– Head-turning looks
– Cabin space and features
– Ride and handling
– Head-turning looks
– Pretty expensive
– Needlessly complicated
BMW is one company that is trying very hard to have a model in every possible niche. From sub-compact hatchbacks to expensive SUVs, there is something for everyone in BMW’s line-up. So BMW took it upon themselves to create new niches that nobody asked for. And the 5-Series Gran Turismo was born.
We drove the 535i GT, a car that looks like an overly tall liftback. We assume the idea is to build a spacious executive transporter that stands out, although the overall result is debatable at best. It certainly stands out, though public reactions are varied, ranging from awe to disgust.
The interior can’t be faulted at all though. The straightforward cabin styling is lifted to a higher level with the extensive use of premium materials throughout. Soft-touch materials, stitched leatherette and light-coloured wood is heavily used alongside the beige leather seats to good effect. It all seems to be very durable in our well-used media test car, except for the peeling centre-console buttons.
There’s lots of headroom and legroom, even in the back. The front seats are well-bolstered, while the rear ones are puffy and spacious as well. There’s enough cup-holders, cubbies and door pockets too. The boot is fairly sizeable, and the seat-backs can be split-folded for more space, although the mechanism to do that likes to jam up on you. It has a finicky tailgate that can open up either as a sedan’s lid, or fully as a liftback, glass and all. We still have no idea why you’d need two ways to do it, except as a party trick.
In terms of gadgets, everything’s there, such as the dial-controlled iDrive computer, auto parking brake, strong CD/MP3 stereo, Bluetooth phone, DVD navigation, adaptive cruise control, HID headlights, decent auto a/c with rear controls, smart keyless entry and start, three parking cameras with “overhead” view, panoramic glass roof, several airbags, and a heads-up display. Heck, the bottom half of the gauge cluster is actually an LCD screen. And yet, you can’t stream music off your iPhone via Bluetooth. And that fiddly iDrive system desperately needs a touchscreen. Imagine having to “type” in destinations on the nav using just a rotary dial.
The 3.0-litre turbo engine is an amazing piece of work…in a 335i. But in the much heavier 535i GT, it offers enough power to make our tester adequately quick, but not fast. With 306 horses on tap at 5800 rpm, backed up by 400 Nm of torque from a mere 1300 rpm all the way to 5000 rpm, we managed to hit 100 kph from standstill in 7.4 seconds. The smooth 8-speed automatic has a manual-shifting option, but it works fine if left to its own devices. Fuel consumption can be horrendous if driven with moderate aggression, as high as 16.8 litres in our initial test, but when we had the car for several weeks later on, we brought it down to 12.7 litres/100 km, with a lot of highway driving thrown in.
As with most rear-wheel-drive BMWs, the handling is very good. Body roll is kept well in check thanks to the adaptive suspension, with more-than-decent grip levels from the 245/40 front and 275/35 tyres on those 20-inch alloys. The variable-ratio steering is nicely-weighted and offers decent feedback, better than even the latest F30-generation 3-Series with their electric steering. The brakes were average, but stop well when pounded on in emergencies.
On the highway, it’s an effortless cruiser, with instant power on demand and a quiet, comfortable ride that bellies its 7-Series-derived platform. There’s no floatiness and the run-flat tyres don’t really ruin the ride like they do in smaller BMW models. Rear visibility is horrendous, but there are three cameras to help you park rather easily.
And there you have it – the 5-Series Gran Turismo is a perfectly good luxury car that exists because…err…we don’t know. It’s called a Gran Turismo because…err…we don’t know. But car buyers should consider it over other BMW models because…err…we don’t know.
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