BMW crosses over :: The 2010 BMW 550i GT
The 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo is the latest chapter in the age of the luxury cross-over. With the practicality of a station wagon and panoramic ride height of a traditional SUV, the 5 GT has all the goodies you expect in a German luxury car: power, agile steering, a classy cabin, and enough room in the trunk for antiquing (of which we’ll discuss later).
The interior is loaded with polished metal and leather - no great surprise, given the 5 GT’s substantial base price of $64,725. The mere thought of a spilled latte or muddy paw prints on the backseat of this Bimmer has relationship-breaking potential. BMW has expended considerable energy streamlining the functions of its much-maligned (and in its first generation, exceedingly irritating) iDrive system.
Take note, because the criticism ends here with the fourth installment of iDrive. After only a few miles behind the wheel, I found it easy to toggle through commands for the navigation system, radio, and various other vehicle functions. If you screw up, don’t panic (or start cursing German engineering). A handy "Back" button returns you to the previous screen and gets you out of trouble.
There is seating for five adults and plenty of room to stretch out. The backseat is extremely spacious and shames the room offered in many large SUVs. The rear seat moves back and forth and the angle of the seat back can be adjusted. For $3,950 an optional luxury rear seat package replaces the middle seat with an attractive center console. But unless you truly need the back seat to have the comfort and amenities of a Lear jet, this seems an expensive way to reduce seating to only four.
In terms of safety, the optional night vision system seems a bargain at $2,600. Okay, it also happens to look extremely cool and will impress your friends. A premium sound system, ventilated seats, rear entertainment system and alloy wheels (stretching to 20-inches in diameter) are all available. One of the best bets is the Sport Package, which rings in at $4,200.
This allows the driver to choose between four drive settings: comfort, normal, sport, and sport+. I flicked through each while hustling the 5 GT along a mix of arrow-straight highways and winding country roads. Shift points, throttle response, steering feel and the firmness of the suspension all immediately adapted to my every driving whim.
To be honest, the comfort setting feels too soft and Lexus-like for a BMW. The company’s traditional weighty steering suddenly felt numb and lifeless. Normal mode offered a much better balance of comfort and agility, though I usually spent most of my time in sport and sport+ mode. This made the ride noticeably firmer, and provided the steering with extra verve and character.
The 4.4-liter, 400-horsepower twin-turbo V8 engine under the hood, coupled with a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox, definitely adds to the fun. This is one extremely potent powertrain - the 5 GT needs only 5.4 seconds to sprint from 0 to 60 m.p.h. This is quicker than many sport sedans but, unfortunately, the penalty is an appetite for fuel more in tune with sport-utilities. The 5 GT averages 15 m.p.g. in the city/21 m.p.g. on the highway, according to BMW.
No matter what options you throw at it, or what drive setting you choose, this Bimmer feels big. Thankfully, this size can work to your advantage - especially when the mood is right to hunt for antiques. A stop-over in fun and funky New Paltz, New York, turned up some fantastic treasures, along with a few pleasant surprises when it came time to loading them into the 5 GT.
The rear hatch can be opened in two parts. The bottom half opens like a conventional trunk-lid if all you need is to throw small items in the back. For bulkier items, the entire rear hatch and back window swings up and out of the way. It’s a clever feature, one of those things you never knew you needed until you had it - like my antique end table (a bargain at only $30 bucks!).
For car buyers with the means to afford it, the 550i GT offers a tempting blend of horsepower, tech-gadgets and real-world functionality. Some might be turned off by the exterior styling - I personally prefer the macho looks of the BMW X6 - but the trade-off is a more livable cabin with limo-like levels of space and luxury.