BF Review: 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo

The 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo presents itself as an SUV that is not an SUV, a sport wagon that is not a sport wagon, a sedan that is not a sedan and lastly a coupe that is not a coupe. If it is none of those things, then what is it? That is the question a lot of people ask and there is no clear answer; it is a little bit of all of them and nothing like anything that has come before.

A different kind of car deserves a different type of review. That is exactly what we have done here at BimmerFile. For our first take on the new 2010 BMW 5 Series GT we decided to complete a review from different perspectives: from the driver, the passenger to casual onlookers and even the enthusiast. We are letting it loose tonight, the eve of the US on sale date! Read on and you’ll see what we have been working on along with the full photo set. As always we would love to hear your comments on this latest of controversial vehicles from BMW.

Driver ‘s Perspective

We have been and always will be about the drive here at BF, some of us love tech but in the end we love BMWs for the way they are engaging to drive. As you sit behind the wheel of the 5 GT you immediately feel the similarities with the 750i, as they share much of the same suspension underpinnings, wheelbase and interior electronics (gauge cluster, LCD screens, technology options). When equipped with Dynamic Driving Control the driver can select a desired suspension setting based on mood or even just road conditions, Sport for the twisties or Comfort on a rough patch of interstate. With the launch motor in the US being the powerful twin turbo V8 (400 hp/450 lb-ft) the 5 GT effortlessly reaches your cruising speed, an all new turbo inline-six will come spring time (xDrive to launch next fall alongside the 5 Series). Steering is surprisingly engaging and the turning radius is like that of a shorter car-thanks in part to the optional Integral Active Steering our cars were equipped with.

The shifts are smooth and the 8-speed transmission never hunts or pecks between gears. It is seemingly always in the right gear at the right time when in Auto mode. The transmission offers a Sport mode and the ability for the driver to manually select gears, both of which are equally compliant and benefit from the ability of the transmission to downshift by multiple gears (go from 6 to 4 and it will take you right there).

Everything about the car is great from a day-to-day driving standpoint. It soaks up highway miles, it is easy to park(thanks to standard sensors), features eco-friendly brake energy regeneration and has good visibility due to the higher seating position and large amounts of glass. It is a pleasure to drive and for the most part it likes to be driven.

The one thing the drive can be knocked for is that the rear end begins to feel choppy/imprecise when pushed hardinto curves with rough pavement (in Sport). This is more than likely due to the air suspension being firmed up to create less roll and better handling while also battling the 4400 lbs. this vehicle weighs in at. As an aside- the GT is heavy but under every other circumstance it never feels it and braking is what we all expect from a BMW, a hard pedal and no issues.

Passenger ‘s Perspective

The interior of this vehicle builds upon the latest 7 series as far as design, fit and finish are concerned. As a passenger you immediately realize that as you open the frameless doors. The cabin has a modern luxury to it, from the ambient accent lighting to the variety of high quality wood trim (The matte choice is a personal favorite). The “B” pillars feature the same trim lines and materials as the dash, wrapping you in luxury. Everything you touch has a feel of quality with suppleness and a weight one would expect in a luxury vehicle.

The base level front and rear seats are comfortable. BMW has made the step to leather seating surfaces with the base “Dakota” leather in this vehicle. The sides of the seat bottom, the door panels and other non-contact during seating locations feature high-grade leatherette. If you had not read that last bit of information here you would not even know it, the transition and materials look great. Full “Napa” leather is an option and it adds a more supple and smoother grain to all seating and door surfaces.

Back seat passengers are provided adjustable seating even in the base model. Seats are adjustable fore and aft as well as for seat back recline angle. The rear center seat should only be used for a child but can accommodate an adult in emergency situations (that is not something one would enjoy from a comfort standpoint). There is an optional rear luxury-seating package that adds electronic controls and a multitude of other features to the rear seats. This package creates the feel of flying in the first class section (deletes the middle seat and adds a luxurious center rest/console) for rear seat passengers and may even out duel its sibling, the 750i, in this area. Overhead is the enormous panoramic glass roof that combined with the large side windows creates an extremely open and bright feel to the cabin.

