BMW 550i Gran Turismo is part luxury car, family hauler, sporty performer; updated V-6 coming.
AG has many tricks up its corporate sleeve in the area of product development. One vehicle may showcase an all-new engine or transmission or an innovative approach to steering or chassis control, or all of the above.
But the new 5-Series Gran Turismo has none of those. Instead of offering a technical advancement, this aerodynamically designed coupe-like sedan is all about packaging and, to an extent, repurposing proven attributes on vehicles already in production.
Although “5-Series,” is part of its name, the Gran Turismo actually shares more architectural underpinnings with the flagship 750i sedan — and handles with the same confidence, too.
The two vehicles have the same wheelbase (the Gran Turismo is 3 ins. [7.6 cm] shorter overall) and share the identical twin-turbo 400-hp V-8, steering system and 8-speed transmission. Interior design continuity also carries over from the 7-Series.
But behind the back seat, the Gran Turismo is something the 7-Series will never be: a hatchback. Bavarian engineers are probably spitting out their coffee at the suggested linkage between the brand's most luxurious sedan and a term unofficially banished from America's automotive lexicon years ago.
But let's call it what it is: An expensive car daring to offer the versatility enjoyed by youthful buyers of Japanese subcompacts 30 years ago.
The magic of the Gran Turismo is it isn't entirely a hatchback, offering both a trunk and fully functioning liftgate.
The trunk opens and closes like any other, but the opening is smaller and vertical. Raise the liftgate, and the back window goes with it, along with the entire back of the car above the bumper, including the trunk lid and all its mechanical parts.calls it a “bi-modal trunk” or “dual-access tailgate.”
Need to bring caviar and cognac to the country club? The trunk is all you need. The rebellious sort, however, might say to heck with convention, arriving at the polo field unafraid to press the button on the key fob to raise the motorized liftgate, providing easy access to an ample hold for gear.
The flat floor makes for easy unloading of cases of pinot noir from the vineyard.
Italian auto makers first coined the term Gran Turismo (Grand Touring) in the 1950s for stylish, luxurious 2-seat sports cars. The hatchback body style was essential to provide luggage room for two.
BMW expands on the concept by keeping the coupe-like profile but adding two more doors and a back seat.
Standard in the second row is bench seating for three, with a 40-20-40 split for selective fold-down. Optional is luxury rear seating for two, which offers adjustable power bucket seats.
Although comfortable, the luxury seating for two in the rear creates an ergonomic challenge because the center console between them extends beyond the seat cushion, blocking access to climate controls placed behind the front row.
Product planners anticipate most models will be equipped with the standard 3-passenger rear bench partly because most customers for the Gran Turismo are expected to be women with children.
Despite the raked roofline at the rear of the Gran Turismo, the back seat is exceptionally spacious.
The 4.4L twin-turbo direct-injection DOHC V-8, also shared with the significantly heavier truck-based X6 SUV, propels the 4,938-lb. (2,240-kg) Gran Turismo to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.4 seconds.
That's a tad slower than its sibling, the 750i, which is nearly 400 lbs. (181 kg) lighter. The vehicle trip computer calculated disappointing fuel economy of 14.7 mpg (16 L/100 km) after 138 miles (22 km) of mixed driving. A later highway jaunt delivered an impressive 23.5 mpg (10 L/100 km).
In spring, BMW will offer the 535i Gran Turismo with an upgraded version of its excellent 3.0L direct-injection twin-turbo inline-6 (codenamed N54).
The output of the revised I-6 (codenamed N55) will be the same as it is currently — 300 hp and 300 lb.-ft. (407 Nm) of torque. But the induction setup changes from two separate turbochargers to a twin-scroll unit packaged in one housing. The torque peak arrives earlier, at 1,200 rpm, compared with 1,400 rpm for the current N54.
With the new induction strategy and new fully variable Valvetronic valvetrain, the new N55 is expected to deliver 8% better fuel economy than the N54.
Arriving now in showroooms is the rear-wheel-drive V-8 model, with a base price of $64,725.
The Gran Turismo is a luxury car, family hauler, sporty performer and functional ute. And it's an affordable way to get 7-Series technology.