From £44,535
New petrol engine is brilliant - as is the car itself

Our Verdict

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo
Despite its name, the 5 Series GT shares 7 Series underpinnings

The 5 Series Gran Turismo is an interesting concept, but the execution is flawed

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What is it?

Not just a brand new type of BMW with a completely different kind of agenda to any we’ve seen before, but one with a brand new petrol engine too; this is the new 535i Gran Turismo.

The 530d GT has already impressed with its blend of performance, refinement, quality and class, and most of all with its spacious levels of accommodation. Since the petrol-powered 535i has the potential to better its diesel cousin on two of those counts, this should be a damned convincing car.

Read our BMW 5 Series GT 530d first drive here

If you haven’t come across the BMW 5 Series GT yet, allow us to attempt to summarily describe it. With its raised ride height seating position, you might think of it as BMW’s answer to the Mercedes R-Class and Cadillac SRX. But you’d be wrong; this car has a more spacious second row of seats than either of those cars, no third row, no standard (or indeed optional) four-wheel drive and no conventional estate car silhouette either. Rather it has a roof line much more like that of a large four-door coupe, and a gently-sloping liftback with a two-stage opening.

Thankfully, the 5 GT’s new petrol engine isn’t so tricky to introduce. All new, it’s BMW’s first engine to combine high-precision direct injection with both mechanically driven variable valve timing and lift (Vanos and Valvetronic in BMW-speak) and a twin-scroll turbocharger.

Even though it’s only got one turbo, the new engine slots in where Munich’s twin-turbo petrol six might have in this particular model range, producing 302bhp and an incredibly accessible 295lb ft or torque, available all the way from 1200rpm to 5000rpm.

What’s it like?

Just as fascinating to drive - or even to ride in - as it is to contemplate. That’s because underneath the new 5 GT lies the same mechanical platform (BMW calls it a ‘backbone’) that underpins the current 7 Series, and that will go on to form the basis of the next 5 Series and 6 Series. And it makes this car a seriously sophisticated piece of kit.

As standard, this car comes with steel-spung double-wishbone suspension up front, an air-sprung self-levelling multi-link arrangement at the rear, and an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. Tick the options boxes for ‘Adaptive Drive’ and ‘Integral Active Steering’ (doing so will cost you just under £3500) and your 5 GT will also come with a variable-ratio, variable-assistance steering system, rear-wheel steer, active anti-roll bars and adaptive dampers.

The dampers are particularly interesting, BMW claims, because they’re the only ones in the world that can continuously and independently alter damping rates on both compression and rebound. And they can do so within less than 0.1sec.

All of those active systems could do more harm than good to this car’s dynamic performance were it not for the fact that they’re very effectively harmonised and marshalled using a four-stage control system called Dynamic Drive Control. This system has four stages; as the driver, you simply choose between comfort, normal, sport and sport+ modes, depending on the kind of roads you're travelling on and the kind of journey you’re hoping to have.

In comfort mode, the dampers switch to a control algorithm that allows more wheel travel and a gentler touring gait. The anti-roll bars configure themselves to allow a little more roll too, and also to set the car up for enhanced stability.

The car’s rear-wheel steering system likewise favours stability over agility, and its steering itself not only lightens but ramps down its directness. The car’s throttle map, its gearbox control software and its engine ECU also programme themselves to suit laid-back progress. And thus the BMW 535i GT becomes refined, cosseting and pleasant to simply stroke along – more refined even than a 7 Series.

Cycle through to sport mode and all of those systems change again. The car becomes harsher-riding but more upright, wieldier and more pointy, and generally quicker in its responses. All those sophisticated components can do nothing to make the 5 GT feel any smaller on the road, and its sheer size and weight are the limiting factors when it comes to having fun with this car; it could never be a brilliant driving machine. Still, it feels game, precise and surprisingly fast for a two-tonner; 62mph comes up in a hot hatch-besting 6.3sec.

That turn of speed comes thanks to a simply excellent combination of engine and gearbox. There’s abundant torque throughout almost all of the usable rev range, and urgent performance on offer whenever you need it. The gearbox can occasionally feel slow to kick down in comfort mode, but its changes are always smooth. It’s even clever enough to change down and provide engine braking when slowing on the motorway and descending gentle slopes – sometimes before you’ve even realised that you need it.

Should I buy one?

As brilliant as this new engine is, you’d be hard-pressed to justify buying a 535i GT over a 530d GT. The diesel’s actually just as refined at the six-pot petrol in most situations, almost as fast and should go almost 10 miles further per gallon.

Still, our test of the 535i GT confirms that BMW has produced a car with an incredible breadth of talents here. A car with upmarket class, practicality, refinement and real dynamic deportment too. One that you’d chose to ride in before all other BMWs, and one that’s interesting to drive into the bargain.

