EMMERT’S NEW BABY, 5 SERIES GT .....First in Namibia

Luxurious, powerful, well controlled and roomy for passengers and cargo, the 2010 BMW 5-Series Turismo 535i is more pleasant and car-like on the road than any crossover SUV.

Amounting to a 7-Series wagon at a lower price,”It’s just a little under a million bucks,” says Armand Barnard, Sales Manager at BMW Namibia.

What excites Barnard most is that this is the first car of its kind in Namibia and every now and then, he goes to admire it on the show room, the way a new born baby is constantly spied on, by family members.

“The owner has waited for seven months for this car to be here. It’s worth the wait. It is the best car I have ever seen in Namibia this year. It’s a mini-plane,” adds Barnard.

The owner of this ultimate vehicle is Mick Emmert, who runs the Baby Company Superstore in Windhoek.

Imagine the ultimate vehicle, one that could be everything to everyone. It would have the willing power and precise handling power of a sport sedan, the smooth ride of a luxury car, and the passenger space of a limousine, the cargo room of a station wagon and the commanding seating position of a SUV.

With the new 5-Series Gran Turismo, a unique hatchback sedan with raised seating position, BMW is attempting to accomplish all of that.

Model Lineup

The 2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo a 6-cylinder, called 535i, is in Namibia with its all-wheel-drive iteration. Standard equipment include Dakota leather upholstery, a 40/20/40 split-folding, rear seat and bulkhead, power tilt/telescoping steering column, 10-way power front seats, AM/FM/CD stereo, auto-dimming rear-view and exterior mirrors, panoramic sunroof, xenon adaptive headlights, fog lights, BMW Assist telematics system, self-levelling rear air suspension, electronic limited-slip differential, fog lights and 18-inch alloy wheel on run-flat tires.

Options are abundant, with features such as Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detector, a rear-view/side view camera, navigator system, 20-way adjustable seats, Integral Active Steering with rear steering, a head`s-up display, Night Vision with pedestrian detection, rear DVD entertainment, satellite radio and a 16-speaker premium audio system.

Standard safety equipment includes six-airbags (front, front-side and curtain side) a tire-pressure monitors, active head restraints, Park Distance Control, anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control.

The brakes also come with Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic BRAKE Control, Brake Fade Compensation, Brake Drying and Automatic Hold to prevent rolling backwards on hills.

Under the hood

Initially, the BMW 5-Series Gran Tourismo comes with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 that makes 400 horse-power and 450lb-ft of torque.

It comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission, which BMW says offers a 3 to 4 percent fuel-economy savings over a 6-speed.

The vehicle also employs brake energy regeneration, which disconnects the alternation during acceleration and changes it during deceleration, thus yielding another 2 percent fuel- economy savings, according to BMW.

All told, 535i comes with a new version of BMW`s turbo charged 3.0-litre V6, this engine uses one twin-scroll turbocharger instead of two turbo`s and produces 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

It uses the same 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Inner Space

Barnard says that the original Gran Turismos of the 1950`s and ‘60s were stylish and luxurious 2-seats sports cars that could accommodate two people and their luggage for a weekend away.

The new BMW 5 GT amends that idea to handle five people and their luggage. Making this possible is a unique “bimodal” trunk that can open like a trunk or a hatchback; a three-passenger rear bench seat that moves forward and aft almost four inches; and a one-of-a-kind bulkhead that separates the interior from the cargo area.

With the rear set fully back, the trunk offers 15.5 cubic feet of cargo room, and rear-seat passengers have generous 41.8 inches of legroom, 3.2inches more than in a standard- wheelbase 7-Series. Move the rear seat fully forward and most passengers will still be comfortable, but there will be 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space.

Fold the rear seats and the bulkhead down, and cargo space expands to 63.6 cubic feet, about the same as a Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty.

Up front, the 5 GT previews the next-generation 5- Series dashboard, which is laid forward to create a feeling of space. The soft-touch, sturdy materials exude quality, and the wood trim looks like wood.

BMW`s iDrive control system is standard.

Now in its fourth generation, iDrive has become easier to use, incorporating several buttons around the main rotating controller to access various functions quickly.

