Having now driven both this car and the other new 5 Series offerings, we were a little surprised the GT didn’t quite show all of the sedan’s sporting characteristics. In fact, it really seems to drive like something between the 5 Series sedans and an X6. Which is really where it falls in the model lineup anyway. On tight sections of road it feels a bit top heavy with a tendency to lean when under load in the corners. This is most noticeable when the Drive Select is set to Normal or Comfort. Bumping it up to Sport or Sport+ makes a huge difference in the car’s overall composure on a winding road. But even so, the GT doesn’t quite drive like its sedan counterparts, mostly due to its expanded roofline, and more importantly, the extra 500 pounds it wears versus the 550i sedan.

Then again, that expanded roofline is what helps give the car its mentioned utility. It’s a compromise, sure, but a completely subjective matter on whether that’s good or bad. If your thing is pure driving dynamics, you’d likely still go for the 5 Series sedan. If you want to expand on the car’s overall utility but still retain a large portion of the 5 Series’ driving manners, you go for the GT.

All things considered, the 550i GT could be the ultimate road tripper, and we’ve had it on a couple of extended road trips, you can be sure. It might not necessarily be the BMW you want to take up that winding mountain road on a regular basis, but it does allow you to chew highway miles in complete and unmitigated comfort.

One other thing: The 550i is a thirsty beast. But that’ll be a fact of life whether you go for the sedan or the GT, with the 400-hp twin- turbo V8 sucking down as much fuel as you’ve got dollars to pump. I’m not sure if that’s a complaint exactly, because at speed this thing just flies, and with all that power you’d expect some kind of impact on fuel economy. Not that the economy is bad considering what the engine is and the output it generates; BMW estimates it will return 12 to 18 mpg in the city and up to 25 mpg on the highway when treated with a light foot.

What we’d really like to see, especially in a vehicle as substantial as the Gran Turismo, is one of the two diesel variants available in Europe (530d and 535d) make it over to this side of the ocean. A pipe dream at this point for sure. But there’s little doubt a torque-rich, more efficient clean-diesel option would offer a huge benefit to a car like this.

Maybe next year? (We won’t hold our collective breath.)

2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo

MSRP: $63,900

Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

Engine
4.4-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, twin-turbocharged

Transmission
Eight-speed automatic

Options
Convenience Package (Comfort Access, power tailgate, soft-close automatic doors), $1,900; Premium Sound Package (premium hi-fi audio, iPod and USB adapter), $1,400; Sport Package (20-inch wheels and performance tires, leather sport steering wheel, Multi-Contour seats, Shadowline exterior trim), $5,200; Integral Active Steering, $1,750; ceramic controls, $650; heated front seats, $500; rear-seat entertainment, $2,200; Head-up display, $1,300; gas-guzzler tax, $1,000; destination charge, $875

Performance

Peak Power: 400 hp @ 5500 rpm

Peak Torque: 442 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm

0-62 mph: 5.4 sec.

Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)

Fuel Economy: 15/21 (city/hwy)

Price as delivered: $80,675

At a glance

Plus +
Lots of room, extreme comfort, tons of power

Minus -
Options tend to pile on the $$$ (typical), evident girth on tight roads

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