Size is the only consideration that might put you off this car; it certainly feels more like a jacked-up 7 Series than a 5, and that may simply feel too big for many people on UK roads – especially those put off by the size and bulk of conventional SUVs. Still, it’s a powerfully appealing upmarket family car – and one that definitely merits further investigation.

Join the debate

Comments
21

9 September 2009

Like a lot of people I'm genuinely intrigued by this GT. Mainly because from its piggy snout to its elephantine fat arse it is the most breathtakingly unattractive car I've seen in decades, but also for the endless references to shared underpinnings with the 7-Series.

Were all those 7-Series reviews wrong? Almost all of them criticise the BMW flagship for its clumsy handling and lifeless steering, bemoan the car feeling too big, too heavy and poorly controlled, and for a ride - to quote Autocar - that is "oddly unresolved over lumpier town roads".

Only the BMW loyal choose a 7-Series over an S-Class, yet we're lead to believe this new GT with the same "backbone" as the 7 is the best, most multi-talented, universally appealing BMW ever? Why? How??

9 September 2009

Doesn't bode too well for the next "real" 5 series either.

9 September 2009

Yes, it's ugly, and it's far too heavy, but the engine and transmission seem impressive in terms of progress. Worth noting that this 3.0 turbo petrol is more than 100 bhp stronger than the engine the in 193 bhp E39 530D Touring automatic that I ran for many years, and delivers the same 295 lb.ft of torque. The car is a good couple of hundredweight heavier than the E39, burns petrol rather than diesel, strongly outperforms the E39 in acceleration and top speed, and has a CO2 rating of 209 g/km rather than 226 (which would put my old car into the gas-guzzler punishment tax regime these days, even though it did 40 mpg all the time for me).

9 September 2009

I wonder what the guy was smoking when he designed this car...

9 September 2009

Lets just face up to what this car is - a 5 series for old people who can't bend down enough to get into the normal car. Just like the Golf Plus compared to a normal Golf.

Why it deserves initials like GT I don't know unless it stands for "Geriatric Transport"

Beyond that it's just a poorer handling, heavier, slower, more polluting, more expensive version of the forthcoming 5 series.

9 September 2009

Probably THE most ugly car in the world. Good engine tech and half-decent interiors won't save this one. It reminds me of Ssanyongs of the past, or maybe BMW's interpretation of the Pontiac Aztec.

BMW - wake up and get off the haluciogenics. You are going down the drain if you continue with products like this. This comes from someone who has had many [new] models of BMWs models over the last ten years - I see nothing in the entire product line now or in the future that looks like a BMW should do, so I see no reason to buy another. If I was interested in 'performance, refinement, quality, class, acommodation' but wasn't interested in what it looked like, I'd have already bought a Lexus.

If you see BMW's sales figures going down each month compared with Audi and Mercedes, and you will continue to do so, then this abomination (and others) is the reason why. BMW is officially dying.

9 September 2009

Caution : panzer attack!

BMW has a little margin to make a potato like that with their brand image. Mercedes with its R (or RL) or other examples exist.
A manufacturer with less brand image could not allow to propose such an elephant.

9 September 2009

[quote david RS]

BMW has a little margin to make a potato like that with their brand image. Mercedes with its R (or RL) or other examples exist.
A manufacturer with less brand image could not allow to propose such an elephant.[/quote]

However if you look at their upcoming models they all have that stupid flared-nostril look about them. In short, it's not just this pig ugly GT that's pig ugly. It's might be all of them.

9 September 2009

[quote the_dr]

BMW - wake up and get off the haluciogenics. You are going down the drain if you continue with products like this. This comes from someone who has had many [new] models of BMWs models over the last ten years - I see nothing in the entire product line now or in the future that looks like a BMW should do, so I see no reason to buy another. If I was interested in 'performance, refinement, quality, class, acommodation' but wasn't interested in what it looked like, I'd have already bought a Lexus.

If you see BMW's sales figures going down each month compared with Audi and Mercedes, and you will continue to do so, then this abomination (and others) is the reason why. BMW is officially dying.

[/quote]

you must either be gifted of preception and foresight or... a stupid git.

BMW is outperforming Mercedes-Benz on overall sales figures; is in profit - Daimler in loss; is about to overtake Lexus as US's No.1 luxury make; is about to launch half a dozen or so major products at IAA Frankfurt next week; its share price has rebounded in recent weeks, is outperforming the sector and was up 8% alone today.

'haluciogenics' (sic) - fella, you need to keep off the special brew and away from keyboards where tiny minds and a little knowledge can be dangerous.

9 September 2009

[quote ThwartedEfforts]However if you look at their upcoming models they all have that stupid flared-nostril look about them. In short, it's not just this pig ugly GT that's pig ugly. It's might be all of them.
[/quote]

'thwartedefforts' - is that what your mother said when she complained to the family planning clinic?

give it a rest mate, your meme is stuck in its groove. There's criticism and then there's vitriol and deep, pathological hatred.

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