BMW, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo – Road Test

BMW are going into a whole new territory with the all-new 5 Series Gran Turismo. Instead of the familiar 4-door sedan, they are combining it with a genuine rear hatch to make it a 5-door luxury sedan. This may not seem too out of place in Europe, but in North America hatchbacks are never popular – something I just can’t fathom for the life of me.  That said, the Gran Turismo also offers a more traditional trunk/boot opening in addition to the full-size hatch – I don’t know how well it will go over, but I think BMW are on to something here – it works superbly.

First Impressions
When I pulled in to BMW to pick up the Gran Turismo, I glanced at it and didn’t even give it another thought. Parking my car beside it, I got out and went into the building to pick up the key. It wasn’t until the receptionist pointed to it that I realized it was actually there!!!

That’s embarrassing!  I’d booked the car a couple of months previously and had been giddy with excitement as each day got closer and I was going to drive it for a week… then I don’t even notice it when I park right beside it! I really have no idea how I missed it – especially since I think it’s without a doubt the best looking BMW- ever!

Getting in, I was quite surprised by how spacious the interior is. Of course, it helps to have a huge sunroof that takes up the entire roof area, but headroom is really very generous. The optional 16-way power seats make it very easy to get extremely comfortable (it’s actually detrimental to have seats this comfortable for any Ontario drivers… they are the worst, most laid-back drivers at the best of times).

Starting the car and setting off using BMW’s now-familiar gear lever is fine unless you have to make a quick 3-point turn… that takes a bit of doing while you wait for the computer to realize you’ve selected reverse – quickly now there are cars coming!!  Both my wife and I had problems getting the car to accept the selected gear with any sort of urgency. After a few days, we just got used to the delay, but never got used to how long it takes this car to respond to gear selections.

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo (05/2009)

The dreaded iDrive has been updated, and the new version is fantastic compared to previous iterations, even to the point that I actually liked using it and would now recommend it if it were an option and not a standard item. Menus come up and are actually logical and easy to select. I re-programmed my particular desires and settings for the car within seconds. That’s impressive, because I’m not a techy guy and my wife usually handles all the details.

In the eight forward gears, the car is an absolute peach to drive – it always seems to be in the right gear just when you need it. Shifts are smooth and seamless unless you kick down the go pedal – then you better be holding on to the wheel because this car will flatten your eyeballs as it races to illegal speeds instantly.

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo (05/2009)

Twenty kilometres into our trip home, a warning light came on. My wife went into the information menu in the iDrive and we were told that the car was running on minimal oil level. Yikes… the last thing I want to do is ruin the engine! Fortunately, there’s a BMW dealership on the way home… time to get the BMW full-service experience. We pull into the dealership service area and the door opens. Holy smokes – look at all the cars in here – we’ll be here forever!

I hand the key to the service advisor and he tells me that all the information about the car is on the fob! He can tell when it was last serviced and when it’s due for an oil change. It turns out the car was right – it was down by a litre of oil. No problem – it’s under BMW’s service and maintenance deal right? Uhmm no – apparently liquid top-ups are not included!

I tell him it’s not my car and explained our media situation – thankfully his superior customer service skills came through and in less than 10 minutes we were off on our journey home. A big thanks to Jag at Budd’s BMW in Oakville for the wonderful experience.

Back on the highway and it’s time to switch on the bum coolers – it’s getting hotter and hotter outside, so this is the perfect opportunity to test these babies out…. they work pretty good, but the Ford and Lexus coolers are better. Sorry.

On the highway, the Gran Turismo drives like the finest luxury car you can imagine. I can’t think why someone would need to step up the 7 Series. It comes pretty-much loaded up, but there are still some expensive options available like power and cooled rear seating, a centre console for rear passengers and a rear DVD video system to name but a few. Standard features are as long as my arm, so I’d advise you to check out the BMW web site for a full list.

The Gran Turismo’s suspension has what BMW calls Dynamic Driving Control, and comes with three settings (Normal, Sport and Sport +). Each subsequent push on the button stiffens the suspension and tightens up the steering input – it’s instantaneous too, so you feel it the second you push the button. Not only does the car feel tauter, but the accelerator response is even more precise and the transmission shifts are quicker as well.

We have an S-bend along the road from our home that gives cars a good work out. Most cars can get through the bends around 80-85 km/h. Sportier cars can get to around 100 km/h before grip and body lean make it uncomfortable for passengers. I took the Gran Turismo through there on just the Sport setting and we breezed through at 110 km/h and I know I could have gotten another 5 km/h more out of it. In the regular setting you get coddled for comfort, so there is a bit of body roll in normal driving, but pressing that button transforms this car into a completely different animal.

Rear seat accommodation is extremely generous to say the least.. no one would ever feel claustrophobic or cramped back there. Leg, knee and headroom are phenomenal, with the seats sliding fore and aft depending on whether passenger or cargo room is most important at any given time – the Gran Turismo is very adaptable. Rear passengers also get to adjust the rake of the seatback, and if the owner springs for different options the rear seats can not only be heated, but also cooled – additionally, each rear passenger has their own climate controls, which is standard. The test vehicle came with the optional Multi-media package that has a DVD player and adjustable TV monitors embedded in the front headrests along with cordless headphones.

Cargo capacity is very generous. You can fold the rear seats for added cargo room, while still maintaining a full trunk and a separate storage area. With the pull of a lever, the divider between the passenger area and trunk now become one to give you the full benefits of the hatchback design and the entire rear area of the car. Cubby holes are everywhere in the rear compartment floor as well, making this almost a sport-utility vehicle!

The audio system is very impressive, with 600-watts and 16 speakers (including 2 subwoofers); SatNav/AM/FM with RDS, 6-disc DVD/CD player with multi-channel playback (including mp3/wav/acc); 12 GB hard drive; iPod USB cord. iDrive with 10.2″ (258 mm) high-resolution LCD display.

The Conclusion
The Gran Turismo is definitely “The Ultimate Driving Machine” – it doesn’t get better than this. Luxury and sport driving in the same package. Passengers are treated to an abundance of luxury, while the driver can fine-tune his driving enjoyment at the touch of a button. With so many subtle details, I’m sure I still don’t know half the nuances of this car,  I’d need to have it for a lot longer than a week to truly get to know it.

Gorgeous, fast and adaptable … can’t get better than this!
Excellent fuel economy

Optioning it up can send the price into the stratosphere
I can’t afford one

Immediate Competition:
At the moment there is no competition…

By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.

For more information visit:

Powertrain:                 4.4 L TwinPower Turbo V8; 8-speed automatic transmission;  Dynamic Driving Control; RWD
Horsepower (Kw):       400 (298) @ 5,500 – 6,400 rpm
Torque lb-ft (N.m.):     450 (609) @ 1,750 – 4,500 rpm
0-100 kph:                   5.7 seconds
Top Speed:                  240 km/h (Electronically limited)
Curb Weight:               2,240 kg  (3,342 lbs)
Cargo Capacity:           Seats up: 440 Litres (15.5cu.ft) Seats Folded: 1,700 Litres (60 cu.ft)

Fuel Consumption: (Premium Unleaded)
City: 14.4 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 9.1L/100 kms   // Combined: 12.0 L/100 kms

I averaged 10.9 L/100 kms during mixed driving and 12.0 L/100 kms during mostly highway driving. The on-board computer said I averaged between 8 and 12 L/100 kms.

Pricing for the 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo
Base Price: $79,600
As Tested: $91,100
Options: Multimedia Package ($3,500); Executive Package ($4,000); Rear Comfort Seats ($4,000)
Destination & Delivery: $unknown

Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland / BMW

Also Published at:  &