Optional rear seat entertainment adds screens to the backs of the front seats and wireless headphones; all that is missing is a microwave to make popcorn.

Onlooker ‘s Perspective

Never when reviewing a car or driving a vehicle (maybe excluding my modded ’73 Beetle) were so many questions asked about it by people in passing. From gas stations to grocery stores people stopped to look at the 5 GT. Initially it was surprising but it made sense because the general public usually is not aware of future product offerings, especially from BMW so to them this vehicle was something out of the ordinary.

The vast majority of casual onlookers found the car to be attractive from the outside and blown away by the inside. The trunk/hatch concept was appealing to everyone- with most saying “Why hasn’t someone created that before?” About 25% of people found the back end to be too busy but also said that it did not take away from the rest of the car; even though they did not like the back it would not prevent them from buying it.

In travels with the 5 GT its path crossed with that of a small group of BMW aficionados. It was pleasantly surprising to hear that the vast majority of these enthusiasts (already familiar with the 5 GT from photos) stated that the car looked good in person and that photos just do not do it justice. While not all of them liked the look of it from the outside they all loved the inside. One person even commented that while it is a big vehicle it is not an SUV and the more SUVs that we can get off the road the better- making this GT is a step in the right direction.

Conclusions

For what it is, the 5 Series Gran Turismo is a great vehicle. It serves a niche market well and is a true BMW at heart. The interior space, flexibility for cargo and overall execution are well thought out and truly are assets to the car as a whole. The looks are controversial (in the current design climate at BMW this is actually a good thing) and to some it is downright grotesque. Is this a design for everyone? Well, no and it shouldn ‘t be. The best way to summarize the 5 GT is to tell a short story about one of the target markets.

There is a family of 4, a mom, a dad (both in their 40’s), a 10-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. Dad enjoys his cars with a sporty ride, while mom needs room to transport the kids and real-estate clients from here to there. Both adults desire luxury, safety and quality in their cars. Dad works long hours at the office so most of the time his car is used for solo driving, he drives a 335i Coupe and enjoys it immensely. His big complaint is that he has to rent a truck every time he needs something from Home Depot that does not fit in his E92 or his wife’s E90.

Mom refuses to be seen in a mini-van as they are something she never pictured herself to drive (it is just not her). She dislikes SUVs because she feels they are excessive and just one more part of the “bigger is better” American take on things. She does admit that she had an X3 loaner once while her car was in for routine maintenance and enjoyed the higher line of sight it offered. She rather not drive a sport wagon for the boxy look and stigma they have, so she has been carting the kids around in a 328xi sedan. She longs for something bigger now that the kids are approaching their teenage years but there is nothing to meet her needs- well that is until now and the BMW 5 GT.

Dad would still enjoy the ride (when he gets to drive it) and have plenty of room to fit most things from HD in the back. Mom would have her specific criteria met with plenty of room for the kids and ample luxury for her clientele. This is a match made in Germany; Dingolfing to be exact.

Editor’s note: The rear trunk/hatch is nice when you have people in the car and you need to run to grab something. Just pop the trunk rather than the full gate and your passengers remain unaffected- did this a few times!

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  • Arvie

    The 550i GT and the X6, while both very cool, seem somewhat redundant. Wouldn’t the first paragraph of this review also apply to the X6?

  • Eliot R.

    Lack of all-wheel drive doesn’t make much sense to me. Otherwise, interesting car.

  • JonPD

    One of the best looking BMW interiors for sure, still badly sickened by the back half of this beast. I am also an huge opponent of 4k lbs “cars”. That kind of mass is anything other than a car in my book, its a boat. Swaddling its passengers that larger and heavier is safer. Sadly I am sure I will get the opportunity to scrape a family out of a mid-sized car that one of these monsters. GM lived with this mentality and it pains me more than I can say to see BMW in love with more sheet metal and increased weight all hidden behind technology befitting the worse offenders of the Japanese market.

