Two weeks ago at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, we attended a preview of the upcoming BMW 5 Series GT. Ever since BMW has unveiled their latest gimmick, the 5 Series Gran Turismo subject has been widely debated on our website, but also by many other auto publications.
What we’ve learned in the past few years and after many new product launches was that some cars are really meant to be seen in person before any judgment can be passed on and the 5 GT certainly falls within that category. Most likely this is the reason why BMW North America has decided to take this interesting approach of introducing a new car to the journalists or even better said: giving us a sneak peak of what to expect since the model displayed in Spartanburg was not yet production ready.
To sweeten the deal even more, we had the chance to go for a ride on the race track, chauffeured around by the professional drivers at M School.
So, let’s dive in and find out more about the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.
Based on the platform of the new BMW 7 Series, the 5 Series GT was built on the same principle that made the original Gran Turismo vehicles so popular: a high-performance luxury automobile designed for long-distance driving. The most common format in a Gran Turismo automobile was a two-door coupé with either a two-seat or a 2+2 arrangement.
Grand tourers differ from standard two-seat sports cars in typically being larger, heavier, and emphasizing comfort over straight-out performance. Historically, true GTs have been front-engined with rear-wheel drive, which leave more space for the cabin than mid-mounted engine layouts. Softer suspensions, greater storage, and more luxurious appointments add to their driving appeal.
Does this sound familiar now? We have heard BMW many times in the past few months talk about the new 5 Series GT and most of their arguments of creating this new niche have been revolving around the description of a GT vehicle as outline above. And the new BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo without a doubt falls into this category. The first design element that we laid eyes on and stood out immediately was the elongated hood, typical in a GT car(See: Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano or Maserati Gran Turismo).
Since it was built on the 7 Series long wheelbase platform, BMW designers had plenty of “room” to play with the exterior design of the car. Therefore, a coupe-like roofline was expected to be seen in the GT model without sacrificing any headroom space for its rear-sitting passengers. The now classic and historical Hoffmeister Kink is still there, even though slightly different from the previous BMW models.
Those of you that have considered comparing the 5 Series Wagon to the 5 GT model….we only have one thing to say: STOP! As BMW mentioned as well, despite the popularity of Wagons/Tourings models in Europe especially, these type of vehicle were never considered to be a true luxury automobile, but rather a practical and elegant transportation medium. From the design lines to the overall size, the two cars could be considered complementary and they are obviously “chasing” a different clientele. The BMW 5 Series GT distinguishes itself with has a higher seating position and more muscular look.
Seeing the 5 GT in person really made a difference, the front-end in our opinion is more appealing that the one seen on the new 7, a less accentuated “nose” with a more aggressive look and a grille design closer to what BMW fans expect. In our opinion, the front fascia brings out that famous “BMW shark” look that we have enjoyed in other models.
The headlights were before and now are even more one of our favorite design elements on the 5 GT. They retain the traditional shape with a silver “eyelid” in the upper corner and the beautiful and bright new LED white corona-rings take a cylindrical shape and are slanted to a distinctive angle and extending far into the fenders. Turning on the daytime running lights made us realize that they might as well be used for nighttime driving as well.
One thing that we weren’t able to notice in the official press photos were the side design lines, one of them extending from the headlights, across the door handles and all the way into top edge of the headlights. The other exciting design line, that it’s not always obvious especially in the dark painted models, can be found running across the bottom area of the front and rear doors, a sculpted line that gives the improves the car’s visual dynamics.
The “coupeish” roof line flows into the rear-end which…..we have to admit, takes some time to get used to it and it’s not something that we see every day in a BMW. But at the same time, this is an area where BMW shines again with their latest innovation: a two-mode hatch opening system. A regular mode where the entire rear trunk frame lifts up, allowing for more cargo entry point and a second mode, where only the hinged top part of the trunk is being lifted, allowing for quick access to the trunk. We’ve played around with these features and they can prove to be useful in many situations.
When we said that the photos don’t do any justice to this car, we were also referring to the taillights design. The massive L-Shaped lights are simply stunning, from the overall shape to the interior LEDs arrangement. This is one of those things that we can’t really describe and it will make more sense when you see the GT in person.
The 5 GT introduced to us featured a darker shade of paint which ones again proved to be our favorite color on these new, more massive BMW models(The 7 Series in black has always been a favorite of ours).
BMW has taken the interior design a few notches up and it all started with the new Z4 which features one of the best interiors we have seen to date in a BMW…..or, at least until we saw the 5 GT one. Our first out-loud thought was: will the next generation BMW 5 Series models bring the same interior layout and design? Of course, BMW doesn’t comment on future products so we gave up fairly quick on trying to find out more about the new 5er.
But let’s go back to what we have seen and why it has impressed so much. The driver oriented cockpit is obviously back again in the BMW line-up and the 5 GT makes no exception. In the end, this car is all about personal feeling and comfort, so connecting the passengers to the car while maintaining the highest levels of luxury, is something that BMW could have not overlooked. The cockpit provides all the necessary gadgetry and comfort, but it maintains a level of sportiness.
