BMW's 5 Series has spent decades as the middleweight of the lineup, offering a vehicle as versatile as they are highly regarded. Now, BMW has created the 5 Series Gran Turismo, which is neither a sedan or a wagon, but is all BMW, right down to the way it carves out a niche just for itself.
The 2011 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo (MSRP starting at $56,000) is forward-looking with its unique combination of executive sedan comfort, hatchback cargo versatility and coupe-like profile. Much more than a variation on the 5 Series station wagon theme, the 5 Series Gran Turismo is an elegant alternative to luxury SUVs, and offers more space and comfort than you'll find in most of the SUV/Crossover field anyway.
Passengers are coddled in the 5 Series Gran Turismo, especially rear-seat occupants. The elevated seating position offers a commanding position, and the larger body offers generous space inside. Legroom for rear-seat passengers is huge at 41.8 inches. There's 15.4 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seat, and if more space is needed, the seats slide forward up to four inches, increasing cargo space to 20.7 cubic feet. Fold the rear seats down altogether and you have a cavernous 59.5 cubic feet. A partition separates the cargo area from the rest of the cabin, keeping things comfortable and quiet.
The spacious interior is handsomely designed and finished with high quality materials like Dakota Leather upholstery and opulent dark wood trim. The focus isn't just on rear-seat passengers either. The 10-way power adjustable front seats are some of the best, and there's exceptional space up front, too, keeping elbows from crashing into each other.
The crisply designed instrument panel puts vital information front and center, and the latest generation of BMWs innovative iDrive system puts navigation, entertainment and vehicle control at the driver's fingertips. The LCD screen in the dashboard can be upgraded to a giant 10.2-inch display, and BMW ConnectedDrive adds new features like Mobile Office to display e-mail and messages from your smartphone. It will also read them to you while you drive, helping to keep your attention focused on the road. The optional head-up display projects information and warnings on the windshield like a fighter jet, further aiding driver focus.
While the 5 Series Gran Turismo is a BMW like never before, it's also thoroughly a BMW where it counts. The 535i Gran Turismo uses BMW's TwinPower turbocharged inline six-cylinder that combines direct injection and Valvetronic variable valve timing and lift to produce 300 hp. The top engine is the TwinPower Turbo V8 in the 550i Gran Turismo, which generates 400 hp while still delivering an EPA-estimated 22 mpg highway. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard in all 5 Series Gran Turismos, and Dynamic Drive Control is also featured standard. Adjusting the response of the transmission, gas pedal and power steering boost, Dynamic Drive Control turns the 5 Series Gran Turismo into an extension of the driver's personality. Optional Adaptive Drive adds infinitely variable shock absorbers and adds a Comfort setting to the standard drive modes of Normal, Sport and Sport+.
Being a BMW, the chassis is fully up to the task of translating the engine's hard work to the pavement. Aluminum-intensive suspension and standard air suspension for the rear axle deliver the famed BMW blend of handling performance and supple ride. Optional Integral Active Steering gets the rear wheels into the corner-rounding act under certain conditions as well, giving the spacious 5 Series Gran Turismo surprising nimbleness. High performance driving is helped by xDrive all-wheel drive, which can direct the engine's power between all four wheels, making cornering fast and confident while also boosting all-weather surefootedness. xDrive is available with either engine.
A BMW like never before, rest assured, the 5 Series Gran Turismo is a signpost on the brand's road to the future. It brings highly engineered powertrains that are both powerful and efficient and superb handling to a market niche that didn't even exist two years ago. It does all that while offering a comfortable, serene cabin full of technology designed to both aid drivers and coddle passengers. In all respects, the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo both paves its own way and draws the map for the future.