    As a move forward on the interior I give it two thumbs up but just can’t see much exterior design that excites me. I still do look forward to seeing one in person to see if its truly less objectionable in person.

  • James R. Boulware, III

    At a visit to my BMW dealer today, I saw a new GT550 dressed in black on the lot. Interesting car. The styling is quite unique and it does take a bit to get used to the new look. The interior is beautiful, the lines sleek, but at 4400 lbs, it isn’t what I’d want to drive as a BMW.

  • CraigE

    I was checking out the “Build your own” for the 550i GT on BMWUSA.com and some of the options seem straight from the 7. For example the ceramic controls are also available on the GT. I am curious about what that $650 actually gets you though.

  • CraigE: Ceramic controls gets you high end (like some swiss watches) scratch proof darker metallic like ceramic (actual material) shifter, iDrive controller, and knobs. It is a classy package and currently is the only variation for the iDrive controller. Personally I like it but the price of admission is not cheap.

    Ceramic Controls

  • CraigE

    Michael: Thanks for the information. The BMW website seems to be very short on detail for some of these options. Would it really kill them to provide a good picture of the option (as in your post) and a detailed description? Based on your description it sounds like an option that I would purchase. Based on what I see on BMWUSA.com I would not.

  • CraigE: No problem! That’s what we are here for! And yes, you are correct that the 5 GT uses (or is offered) with the same options/technology as the 7. Theses new technologies are shared between the two and the new 5 as well.

    Here is a more detailed description: New BMW 7 Series uses ceramic injection moulded controls and switches.

    The BMW Group in Munich, Germany, has announced that among the many new features in the 2009 model of its luxury 7 Series saloon, will be ceramic injection moulded (CIM) controls and switches used in the interior of the car.

    BMW claims to be the first car maker in the world to use high-tech ceramics as a particularly sophisticated material for selected interior control units. Replacing the galvanised metal otherwise used on such components, the special ceramics material produced by a German ceramic injection moulding company is available as an option on the iDrive Controller, the electronic gear selection lever, as well as the rotary knob on the automatic air conditioning and audio system. This type of high-tech CIM material has so far only been used on exclusive mobile phones or other high-value appliances.

    It is said to be not only particularly strong and scratch resistant, but also conspicuously cool and, at the same time, pleasant to feel and touch.

  • Mark

    Michael: This question relates to both 5 & 7 series. Interior photos show the iDrive Controller to the right of the gear selection lever, with various buttons(sport mode etc) to the left. It looks like the gear selection lever gets in the way of the iDrive controller, which I can’t believe is true. How does this work in practice?

  • Mark: Since the latest X5 all new models have had the iDrive contoller to the right of the gear selector; so this is nothing all that new. It is actually a better placement for the majority of people and is in no way impacted by the gear lever. It is well within reach and your hand falls there naturally. I prefer it over the placement in my ///M3- which actually makes me pull my arm back a bit.

    WIth the 7 series BMW ushered in a new layout for the dash/wheel as far as location of items goes.

    All controls that are driver oriented (cruise control, night vision, lane departure warning, etc.) are on the left side of the wheel on the dash, the right is dedicated for passenger oriented (radio volume, creature comforts) functions. The one exception is the Dynamic Driving Control which makes its home to the left of the gear selector (one could argue that this button also impacts passengers so its placement is not all that wrong and since it causes changes to the shift pattern/suspension being near the gear selector makes more sense than on the left side of the dash).

    -M

  • Joe

    Nice review. Thanks

  • BMW is famous for making quality & this car is looks rocking. This car looks different because high back portion & big back light it looks like a sports car. This is the best BMW.

  • Carzzi

    “Daddy, is that the new Prius?” “No, kid, that’s the Devil… the AntiPrius.”