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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
turbo six is "a killer engine
decisive, well-timed gearchanges
Active Steering will "confound any effort to storm through a corner
too much mass to excel in a slalom
As usual, the powertrains are the real star in this BMW.
The 2010 5-Series Gran Turismo lineup in the United States will include the 550i, equipped with BMW's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, with 400 horsepower, teamed to the new eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW promises 0-60 mph times of 5.4 seconds and a limited top speed of 130 mph in that edition. Car and Driver says this engine is "capable of moving the mail," though Edmunds remarks "a 4.4-liter V8 in a family car seems like overkill."
Though the 550i GT will be the first to go on sale in late 2009, a 535i GT with new 3.0-liter, single-turbo, direct-injection inline-six arrives in the spring of 2010. It's a "a killer engine; not quite as silky smooth as old-school BMW straight sixes, but packing plenty of punch right off idle," Motor Trend reports. It's also a further development of the engine found in the X6 and differs from the twin-turbo six in the 3-Series in other ways. BMW says it's the first engine it's built that offers turbocharging, direct injection, and variable valve timing and lift-all of which improve power characteristics and fuel economy. Automobile says it has "strong, linear power across the band and really nice initial acceleration from a stop." So outfitted, the 535i GT will run "from 0 to 62 mph in a claimed 6.3 seconds and on to a governed 155-mph top speed," Motor Trend notes.
The engine mates seamlessly with the new eight-speed automatic spreading across the BMW lineup. It "nimbly surfs the torque, ensuring a smooth, seamless surge of acceleration," Motor Trend remarks, "and keeps revs down to a fuel-sipping 1600 rpm while cruising at 60 mph." MSN Autos contends it "delivers smooth shifts but is sometimes hesitant to downshift for passing," but Autoblog observes "decisive, well-timed gearchanges" and confirms "no manual gearbox is offered."
BMW says the new transmission "offers a 3 to 4 percent fuel-economy savings over a 6-speed," MSN Autos states. Fuel economy figures for the 550i model are "EPA rated at 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway," they add, but 535i GT numbers have not yet been released.
The rear-drive Gran Turismo will add an all-wheel-drive option in mid-2010.
"There's a lot of 7 Series in the 5 Series Gran Turismo," Motor Trend reports. "It uses the same double pivot multi-link front suspension, and lightweight aluminum suspension components." It also shares much of the 7-Series' grafted-on electronic controls for driving systems. There's Active Steering, which "electronically varies the steering ratio and turns the rear wheels up to a maximum of three degrees," Motor Trend explains. It's an option-one all reviewers said they'd skip. "I definitely preferred the regular setup, which was precise, required just the right amount of effort, and made the GT easy to place in a corner," Automobile says. "The Active Steering car, on the other hand, seems to confound any effort to storm through a corner with grace and composure." Car and Driver dislikes it, and Motor Trend "preferred the car with the regular steering, which felt more communicative, more organic than the car with the oddly non-linear active steering."
Electronic shocks, dubbed Dynamic Damping Control, are featured on the GT as well. The system "adjusts the firmness of the shocks from comfortable to sporty," MSN Autos reports. Also installed is Active Roll Stabilization, which "twists the anti-roll bars to firm them up and make cornering flatter," MSN Autos adds.
Finally, there's Driving Dynamics Control-familiar from the M3 and 7-Series-which lets drivers choose settings for throttle, transmission, steering, and traction control response. Comfort mode softens the ride considerably without bounding too much (though Car and Driver thinks it "tends to foster bobbing and swinging motions"), but steering response slows too far down. Normal mode is best unless you're attacking seriously challenging roads-"we'd recommend the middle setting even for daily driving duties," Autoblog says, "as it isn't too firm"-while Sport mode quickens steering and stiffens the ride to controllable levels. "We found Dynamic Drive Control to be a key asset for driving," Edmunds reports. "Leave it all in Sport Plus and you get to 60 mph from a standstill in just 6.3 seconds, and it feels enough like a BMW while doing it."
Handling may not be up to BMW's edgy reputation, but ride quality is good, thanks mostly to the GT's heritage. Kelley Blue Book declares "the vehicle cruises as stably and comfortably as a grand tourer should." While Car and Driver thinks the "driving experience is closer to that of the taller X5 than the regular 5-series," Automobile says nearly the opposite: "in the way it goes down the road, it's very close to a 5-series." Compared with a crossover SUV, the 5 GT feels much more planted. It's slightly smaller, which could explain why Motor Trend thinks the GT feels "more coherent and composed than the new 7 Series on marginal roads."
For some reviewers, the muddled handling comes down to weight. The 5-Series GT "feels very much like a 7-Series, with sharp steering, quick reactions and a supple ride," MSN Autos reports, "but it has too much mass to excel in a slalom or bite into sharp turns." While Automobile expresses surprise at "how light the 535i feels," and Motor Trend calls it "remarkably light on its feet, and remarkably agile through the twisties," most reviews agree with MSN Autos that "at 4,600 to 4,900 pounds, the 5 GT is just too big to be truly sporty." Edmunds asks, "Does it drive like an Ultimate Driving Machine? We cannot wholeheartedly say yes"-and yet, most reviews agree with Motor Trend that "the more we drove the 5GT, the more we liked it. The car shrinks around you on a winding road, yet it has a limo-like feel everywhere else."
The 2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo has brilliant powertrains, but its heft and micromanaging electronics dull the typical BMW handling edge.