As the 5 Series GT interior designer, Oliver Heilner, said a few months back, “[BMW] wanted a car you could enter without difficulty and feel comfortable in over long journeys.” And how to achieve entering the car easier other than by using frameless doors with the windows sliding down when existing or entering the vehicle.
Jump into the driver seat and you would immediately notice the higher seat height when compared to the 7 Series – almost 2 inches higher. The upfront headroom is comparable to the BMW X5 and even someone as myself measuring 6″2 will find it to be more than appropriate. As you would expect in a vehicle marketed as premium, the ventilated seats are extremely comfortable and we experienced that first hand while we were chauffeured around the track a few times.
For the rear-sitting passengers, BMW offers two options: a bench(standard) or single seats separated by a center console. The single, individual seats are part of an optional “luxury seating package” which offers a 2+2 configuration. BMW wants to market the 5 GT as a premium vehicle with flexible interior space and this might just be another selling point.
We had the chance to see both rear-seating options and we even took the time to go for an extra lap on the track so we can fairly compare them. And…..we found no difference in terms of personal space and luxury. In our opinion, it all comes down to personal preference since both options were “luxurious” enough even for our taste.In both configurations, the back seat moves fore and aft on a track up to 4 inches, so the passenger decides the angle of these seats. Pretty neat if you ask us….
But….yes, there is a but….we did find a quirk that somewhat bothered us. Even though the roof area above the rear seats has been sculpted in by the designers, being 6″2 tall and sitting in the rear seat at the “default angle”, my head was less than 2 inches away from the car’s roof, a bit of an inconvenience, but not as bad as in the X6. For those of you that are taller than me, your only option will be to simply adjust the reclining angle of those seats and you should be able to sit comfortable.
Overall I would say that the cabin dimensions are similar to the X5 and it rearmost position, the 5 GT has as much rear-seat legroom as the 7 Series models. In this situation, the trunk space offers 15.5 cubic feet for the luggage. Moving the rear-seats far forward increases the luggage space by almost 5 cubic feet. But since the 5 GT is being advertised as a long-drive, versatile vehicle, the luggage space can provide 60 cubic feet of stow space when the back seats are folded out.
The spacious feeling is emphasized even more by the panoramic moon roof which takes up 55% of the roof’s area.
One of the things that really stands out when you operate the car is the Speedometer/tachometer design which in our opinion, it’s the best we have seen in a BMW so far. Tou probably have seen our preview photos of the 750i we tested last week and you might have heard us saying how much we loved the dashboard design and tachometer….well…..let’s just say that we fell in love for the second time when we sat in the 5 GT.
BMW also added to the tachometer a Brake Energy Generation indicator, all part of the EfficientDynamics program. According to BMW, the Brake Energy Regeneration technology mentioned earlier, improves the fuel efficiency by three to five percent.
Again, this is one of those things that you must see in person and any words we will outline here, won’t really show you the “real picture”. From the great color choices to the fine design details, the speedometer/tachometer area won’t disappoint even the most demanding BMW customers.
Despite the fact that the car was in the pre-production stage, the material selection was definitely up to the standards of a premium luxury Gran Turismo.
Engine, First Drive and Other Technologies
Without a doubt, the new BMW 7 Series has served as a starting point for the 5 Series GT and not only from platform sharing aspect. The 4.4 liter V8 engine will power the highest-end model to be sold in the United States: 550i GT. As seen in the 750i, the V8 twin-turbo produces 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. All this power is sent to the rear wheels through the new ZF 8-Speed automatic transmission. At the end of 2010, a 5 Series GT xDrive will be made available as well.
Other technologies seen in the 7, but ported over to the 550i GT are the: Dynamic Drive Active Suspension System - an active suspension control system offering high lateral body stability; Adaptive Drive; Active-Roll – reduces body roll; Driving Dynamics Control – transmission shift characteristics, engine throttle response and power-steering assist; Integral Active Steering – varies the steering angle of the rear wheels based on the road speed.
All the “luxury gadgets” that I have been enjoying in our short-term 7 Series loaner are going to be offered in the 550i GT as well: Surround View Cameras, Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection, Night Vision Camera and the extremely useful Head Up Display.
Since the purpose of this event was to get a sneak peek at the upcoming 5 Series Gran Turismo, we had to obey the no-photos rule and also, we had to settle for a passenger ride aboard the 550i GT. The ride is smooth, but yet powerful and even though there are many other adjustments to be made, in our few short track laps we didn’t feel it was missing anything, but….then again…we weren’t driving it.
The BMW Performance drivers kept the car at a constant pace, within the speed limits and that’s when the whole GT luxury thing kicked in. If you’re looking for a premium sedan that will be used on long journeys with four adults in the car, there is absolutely no substitute for the 5-Series GT.
Seeing the 5 Series GT in person was the first step on our agenda and now we have a far more accurate idea of how BMW expects to market this vehicle or….to whom. Next step will be to spend some time behind the wheel and get a better feeling of the car dynamics and performance, a necessary step prior to a final conclusion.
Our advice to you is to take any opportunity you can get to see the new BMW 5 Series GT in person and you might see the car in a different light and most important, make a far more accurate assessment.