The latest addition to our long-term fleet is possibly the most unique car we’ve ever had. Is it a car? Is it an SUV?
Well, probably more the former than the latter. I like to call it a crossover crossover. BMW calls it the 550i Gran Turismo. Even more than half a year after the car’s introduction to North America the GT still turns heads, even on the car-jaded Southern California freeways. Some people just think it’s funny looking. More people just want to know what the heck it is exactly. One gent driving a Mercedes S-Class was so intrigued I thought he was going to ask me to trade cars for the afternoon.
At its North American launch, the GT seemed something of a leap of faith for BMW, and it sort of left us all scratching our heads. After all, it’s well documented that Americans just don’t like to buy wagons, hatchbacks, basically anything that sits like a car but incorporates a lift-gate or fifth door in the rear. Why this is should be left to open debate, but it seems to be a widely nationalistic thing, a mindset unique to the United States. But then again, Europeans have always been more progressive, and Americans have never really been defined by our frugality or overall sensibility when you look at things on a worldwide scale. Frugality usually takes a back seat to emotion on this here side of the Atlantic.
Whatever the case, I’d argue that the 5 Series Gran Turismo is not really a wagon or a hatchback, at least in the traditional sense. In essence, it’s the latest 5 Series sedan platform wearing the upper rear three-quarters of an X6, the company’s sporting sport-ute. Their respective profiles are eerily similar.
This combination of attributes gives the Gran Turismo a couple of advantages. First off, its 5 Series underpinnings make it drive like a car rather than a traditional high-riding SUV. And second, the big back end gives it the utility of said SUV. Win and win.
In fact, BMW claims the GT offers more interior headroom than even the X5, and we can attest to that fact. The cabin is absolutely cavernous. Not only does it offer a surfeit of vertical space, but, like the late Eazy-E said, front and back, and side to side.
The back seat in particular is a really nice place to spend an afternoon. There’s an available Luxury Rear Seating Package that imbues the rear passenger area with individual bucket seats divided by a solid center console, as well as four-zone climate control, so that back-seat passengers are allowed to ride in the same snug and cosseting style as those up front. Ours doesn’t have that option; instead, it’s got the traditional 5 Series bench-style seat that can accommodate up to three people. It’s still a pretty nice place to be, especially considering this car does have the rear-seat entertainment bundle, which embeds 8-inch LCD screens in the front-seat backrests. The tilt-adjustable screens can be operated independently of one another, each has its own set of headphones, and all video and audio sources can be operated from the rear using a remote control unit. It seems to be an ideal setup for anyone with kids or unruly inlaws.