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First drive: BMW carves out another niche with 5 GT

Cross over: The new BMW 5 Series GT is likely to appeal to existing SUV owners wanting sharper road action.

BMW's highly capable 5 Series Gran Turismo continues Bavarian model onslaught

19 Feb 2010

BMW’S new-car onslaught continues with the release of yet another niche-creating model in Australia.

On sale from March 27, the F07 5 Series Gran Turismo (GT for short) is a raised and elongated version of the next-generation F10 5 Series sedan arriving in June, boasting fastback styling and frameless door windows for a coupe-like silhouette.

Three models will be available from launch – the $143,400 530d GT, $151,400 535i GT and $192,900 550i GT.

All are rear-wheel drive and include turbocharged and direct-injection EU5 emissions-rated engines mated to a new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, as well as BMW’s EfficientDynamics fuel-saving and eco-focussed engineering.

More variations are expected to arrive later, but for the time being the trio are entrusted to attract up to about 150 buyers overall in the first 12 months on sale in Australia.

Existing and potential luxury SUV customers are most likely to swing the 5-GT’s way, with the conquest (new-to-BMW) rate expected to top 65 per cent, according to PR and corporate communications manager Toni Andreevski.

Clearly a bit player on the German firm’s Australian stage then, the five-door hatchback (or sedan – depending on whether you lift the tailgate up as a boot or a liftback) is specified as well as priced and positioned to reflect the fact that it operates somewhere in between the Five and F01 7 Series limousine with which it shares so many structural and mechanical components.

14 center imageSo all models include four-zone climate control air-conditioning, Bi-Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights with BMW’s Adaptive headlights technology, electrically operated tailgate, head-up instrumentation display, rear-view camera, panorama sunroof, electric front seats with memory, lumbar support, DVD changer, ‘Comfort Access’ keyless entry and start and metallic paint.

Dynamic Driving Control – which adjusts the major mechanical components from ‘Normal’ to ‘Comfort’, ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport+’, according to how soft or athletic the driver wants the 5-GT to feel – is also fitted to all Australian-bound vehicles.

The ‘basic’ car comes complete with a three-person rear seat, but buyers can specify a two-seater ‘First Class’ arrangement with greater adjustability than the regular 2:1 bench, which still slides (up to 100mm) and reclines (to a 33 degree angle) anyway.

Also on the 5-GT options list is a slew of latest-generation accoutrements that were not even available on the uppermost echelon of luxury sedans.

Integral Active Steering – basically four-wheel steering – is one ($3600), as are a collision warning system (as part of the $4700 radar-supported automatic cruise control functionality), and ‘Surround View’ camera vision ($1300).

The last three items also form part of the BMW ConnectedDrive option pack that adds lane drifting and lane changing warnings, auto-headlight beam controllability, radar-controlled self-parking capability, and a collision-warning device with brake initiation system. All interact with one another to enhance comfort, safety and pleasure, says BMW.

Indeed, ‘interaction’ is the name of the Bavarian company’s big-car game, with the F01 7 Series, 5-GT and coming 5 Series all sharing the same basic ‘backbone’ (or platform components in BMW-speak). They’re also all made in Dingolfing, Germany.

In fact, the first two vehicles share the same 3070mm wheelbase as well as similar width measurements, providing ample rear seat space for those airline-style chair options.

The newcomer has the same road clearance as many regular passenger sedans but a loftier seating hip point – with a roofline being some 80mm higher than a 7 Series’ but 210mm shy of an X5’s. The point, BMW says, is to offer the ease of access, visibility and feeling of security that an SUV provides, in a vehicle with the limousine levels of luxury and features.

An overall length of 4998mm makes the 5-GT just 74mm shy of the short-wheelbase version 7 Series but somewhat longer than the X5, X6 and 5 Series models.

On the boot front, it extends from 440 litres to 590 litres by sliding the rear seats forward, while folding them all down and unclipping the parcel shelf in hatch mode expands the cargo capacity up to 1700 litres. That’s just 50 litres shy of an X5’s.

