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BMW 530d GT

Written By Trading Forex News on Monday, December 7, 2009 | 6:29 AM


Test date 15 November 2009 Price as tested £40,810
For Interior style, performance, rear accomodation
AgainstLuggage space, crashy ride, overly assisted steering
Remember when life was simple? When manufacturers stuck to what they did best? BMW made executive saloons (with the odd estate and coupe for variety), Land Rover made off-roaders and Renault the family hatchback.
Now, though, everyone does everything – and they’re all different from each other. BMW still makes saloons, but also SUVs (in whatever size sir would like), including one that thinks it’s a coupe.
And now we have the 5-series Gran Turismo, a car offering the raised driving position of a SUV (but without the conspicuous looks and all-wheel drive), the versatility of a hatchback and the space of a full-size saloon. To confuse matters further, the GT has the same wheelbase as a 7-series, with which it shares suspension components, but is badged (and priced) as a 5-series.
Answering the question of what exactly the 5-series GT offers, and whether its split personality works, is the 530d, the model BMW expects to account for the greatest proportion of sales. Can it succeed in trying to be all things to all drivers?


Design

The first time you see a GT in the metal, BMW’s objective with this car becomes clear. From the front it has the road presence of an X model (toned down a little for our more environmentally conscious times) and at the back the swoopiness of a coupé. Whether anything with four doors and an elevated ride height can be likened to a traditional coupé is debatable, though.

As is the overall success of the styling, which we found split opinion. What is clear, though, is that even despite its unusual proportions the GT is unmistakably a BMW.

The ‘Gran Turismo’ tag tells you a lot about the car’s aspirations, BMW claiming it offers the comfort and space required for long-distance touring. The rear cabin, according to BMW, provides the leg room of a 7-series and head room of an X5, while the luggage compartment offers the flexibility of a twin-boot arrangement, like that of the Skoda Superb.

The suspension is based on that of the 7-series, with double wishbones and steel springs at the front and a multi-link set-up with air springs at the rear. Dynamic Drive (which adjusts steering, throttle and gearshift maps) is standard. Combined with the optional Adaptive Drive, this also manages the variable dampers and active anti-roll bars.

Other than the 530d model we are testing here (currently the only diesel), there is a choice of two turbocharged petrol models: the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder 535i (now with direct injection) and 4.4-litre V8 550i. All three are mated to a ZF-developed eight-speed automatic gearbox, until now seen only on the V12 760Li.

On the Road

The performance figures (0-60mph in 6.3sec and 0-100mph in 17.7sec) understate how effortlessly the GT picks up speed in everyday situations. Maximum torque is available anywhere between 1750 and 3000rpm, an operating range that is easy to maintain with eight forward ratios.

And such are the adhesive qualities of the 275/35 rear tyres fitted to our particular GT (wearing optional 20in wheels) that there is little drama involved with transmitting 398lb ft of torque to the road.

Other than its performance, BMW’s 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel (the same as the one fitted to the new 730d) also impresses with exceptional refinement. Other than moments of full throttle, the engine note is just a distant, unobtrusive hum.

ZF’s eight-speed gearbox is difficult to fault, the gearshifts smooth and for the most part unnoticeable. There are a variety of different gearbox modes, accessible either by moving the gearlever to the left to select Sport mode or by switching Dynamic Drive to Sport or Sport+, but in truth Drive offers the best combination of poise and refinement.

You can take control of the gearshifts by moving the selector forward for downshifts and backwards for upshifts, although at the extreme the gearbox will kick down and shift up as required. If there is a criticism of the power delivery, it is that from rest and at slow speeds the throttle response is very sensitive.

Responsibility for stopping the big GT rests on 348mm front discs and 345mm rear discs (all ventilated), which are more than up to the job at road speeds, stopping the car from 70mph in 45.4m in the dry and just 49.2m in the wet.

We do, however, have a small grumble with the electronic handbrake, in that it does not automatically disengage when pulling off. Before we get into the specifics of why a new BMW scores just two and a half stars here, there are first a few details to clear up.

Although our test car, like all GTs, came with Dynamic Drive, it did without the optional Active Drive and Active Steer. As a consequence, toggling through Normal to Sport+ does nothing to affect the GT’s dynamic behaviour beyond adjusting the steering weight.

It did, however, come with 20in wheels, a £2430 option over the standard 18in alloys.Whether it is these that are to blame for the GT’s dismal low-speed ride is something we have so far been unable to verify. But if a car is designed to look its best with large wheels (as is the case here) then it should be engineered to work with them fitted.

The issue is not that the car is deflected by potholes and sharp edges, but how intrusive the impact becomes. Some bumps are neutralised well, but every now and then the rear suspension seemingly gives up, sending a shock crashing through the cabin.

The GT copes better at higher speeds, but motorway expansion joints can cause a momentarily loss of composure. Although there aren’t any excuses for the ride, it might be slightly more understandable if the GT proved an exceptional drive.

It doesn’t. Our overriding criticism is that while the GT has its strengths, it doesn’t deliver a consistent, rounded dynamic experience. Moving away from rest it feels strangely un-BMW-like, the steering overly assisted and oddly unresponsive.

