2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo review: In search of an explanation

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo

The 2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo isn’t easy to explain. The BMW 5-Series part isn’t hard. Except that it’s not the same thing as the exiting 5-Series, or the new 5-Series sedan either.

And it’s not really a GT, at least not in the tradition of a two-door 2+2 coupe used for, well, touring grand. One might with some legitimacy call it six-door–more about which later.

And it’s not a replacement of the BMW 5-Series Touring, “touring” BMW coy way of saying “station wagon,” although it will replace the Touring in the lineup.

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo front seats

The helm of the 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo doesn’t look different from other 5-Series BMWs. (click to enlarge)

No , the 2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo is a, um, passenger vehicle that seats five, with a wheelbase long enough for rear seat leg room equal to that of BMW’s luxury 7-Series sedan.  Not only is its ride height more than that of a standard automobile, it has headroom greater than that of a BMW X5. The ride height increase isn’t so much, on the other hand, as to give the Gran Turismo height-induced stability anxiety—the BMW X6 comes to mind—or require a high hurdler’s flexibility to enter.

All of those things, however, are just a reshuffling of the basic dimensions of the standard automobile. The 2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo is different in its cargo hauling capabilities, but not so much the volume but how to get at it. The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo has a double-hinged hatch that can either open like a more-or-less conventional trunk lid, hinged just below the rear window. Or the entire rear of the vehicle can open up like a traditional hatch, including the trunk lid and rear window, and it’s hinged a few inches above the rear window.  There are separate releases for trunk lid and hatch.

By our count, that makes six doors.

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo trunk open

The “trunklid” of the 2010 BMW 5501 Gran Turismo opens like an oven door, with a vertical opening. (click to enlarge)

The trunk lid opens down to the bumper making an opening as large as the trunk itself, unlike some mailbox trunks that have a lot of volume but an opening only wide enough for sending letters to Mom. The Gran Turismo’s opening is almost vertical, however. Think door on your kitchen oven, though the BMW’s door opens upward rather than dropping down.  At least it swings high enough so it’s not in the way.

Then there’s the hatch, which can also be opened for easier access to the trunk though it’s real function is accessing the BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo’s maximum cargo. Raise the hatch, remove the cargo cover (BMW calls it a “movable partition”) that clips in behind the back seat, then flip the rear seatback forward. The result is 63 cubic feet load space. However, the rear seatback doesn’t fold completely flat, making it more difficult to slide large items all the way forward. That’s a complaint we have with many SUVs, crossovers and wagons.

While we’re complaining, the shape of the cargo area is limited by the rear hatch contour. Unlike a nicely squared-off wagon, the BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo excels at toting large triangles (or prisms, if you remember solid geometry). It’s just the nature of the beast.

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo back seat folded

The back seat of the 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo folds but doesn’t make a completely flat load floor. (click to enlarge)

The 5-Series Gran Turismo has loops for tie downs to secure cargo, but not enough of them and they’re rather small. No doubt any tie down straps we chose to would have hooks too large to fit. BMW has added elastic straps to the sides of the cargo area. We’re not sure whether they were designed for any particular function but no doubt owners will find a use.

In addition to seatbacks that fold forward for max cargo (with a 40-20-40 split), the entire rear seat cushion slides fore and aft up to 3.9 inches and individual seatback sections can be adjusted over a range of 15 to 33 degrees.

Even more seatback adjustability comes with the Luxury Rear Seating Package which includes individual multi-adjustable power seats with a central armrest with cupholders and storage compartment. The Lux package’s rear seatback angle can be adjusted between 15 and 45 degrees. The package limits passenger capacity to four but BMW says “some customers will prefer (it) for its aesthetics, intimacy and greater luxury.” Funny, we never thought of a center armrest providing more back seat intimacy, but maybe Germans…?