BMW has also added eight buttons that look like radio presets but can be used like control keys on a computer to go to complicated function immediately. Examples include specific navigation routes or any function that might otherwise be buried deep in iDrive.

Stand-alone options include many of the above-listed items, plus four-wheel active steering, a head-up display, navigation for the 535i, a rearview camera, side and top view cameras (it has five cameras in total), advanced Bluetooth phone connectivity, a ski bag, satellite radio, rear-seat DVD entertainment and night vision with pedestrian detection.

An USB port in the glove box allows for drive routes and the like. Another USB port in the centre console can be used for MP3 players, and when buyers opt for the navigation system they get a hard drive that can also hold thousands of songs.

On the Road

The BMW 5 GT has the DNA of a luxury sport sedan, including a near perfect 49.8/50.2 front/rear weight ratio. However, at 4,600 to 4,900 pounds, the 5 GT is just too big to be sporty.

The result is a vehicle with a very car-like character, one that drives smaller than its size but doesn`t attack turns as well as a more svelte 5-Series. It feels very much like a 7-Series, with sharp steering, quick reactions and a subtle ride, but it has too much mass to bite into sharp turns. Compared with crossover SUV, the 5 GT feels more planted.

Those who want a somewhat sportier character can opt for 19-or 20inch tires, Integral Active Steering with rear steering and Dynamic Damping Control with Active Roll Stabilization. Dynamic Damping Control adjusts the firmness of the shocks from comfortable to sporty, and Active Roll Stabilization twists the anti-roll bars to firm them up and make cornering flatter.

BMW`s Integrated Active Steering electronically varies the steering ratio to make it quicker and more responsive at low speeds and slower and more stable at high speeds.

It also comes with rear steering, which turns the rear wheels up to three degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels at low speeds to reduce the turning circle, and steers the rears with the fronts at speed to increase stability.

BMW says the V8 can propel the 5GT from zero to 60km/h in 6.2 seconds and we believe it.

At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in opposition to the fronts, which helps the GT feel more maneuverable and smaller than its long wheelbase would suggest. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts purportedly to improve cornering stability.

In terms of power, ride, handling, ride height, interior space and cargo room, the BMW 5GT attempts to be all things to all people, and it succeeds to a great degree on most counts. It would work great as a single vehicle for transporting the family or entertaining clients. While some will consider it a form of a crossover, it`s really just a car with a useful rear-seat and cargo area, making it a flexible wagon for demanding luxury audience

The 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo creates a new luxury niche somewhere between wagon and crossover.

The 2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is an all-new model.

The conundrum lies in two basic questions: “What is it?” and “Who is it for?” One might call this new 5 Series Gran Turismo a wagon, but you could call it a luxury hatchback, too. And as for the intended audience, is the 5 GT intended for sedan shoppers looking for added cargo space, or is it meant for crossover SUV drivers desiring something smaller? These are questions not easily answered.

Looks like a chump, feels like a sneaker.

Trying to describe the BMW 5-series Gran Turismo can sound a bit like trying to solve a riddle: What has the rear seat of a 7-series, the driving position of an X5, and the over-the-road dynamics of a 5-series?

To achieve those disparate attributes, the 5-series GT is necessarily ungainly. The wheelbase spans a long 120.9 inches, and width is SUV-like at 74.8 inches. But its height of 61.4 inches and length of 196.8 inches are closer to the realm of cars. The resulting body is long but not lithe, wide but not sporty. The GT looks better in person, but its styling still can’t hide the proportions of a rolling contradiction.

Mechanically, the GT suffers no such inconsistencies. It’s a traditional BMW under the skin, from its rear-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is slated for 2011) to its standard inline-six engine.

Stepping into the GT actually requires no stepping at all. The floor is low, like a car’s, and the seat is high but not quite the height of an SUV. Once inside, the width of the cabin, the height of the roof, the massive A-pillars, and the restricted view out the rear window trick the senses into thinking the GT is an SUV, though. Dashboard design mimics that of the 7-series, iDrive and all, and should be identical to the next-generation 5-series’ interior.

It’s one of those cars that people don’t know they want yet.

In fact, it’s one of those cars that appear like The Future, the first time you see it on the road. But the place to be is on the inside. Here you’ll find near 7 Series quality, and masses of passenger space. PF