Friday, September 18, 2009

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is a driver's alternative to an SUV

The idea behind the BMW 5 Series GT is to appeal to buyers who want the utility of an SUV in a car that doesn't look like a station wagon.

The BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo may be an answer to a question few people have asked, but one could say the same thing about the BMW X6. And right now, the longest wait list for any BMW product sold in the United States is an X6, so we're guessing the 5 Series GT will be a hit. Although BMW officials are candid in saying the GT was not necessarily designed for U.S. customers.

You see, Americans, fickle as they come, have never warmed up to hatchbacks. Sure, we bought VW Golfs and Honda Civics, but those were entry-level cars. Granted, this is no econobox hatch, and BMW's two-piece tailgate separates the car from all others, although right now the GT is the only player in this particular segment. The tailgate can operate as a hatch, opening up the entire rear of the car, or simply open a small trunk-like opening.

The idea behind the GT is to give customers who want the utility of an SUV but want to drive a car that isn't a station wagon an alternative. With a coupe-like stretched roofline, proportions of a typical BMW four-door sedan, a panorama sunroof and frameless windows, the car stands out from other BMWs.

From a driving standpoint, there's little to complain about as the driving dynamics are what you would expect from a big BMW. We drove GTs with two different engines, but not the twin-turbo 5.0-liter engine that will propel the 5 Series GT 550i when it launches in the United States later this year. So we won't comment beyond saying both the 3.0-liter twin turbo and 3.0 turbodiesel were terrific. While we love the 5.0-liter twin turbo BMW offers in the United States, either of the above options provided plenty of power to propel the 4,500-lb. car. BMW's superb eight-speed automatic directs the power to the rear wheels. And look for an awd version sometime later after the car's launch.

While we loved driving the car, the best seat in the GT is either of the ones in the back. With 7-Series-like legroom and X5-like headroom, the back seat is the place to ride.

Standard is a three-seat bench in the rear but customers can order the rear with two seats and a fixed console between them. The seats are adjustable independently fore and aft plus have adjustable seat backs. With the seats in the upright position, the passenger compartment is separated from the trunk area. Fold the seats down via a switch in the trunk and the entire cargo area opens up.

No word on pricing yet, and as we said before, the car was built more with Europeans in mind than Americans. Which means the waiting list Stateside will be probably be long.


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