BMW is easily the most adventurous luxury carmaker in India. And by adventurous, I mean one that's responsible for conjuring up new segments that no one thought possible. Or logical. Take the X6, for instance. It's what BMW calls a Coupe SUV! Now, anyone with a hint of sense will know that a coupe is all about sporty looks, compact dimensions and superb road handling. An SUV, on the other hand, is large, ungainly and handles like jelly, getting all squishy around corners.
So, putting them together would seem to create an oxymoron. Right? Not when BMW is in charge. The company has quite successfully managed to marry the two. The X6 is large but its seriously competent around corners. So much so that it can give quite a few sporty cars a run for their money.
Buoyed with the success of the X6, BMW has now come up with yet another curious concept. It's called the 5-series Gran Turismo. According to the company, it wanted to take the philosophy behind the X6 to a new level. So while the X6 is targeted at those looking for a vehicle with an SUV stance, a coupe roofline and sportscar-like handling (either this target audience is really innovative or totally confused), the GT is for those who want a saloon that's been mashed with an MPV, garnished with a coupe and then laid out with the 7-series as the base.
To us, the GT is a huge 5-series hatchback, with not exactly drop-dead looks. Thankfully though, it's more appealing to look at in the flesh (or steel, as it were) than in pictures. The sheer size of the car gives it immense road presence and it has onlookers doing a double take all the time. The 20-inch wheels that our test car came with (a mere extra Rs. 3-lakh option) only took its street cred to a higher level.
The GT is a fascinating car on the inside. Of course, anyone can tell it's a BMW with the GT borrowing most of its insides, including the steering, the central dash stack and every other button and knob from the new 7-series, but its relatively high front seating, more upright front windscreen and the dashboard pushed forward gives it a sense of space that's more in line with UVs.
It's very spacious at the rear too, with impressive seating. Just like the 7-series, you get two wonderfully comfortable, electrically-adjustable seats with memory function. The thigh and back support (including the upper back) is adjustable so everyone can find the posture that works best for them. Having good side bolstering for the seats further enhances the seating experience.
The rear passengers also get their own climate control zones. If money is no object, for an extra Rs. 1.5 lakh, you can also buy yourself a rear entertainment system. While the GT makes for an ideal chauffeur driven car, it's also great fun behind the steering wheel.
Like the rear seats, the ones on the front too offer good adjustability and along with the steering that can be adjusted for rake and reach, make for comfortably good driving positions. Once settled in, you can appreciate the front visibility as well as the proximity of controls.
You'll also appreciate the 3-litre V6 diesel which churns out 540Nm of torque under the GT's long hood and the new 8-speed automatic that this is coupled with. When motoring sedately, the engine's diesel roots are barely perceptible. But, touch the throttle with even the slightest force and you feel all the torque coming on, instantly, throwing you back in your seat with some strength. It's similar to the engine that powers the X6 diesel and the new 530d and, just like the other two cars, it is refined for most part and an absolute joy to use both within the city and out on the highways.
Equally blissful is the GT's handling. Unlike the new 5-series sedan which seems to have lost its edge when it comes to car-driver communication, the GT harks back to the old days. The steering has more feel and the car talks back to the driver with much more enthusiasm.
There's little guess work involved in driving the GT and, as a result, one can push it harder and take more liberties with the car. It shrinks delightfully around you feeling light and lithe when thrown around bends, thereby ensuring that you come back from every outing in the driver's seat, feeling rather chuffed.
For its handling prowess, the GT also impressed us with its ride quality. In typical BMW fashion, there's an underlying firmness to the suspension system but, at lower speeds, the bump absorption in particular is noteworthy. Even at higher speeds, it manages to flatten the bumps with some authority.
Potholes, however, tend to get the better of this car, especially the deeper ones. The less significant ones are dealt with just a hint of a noise and some jiggle-never a rude crash that some other BMWs like the X6 subjects their occupants to. The GT also flattens undulations with competence and manages to hold its line and traction well over broken surfaces both in a straight line as well as around corners.
All in all, we love the 5-series GT. It might be unconventional and rather large. And, like the X6, it might seat only four adults. But once you drive this car, there's very little you can do but fall for it; it feels so spacious, so rich and so involving that one wants to use it as an everyday car. And it comes at a price that for all the car's size and features is not ridiculously high either. Well, at least without the extra options. Our only wish? Well, just that it was a little prettier