Turn into a side street and although the roll rate is low, the overall feeling is of imprecision, doing nothing to hide the GT’s dimensions. At higher speeds the steering weights up, but still there is little feel, meaning that although you sense the GT’s grip and agility through its ability to change direction with minimal fuss, you feel somewhat disconnected from the experience.

In truth the GT is at its happiest on the motorway, where it feels planted and stable without being cumbersome.

Living

It is the GT’s cabin, more than anything else in its arsenal, that will tempt buyers away from more practical rivals such as the Mercedes E-class estate. Classy design touches leave you in no doubt that this is a luxury car.

A backlit matt silver insert that runs the width of the dash and a blank, satin black fascia that lights up with crisp digital dials supplement the familiar, uncluttered BMW dash design. A standard panoramic sunroof adds to the high-class ambience.

The 5-series GT continues to impress when viewed from the rear seats, where there is leg room to rival the more expensive 7-series, if slightly less head room due to the sweeping, coupé-like roofline.

It is also worth noting that although seatbelts are provided for three rear passengers, the middle seat is good for only occasional use, the backrest (which doubles as the armrest) proving uncomfortable.

Sit in any other seat, though, and the GT is an exceptionally comfortable and aesthetically pleasing place to spend time, rivalling plenty of cars from higher classes.

Refinement is good, with little engine or wind noise, and tyre noise is no more than could be expected. The driving position is excellent, too, with the seat offering a wide range of adjustment.

Visibility isn’t great, though; it’s difficult to judge where the extremities of the car are, due to its design and size, and wide D-pillars and a narrow rear windscreen limit visibility for lane changes.

The biggest problem is that the space required to create such an opulent cabin has compromised boot space. For a car that is longer than a Land Rover Discovery to offer just 440 litres of boot capacity with the seats up is less than impressive. A current BMW 5-series estate (which is over 150mm shorter and 50mm narrower than the GT) offers 500 litres.

The dual boot opening is also a little limited in terms of practicality. The vast tailgate is useful enough, but the curving roofline will limit carrying capacity and the saloon opening reveals a letterbox-style slot that you can’t see into unless you bend down to just above bumper level.

Still, the rear seats fold flat with one pull of the same handle that allows them to be reclined, freeing up a reasonable 1700 litres of load space.

The 5-series GT is an excellent ownership proposition. For roughly the same initial cost as a high-spec 530d Touring you get a far superior interior and vastly more cabin space plus the eight-speed auto. A high standard spec should also help keep the initial buying expenses down.

Running costs will be good for business or customer buyers alike, with combined economy of 36.1mpg and CO2 of just 173g/km, promising low tax and fuel bills for a car of this persuasion, while residual values are also acceptable, if nothing unusual for a BMW.

Data


How much ?

  • Price as tested £40,810
  • Price as tested £49,840

How fast

  • 0-30mph 2 sec
  • 0-60mph 6.3 sec
  • 0-100mph 17.7 sec
  • 0-150mph no data
  • 0-200mph no data
  • 30-70mph 6.4 sec
  • 0-400m 14.9 / 92.5 sec/mph
  • 0-1000m 27.4 / 118.3 sec/mph
  • 30-50mph in 3rd/4th no data
  • 40-60mph in 4th/5th no data / no data
  • 50-70mph in 5th no data
  • 60-0mph 2.49 sec
  • Top speed 149 mph
  • Noise at 70mph 67 dbA

How thirsty?

  • Test average 31.1 mpg
  • Test best/worst 40.6 / 13.4

Government figures

  • Combined/urban 43.5 / 34.9 mpg
  • CO2 emissions 173 g/km

How big?

  • Length 4998 mm
  • Width 1901 mm
  • Height 1559 mm
  • Wheelbase 3070 mm
  • Weight 2035 kg
  • Fuel tank 70.0 litres

Engine

  • Layout 6 cyls In Line , 2993 cc
  • Max power 241 bhp at 4000 rpm
  • Max torque 398 ft at 1750 rpm
  • Specific output 80.5 bhp per litre
  • Power to weight 123 bhp per tonne
  • Installation F Longitudinal
  • Bore/stoke 84.0x90.0 mm
  • Compression ratio 16.5:1
  • Valve gear 4 per cyl
  • Ignition and fuel no data, Diesel

Gearbox

  • Type 8-speed Automatic
  • 1st 4.69 / 6.8
  • 2nd 3.13 / 10.2
  • 3rd 2.1 / 15.2
  • 4th 1.66 / 19.2
  • 5th 1.28 / 24.9
  • 6th 1 / 32
  • Final drive 2.56

Suspension

  • Front Double Wishbone
  • Rear Multilink. Self-levelling air

Steering

  • Type Servotronic
  • Lock to lock 3.10

Brakes

  • Front 348mm ventilated discs
  • Rear 345mm ventilated discs

Wheel & tyres

  • Size front 18" 'Double-Spoke' Alloys in
  • Size rear 18" 'Double-Spoke' Alloys in
  • Made of Alloy
  • Tyres front 245/50/R18
  • Tyres rear 245/50/R18

by autocar.co.uk

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