What is it?
The X6 is all well and good, so is the 7 Series and so is the 5 Series Touring. BMW insists, though, that if you make a triangle out of those three cars, the car that fills the space in the middle will be perfect for a lost generation of potential buyers who want some of each car, but not all.
So the 5 Series Gran Turismo was built specifically to mop them up and, BMW evangelistically claims, to create an entirely new market segment – something the car industry really hasn’t managed since the Renault Scenic.
So BMW’s got big claims behind this car, but it actually does offer 7 Series front and rear leg room, luxury and entertainment features, as well as X5 head room, monster luggage space and cracking new engine and gearbox technology.
What’s it like?
All of that evangelism can turn you off a car before you even drive it, but that would be a mistake with this car.
For starters, there’s the technology. It has the latest generation of 3.0-litre diesel, which is expected to comfortably outsell the 535i GT in Europe. It deserves to as well, because it has 241bhp of power at 4000rpm and 398lb ft of torque from 1750 to 3000rpm.
It will help that it’s the cheapest Gran Turismo, but it’s also the best of the GT’s engine range.
But while it’s not the fastest, it never actually feels wanting. Our side-by-side charges showed the 535i consistently pulling away, even in rolling in-gear sprints, but the 530d version was never humbled as it smoothly charged through its eight gears, swapping seamlessly regardless of whether the brilliant new transmission was in its softest or sportiest settings.
BMW claims it will pull 43.5mpg on the EU combined cycle, but we didn’t come close to that. In fact, we comfortably halved it without even trying and, with only a 70-litre tank, the GT might be stopping to refuel more than we’d like.
Short-range tank apart, it will be a legendarily good cruiser. The engine idles at 700rpm, and at 62mph it’s only ticking over at 1350rpm. At 80mph it’s only pulling 1700 revs – which isn’t even at the torque peak yet – and at 124mph it’s still only around 2200rpm. Relaxed? You bet.
If the driveline is comfortable, the cabin backs it up, and then some. It will be the tank dictating your stops, not your back. The seats are brilliant, with soft initial cushioning and firm support beneath it – and that goes for all four of them (a bench seat, with a strictly temporary middle seat, is actually standard).
It’s almost better in the back, too. It sits on exactly the same wheelbase (and tracks) as the 7-series, so there’s plenty of space, but it’s been cleverly worked on. The design of the dash and front doors flows beautifully into the rear, where the seats adjust fore and aft individually and so do their backrests. And BMW has rediscovered the joy of oddments storage space in the cabin.
BMW makes much of the rear hatch, which has a small opening that doesn’t crack the passenger bulkhead and a big one that does, but the important thing is that the space is very flexible, with up to 1700 litres with the rear seats folded down.