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.
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.