The aforementioned tailgate, by the way, differs from the Volkswagen group’s ‘Sko-door’ design found on the Skoda Superb by incorporating a solid and sealed partition wall that moves with the rear-seat backrest, providing isolation from cargo area atmosphere and odours, as well as complete insulation from outside elements even when the liftback portion of the hatch is open.

“It is one of the key differentiators from a wagon,” says BMW product communications manager Tim James.

The tailgate is electrically powered, and also features five height stop levels in accordance to the size of both the operator and the ceiling the 5-GT parks beneath.

Despite big differences in design and presentation details, it will take a keen eye to pick the 5-GT’s cabin architecture from its closely related brethren. Similarities include the look and layout of the dash, the gearstick, latest-generation iDrive interface, large centrally mounted screen display and steering wheel.

However, the twin rear seat set-up has a wide centre console with a variety of features including a sizeable storage facility. The rear of the front seat headrests can also incorporate video screens if the desired option is taken up.

Buyers also have the choice of three engines.

Opening the range is the 1960kg 530d GT, brandishing a 2993cc 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo diesel with common-rail direct injection and variable turbine geometry technology delivering 180kW of power at 4000rpm and 540Nm of torque from 1750 to 3000rpm.

While the 100km/h mark from standstill takes 6.9 seconds and the top speed is 240km/h, its fuel consumption average and carbon dioxide emissions ratings are 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres and 173 grams per kilometre respectively.

Next up, and making its debut in an Australian BMW, is the 1940kg 535i GT’s 2979cc 3.0-litre direct-injection TwinPower twin-scroll single-turbo in-line six-cylinder petrol unit.

Replacing the ‘old’ (if 2006 is considered a long time ago) twin-turbo engine, and employing Valvetronic fully variable valve timing, it produces (on 98 RON premium unleaded) 225kW at 5800rpm and 400Nm from 1200 to 5000rpm, for a 0-100km/h time of 6.3s and a 250km/h contained V-max. Drive carefully and you might manage 8.9L/100km and 209g/km.

The best figures the 2060kg 550i GT’s 4395cc 4.4-litre direct-injection TwinPower turbo V8 petrol variant can manage are 11.2L/100km and 236g/km, but the other figures are likely to impress: 300kW at 5500-6400rpm, 600Nm from 1750-4500rpm, 5.5s to 100km/h and a restricted 250km/h (all on 98 RON).

Suspension is aluminium based, via a double wishbone front axle and a multilink rear BMW calls Integral-V. Steering is via a hydraulic speed dependent servo (Servotronic) rack and pinion set-up offering 3.1 turns lock-to-lock, while the single-piston swing- calliper disc brakes are 348x36mm vented in diameter up front on the six-pot cars (V8: 374x36mm vented) and 345x24 vented out back (V8: 370x24mm vented).

Aiding the latter is the usual smorgasbord of BMW high-tech safety acronyms, including ASC and DSC (stability control functions), ABS anti-lock brakes, CBC Cornering Brake Control, DBC Dynamic Brake Control, EBD Electronic Brake-force Distribution and DDC Dynamic Drive Control. Strangely, though, Trailer Stability Control appears not to have its own abbreviation. It’s standard anyway.

Aerodynamic drag coefficients range between 0.30Cd for the diesel to 0.32Cd for the V8, while all models have a smallish 70-litre fuel capacity, a wide 12.2-metre turning circle and an average maximum towing capacity of 2100kg (750kg unbraked).

As part of BMW’s EfficientDynamics mantra, all 5-GTs have Brake Energy Regeneration technology, while the Runflat tyres on the 530d GT are low-rolling resistance items.

The standard wheel sizes are 18, 19 and 20 inches, for the 530d GT, 535i GT and 550i GT respectively.

BMW believes that the 5-GT’s demographic tapestry will include married or separated professionals with teenage children who value space and versatility as well as work-life balance. A high income is also probably essential.

2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo pricing:
530d GT (a) $143,400
535i GT (a) $151,400
550i GT (a) $192,900

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