

To achieve those disparate attributes, the 5-series GT is necessarily ungainly. The wheelbase spans a long 120.9 inches, and width is SUV-like at 74.8 inches. But its height of 61.4 inches and length of 196.8 inches are closer to the realm of cars. The resulting body is long but not lithe, wide but not sporty. The GT looks better in person, but its styling still can’t hide the proportions of a rolling contradiction.

Mechanically, the GT suffers no such inconsistencies. It’s a traditional BMW under the skin, from its rear-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is slated for 2011) to its standard inline-six engine. The turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six under the hood of the 535i GT is a new single-turbo, direct-injection unit, as opposed to the twin-turbo six that debuted in the 335i. BMW says that eventually the 3.0-liter, twin-turbo six will be replaced by the new single-turbo unit. Output of the single-turbo six is identical to that of the twin-turbo unit: 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque.

The single turbo is just as lag-free and responsive as the twin-turbo arrangement. Even burdened with 4600 pounds, the 535i GT feels quick, and BMW claims a 0-to-60 time of 6.2 seconds.

For those looking for more power, the GT also offers BMW’s 400-hp, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8. The V-8 pushes the weight to nearly 5000 pounds, but the claimed 0-to-60 time falls to 5.4 seconds. The V-8 version will be first to go on sale at an estimated $67,000; the turbocharged six follows in early spring with a starting price in the mid-50s. During a test drive in Portugal, only the 535i GT was available. Both engines come standard with a slick eight-speed automatic transmission.

Stepping into the GT actually requires no stepping at all. The floor is low, like a car’s, and the seat is high but not quite the height of an SUV’s. Once inside, the width of the cabin, the height of the roof, the massive A-pillars, and the restricted view out the rear window trick the senses into thinking the GT is an SUV, though. Dashboard design mimics that of the 7-series, iDrive and all, and should be identical to the next-generation 5-series’ interior.

There’s no trickery of any kind in the way the GT enters corners. The center of gravity still feels a bit high (no thanks to the mandatory glass roof), but grip and body control feel more 5-series than X5—a very heavy 5-series, but a 5-series nonetheless. The steering is lighter than an X5’s, and the ride is less harsh despite 20-inch wheels with narrow sidewalls (18-inch wheels are standard). Some of the liveliness is due to BMW’s optional active steering system on our tester, which, as on the 7-series, not only changes the steering ratio but now also turns the rear wheels. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in opposition to the fronts, which helps the GT feel more maneuverable and smaller than its long wheelbase would suggest. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts purportedly to improve cornering stability.

Opening one of the long rear doors reveals the GT’s most luxurious feature, a back seat that rivals a long-wheelbase 7-series for limo-like spaciousness. A rear bench that can seat three is standard, but opting for the two-seat configuration yields adjustable seats that feel like the result of a partnership between La-Z-Boy and Recaro.


The GT’s adjustable rear seats rival the 7-series’ for spaciousness and comfort; not even back-seat riders can escape the clutches of iDrive.


Under the rear hatch is a cargo area that is accessible from the back seat, but it can be boxed off with a partition to mimic a conventional trunk if you don’t want occupants touching your stuff. A door is built into the hatch to accept smaller items without your having to open the large hatch. You get two hatches in one, so you’ll have that going for you.

BMW has built laudable characteristics of both the car and the SUV into this new 5-series GT, but it’s still an odd mix that results in strange styling and the feeling that the vehicle shouldn’t have a GT badge stuck to its rump. We’re all for something new—we just wish it didn’t look like BMW’s take on the Toyota Venza.