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First DriveThe BMW 520d GT represents the new entry point in the Gran Turimso range, slashing £9000 from the list price
What is it?
The latest version of a car that represents a bit of a commercial disaster for BMW: the 5-series Gran Turismo. This luxury crossover is currently failing to meet sales targets all over the world. In the North American market, pitched as a replacement for the 5-series Touring, it has caused customers to walk away from the BMW brand in droves. And in the UK, the car remains a rarer find than a satisfied public servant.
In an attempt to stir up interest, BMW GB has turned to that reliable old chestnut – an M Sport specification upgrade – for this high-rise four-seater heavyweight. The new edition comes with an aerodynamic bodykit, M Sport suspension settings, some M Sport equipment and trim additions, and – thanks to the 5 GT’s raised ride height – the smallest-looking 19in alloy wheels we’ve come across in quite some time.
What’s it like?
The main conceit of the 5 GT’s positioning remains a broadly convincing one, which falls down ever-so-slightly in the detail. This is a very refined and luxurious car for up to four passengers, with reclining rear chairs that provide as much legroom as a full-sized limousine, and plenty of headroom too. Its raised ride height makes getting in and out that bit easier than it might be, although it does little for visibility.
Meanwhile, that hatchback rear-end provides easy access to the boot, but only when fully opened; the halfway-house chute opening is useful only when loading small items in confined parking spaces. Perhaps most disappointing of all, once the hatchback is open, you’ll find the boot is only averagely accommodating; as big as a middle-sized saloon’s, but no bigger.
Still, the M Sport chassis is well worth the premium. It brings better damping and roll control into the 5 GT’s handling without compromising its quiet, pliant ride.
Our 530d test car had higher grip levels and crisper dynamic responses than the standard car. With ‘Sport’ mode selected on the Drive Performance Control, it was also a more composed backroad machine; still not particularly enticing or engaging to drive, but a more competent car allthesame, with a powerful, efficient and refined six cylinder diesel powertrain.
At this point we’d usually add a caveat about BMW’s optional Adaptive Drive package, without which the 5 GT makes do with passive dampers and conventional anti-roll bars – and in our experience is a much less agreeable car dynamically. But BMW is currently giving away a free specification upgrade with the 5 GT that includes a head-up display, nappa leather, adaptive xenon headlights, soft close doors and Adaptive Drive.
And as long as they continue to do that, this will be a hard car to find significant fault with dynamically. In ‘Comfort’ mode, there’s a gentle, wafting gait to the GT’s primary ride that would do credit to a more traditional stretched limo, as well as excellent low-speed bump absorption. Should you up the pace and get tired of the car’s slightly wallowy body control, stouter damping is just a flick of a toggle switch away. While it’s true that no single mode quite delivers the ideal ‘automatic’ adaptive chassis set-up of, say, a Jaguar XJ or a Range Rover Sport, you can normally find an acceptable setting for most situations with a little experimentation.
Should I buy one?
Loaded with all of that free kit, and fairly effectively combining luxurious rear cabin space and hatchback-derived practicality, the 5-series Gran Turismo has a great deal going for it. Nearly three years after launch, you could say the car has reached maturity. For those who like the idea of a 5-series saloon with a bit extra – but who, for some reason, don’t like the idea of a 5-series Touring – we’d say now’s the time to buy.
But the truth is, that’s probably not much of a target audience. While it may now deserve better, this car is likely to continue to be left on the shelf – by 5-series buyers who just don’t see it as a desirable step up on the model ladder, and by 7-series buyers who aren’t prepared to accept what they see as a ‘trade down’.
BMW 530d GT M-Sport
Price: £48,880; Top speed: 149mph; 0-62mph: 6.9sec; Economy: 43.5mpg; Co2: 173g/km; Kerbweight: 2035kg; Engine type, cc: 6 cyls in line, 2993cc, turbodiesel; Power: 242bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 398lb ft at 1750-3000rpm; Gearbox: 8-spd automatic