BMW 550i Executive Gran Turismo

Everything about BMW’s new 5 Series GT is huge, but wheelworldreviews editor DAVID HOOPER loves some of the gadgets on this test car. 

550gt

The beast is a beauty… it may be huge but the big Beemer still looks elegant.

THIS is BMW’s new 5 Series Gran Turismo, or GT to its friends, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of it!
It’s a monster of a car. Everything about it is huge, yet it only comes with four seats, so why would anyone choose to buy it instead of a normal 5 Series, an X5 or even a 7 Series?
It’s not a pretty car either, yet, somehow, it does look quite elegant. It’s certainly imposing and thanks to its sheer size, has a huge road presence, so other motorists can’t fail to notice it – and you, yet the car I tested was packed with so many expensive “toys”, I couldn’t help but like it.
BMW says the car combines an understated coupé-like silhouette with the luxurious interior of a BMW 7 Series, while at the same time offering the practicality of a 5-Series Touring or X5.
From the front of the car, you have to walk several feet past its immense bonnet to reach the first door handle. Open the door, and the frameless windows catch your eyes, before they are drawn to some of the largest car seats you will find.

boot

Open wide… no wider. The clever luggage access arrangement.

Resist the urge to sink into the plush interior for a moment, and have a closer look at the back of the car. It’s boot features a clever double opening design, just like the one on the Skoda Superb. Press the central catch and the boot lid opens in a conventional way, but  slide your hand to the right and another catch will release the large tailgate which lifts up to reveal a boot large enough to swallow several suitcases. Should more room be needed, both the rear seats can be folded down, and moved forwards electrically at the press of a few buttons. It’s all very swish indeed.
The best fun though, is to be found in the front of the car. The model BMW sent me to test was the top of the range 550i model with a £54,000 price tag – and it was fitted with over £7,000-worth of extras. You sit high in the car and the white leather seats were almost as comfortable as my own settee, and my settee is the comfiest I have ever sat in. They are huge, softly padded and can be electrically fine-tuned to suit a driver of any proportions.

interior

Are you seated comfortably? You bet!

Once comfortably seated, the rest of the entertainment can begin. BMW has improved its iDrive system which drew a lot of criticism in the past for being over-complicated and difficult to use. I found this latest system, which controls most of the car’s functions, much more intuitive to navigate and I loved the way the car’s handbook is stored electronically within the software. Displayed on the widest screen I’ve seen on any car, hi-definition graphics guide you around the car’s main functions. Buy this BMW and you’ll never need to be bored. Hours of fun can be had scrolling through all the various menus and customising the car to your exact requirements.

cameras

Don’t let the long bonnet worry you… the car has side view cameras fitted!

But my favourite gadget were the side-facing cameras. Remember, this a huge car with very long bonnet, so if you are trying to join a main road from a side street, you may have trouble seeing around the corners. Not a problem, press a button on the centre console to activate two cameras, mounted on the leading edge of the front wheelarches. The display on the screen divides into two and shows a “live” view of what’s around the corner. It’s brilliant to see, and will amaze your friends! Another camera at the back of the car helps you park properly, working in conjunction with the parking sensors.
Although you can only carry two passengers in the back of the car, for once they are treated to the same levels of luxury the front occupants  enjoy. Both rear seats are fully electrically adjustable, and once the perfect position has been found, there are memory settings to store them, while each passenger also has their own air conditioning controls.
A head-up display projects the car’s speed, cruise control setting and various warnings onto the windscreen in front of the driver, which means the driver doesn’t have to look away from the road ahead to see what the car’s up to.
BMWs, though, are made for driving. Press the Start button on the dash, and the 4.4-litre V8 engines purrs into life. It is so quiet and smooth I found myself revving it slightly at the traffic lights to make sure it was still running. It is also very powerful, with over 400bhp and eight gears on tap, it will hit 62mph in just 5.5 seconds, and showed no signs of slowing down beyond that. It is thirsty though, and you can almost watch the fuel gauge going down as you drive. It only managed around 13mpg in town, but on a run along the M180 I reset the trip computer and did manage to get it up to 23mpg for a brief spell. One of the other engines would no doubt be easier on the pocket.

The 55GTi is a grand tourer in every sense of the phrase.

The Grand Tourer is designed for long, high-speed trips where it is completely at home. While it doesn’t exactly handle like a hot-hatch on the backroads, it is competent, but you are always aware of its sheer width and bulk on smaller roads, and when trying to park in tight spots. In town, the firm suspension set-up and run-flat tyres don’t provide the car with the limousine-like ride its plush interior would lead you to expect.
The 5GT is a huge car in every sense. While it won’t be to everyone’s taste, or pocket, wealthy boardroom types will appreciate its long distance mile-eating abilities that will deliver you to your destination as fresh as you were when you set off.

Rating: ★★★★½☆

THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL:
BMW 550i Executive Gran Turismo.

BMW GT RANGE: 535i SE (£42,060) to 550i Executive (£54,665).

ENGINE: 4,395cc, 407bhp V8 engine, driving rear wheels through eight-speed auto gearbox.

CO2 EMISSIONS: 263g/km.

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155mph. 0-62mph in 5.5 secs.

ECONOMY: City: 17.4mpg.
                 Country: 34mpg.
                 Combined: 25.2mpg.
                 Fuel tank: 70 litres.

INSURANCE: Group 18.

WARRANTY:  years unlimited miles.

PRICE: £54,665.

WEBSITE: www.bmw.co.uk

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