BMW 550i Gran Turismo

By Jonathan Spira on 17 November 2009
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When is a BMW 5 Series not a BMW 5 Series?  Answer: when it’s a BMW 550i Gran Turismo.DSC_2923

The 2010 BMW 550i GT is built on the same platform as the new F01 7 Series, introduced last year, and might best be viewed as a kind of 7 Series wagon, despite its 5 Series moniker (clearly Munich agonized about what to call this car) and four-door coupé-like appearance.  It’s definitely a niche vehicle with the combination of 7 Series legroom, X5 headroom, and a twin-turbocharged V-8 engine.  The GT sits lower to the ground than the X5 or X6 but it’s a bit higher than the 7er.

Inside, everything is just as you would expect in a BMW, which means that the dials and buttons are where one would expect them to be and the seats are super comfortable and supportive (an adjustable rear bench seat is standard; the car can also be had with two separate adjustable bucket seats separated by a console).  A panoramic sunroof and leather seats are among the many standard features.  The dash is very similar to the 7 Series, including the extra-large iDrive display that puts every other car’s to shame.

When equipped with Adaptive Drive (which includes active roll stabilization and dynamic damping control), Active Steering with rear steering, and the sport package, one could be forgiven if, from the driver’s seat, one mistook it for a 7er, albeit one that costs ca. $16,000 less.DSC_2958

With rearview, sideview, and 270° topview cameras, Lane Departure Warning, and multiple Active Blind Spot Detection indicators (including a blinking display and vibrating steering wheel), the 5er GT offers buyers all of the safety goodies that are also available in the 7er.  Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard as are anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and BMW Assist (with automatic collision notification).

I found the 400-hp twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, to be smooth and powerful (it can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds) as I spent a day driving the GT in the Hudson River Valley although the additional 130 kg in weight (compared to the 7 Series) is a bit noticeable.

The Swiss Army knife versatility is evident in the luggage compartment, which comes with a small trunk lid and a large tailgate.  The trunk lid opens to reveal a fully-enclosed trunk that holds 20 cubic feet of cargo; opening the large tailgate accesses a storage space that extends to the fold-down rear seats, providing a generous 58 cubic feet of storage space with the seats down.

Expect the 5er GT to be far more popular in Europe, where many families typically have one car that has to serve multiple purposes, versus the U.S., where multiple car ownership is common and the GT’s versatility may therefore not be as highly valued.

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo
Base price (est.) $65,000
Drivetrain Rear-wheel drive
Engine 4.4 liter twin-turbo V-8
Horsepower/Torque 400/450
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Curb weight (pounds) 4950
Weight distribution
Wheelbase 120.7
Length x width x height 196.8 x 74.8 x 61.4
0-60 mph (seconds) 5.4
EPA city/highway fuel economy (mpg) 15/21

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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