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There is no wagon version of the current BMW 5-Series, but instead there's the 2012 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo. For the most part, it's a great substitute, better covering the interior space and comfort that most Americans want, with its own distinct style--and offering many of the same standout, leading edge tech features. The only tradeoff, really, is that the Gran Turismo isn't quite as fleet-footed, and it lacks the poise of the 5-Series sedans in the corners.
Although the 2012 5-Series Gran Turismo isn't offered in the base four-cylinder (and 528i) model that's new to the 5-Series lineup this year, it gets the same powertrains as the sedans, including a 535i, with a 300-horsepower, turbocharged in-line six, and a 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the 550i.
The striking 5-Series Gran Turismo blends some station-wagon and SUV cues into a shape that's not quite sedan or crossover. The proportions lean toward those of the BMW X6 sport-ute, with a thick, tall tail; the GT sits lower to the ground, though and its frameless doors emphasize the long descent of the roofline. Inside, the 5-Series Gran Turismo's dash and door panels, as in the current 5-Series sedans, are a significant leap ahead in style and design. Simple metallic trim separates controls into logical groups, and lavish wood and leather keep the feel warm and inviting.
The 535i GT has plenty of power and responsiveness for most needs. Just as in most of BMW's other current U.S. products, the turbo six delivers a strong, continuous wave of torque, and lets the Gran Turismo sprint to 60 mph in seven seconds. A multilink front and rear suspension keeps body motion under control, but it's hard to ignore the fact that the 5-Series GT has a higher center of mass than the sedan. A Driving Dynamics Control--familiar from the M3 and 7-Series--lets drivers choose settings for throttle, transmission, steering, and traction control response. They help keep the ride comfortable, but overall the GT is missing the sixth sense that used to link BMW drivers to the road, that seat-of-the-pants feel that electronic controls wipe away completely. Steering feel leaves something to be desired as well.
The GT's key feature is versatility, in the form of a flexible rear hatch that opens like a trunk or like a hatchback, a second row of seats that rivals some airline's first-class accommodations, and customizable cargo space. Its slightly elevated seating position in front matches well with comfortable, snug-fitting chairs. The console is narrow enough for driver and front passenger to expand their footprint, and the shoulder and headroom are superb. The luxurious back seat feels positively limo-like, with more real-world space than the 7-Series. The backseats also fold down for 58 total cubic feet of stow space, and the tailgate opens as a conventional trunklid or as a large hatch.
Overall, the options list is a little more limited on the GT, compared to the 5er Sedan, but a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and luxury rear-seat package (with massage, heating, and ventilation) are among the standouts. Other extras include premium audio, a power tailgate, and a cold-weather package, and all GTs include the latest, much-improved version of iDrive.
For more about the 2012 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo--especially its features and powertrains--see our full review of the 2012 BMW 5-Series sedan lineup.