Whereas the suspension's sport mode tightened up the ride, the 550i Gran Turismo didn't feel as settled in the curves as the 5-series sedan. The Gran Turismo's body is about half an inch longer than the sedan's, and 4 inches taller. Worse, the 5-series gained 500 pounds in the Gran Turismo version. For a sports car, there are better choices in the BMW stable.
But as a cruiser, the 550i Gran Turismo is very comfortable. BMW throws a ton of tech into the cabin so passengers can enjoy the ride. We mentioned the 3D maps in the navigation system. Zoom out past the mile scale and the maps turn into satellite imagery, all visible on a 10-inch-wide LCD in the dashboard. The maps also show traffic information and dynamically route around jams if you have a destination programmed.
Our car came equipped with the optional head-up display, which projects vehicle speed on the windshield in front of the driver. With a destination programmed into the navigation system, the head-up display also shows route guidance information.
There are quite a few other driver aid features available for the 550i Gran Turismo, which we didn't have on our car, the most exotic being night vision. We've seen BMW night vision on the 750Li, which puts the display on the center LCD. This placement is not as convenient as the Mercedes-Benz S-class, which puts its night vision display on the instrument cluster, closer to the driver's eye-line.
BMW also offers adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, and two camera systems. At the most basic, a backup camera is optional, and is a good choice for the 550i Gran Turismo, as its high back end hampers rear visibility. BMW also offers an around-view camera system, helpful for maneuvering through tight parking spaces.
The premium audio system in our car, which uses 13 speakers, was very good, but didn't reach audiophile standards. We were generally pleased with the well-staged sound, and this system had more refinement than previous BMW systems we've heard. Logic7 digital processing emulates surround sound in the car, especially important since we had the rear seat entertainment system, consisting of headrest-mounted LCDs and a DVD player in the rear of the console.
The premium audio system in the 550i Gran Turismo also brought in an iPod port, a music source complementing the onboard hard-drive storage afforded by the navigation system. Beyond treble and bass controls, we were able to fine-tune the sound with the seven-band graphic equalizer, a feature not found in many other cars.
The 550i Gran Turismo had a few other features worth mentioning. An optional luxury rear seat package added power adjustment to the rear seats and power side sunshades. The Sport package added power-adjustable side bolsters to the front seats.
But we were most impressed by having the owner's manual available on the car's LCD, with full search capabilities. When we couldn't figure out how to work the back hatch, it was an easy matter of looking through a couple of entries using the iDrive interface, as opposed to digging a big paper manual out of the glovebox.
As one of the leading tech car companies, BMW doesn't skimp on the gadgets, but we could wish more were included standard. The navigation system is very advanced, with rich maps and excellent guidance functions. The audio system includes a decent selection of sources and sounds very good. And the available driver aids, such as night vision and around-view cameras, put it over the top.
And not surprising for BMW, the 2010 550i Gran Turismo gets very advanced performance tech, such as the turbocharged V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission, and adaptive suspension. But we didn't find that these feature fully delivered on their promise, especially in terms of mileage and sport driving capabilities.
For design, the rear hatch, able to open as a trunk or hatchback, is very clever, providing flexibility for cargo. But we are more impressed that the car retains a subtle look, despite its weird body style.
|Model||2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo|
|Power train||Turbocharged direct injection 4.4-liter V-8|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city/21 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||17.6 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard hard drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single disc|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, USB drive, satellite radio, HD radio|
|Audio system||13-speaker surround sound system|
|Driver aids||Head-up display, back-up camera, around view camera, side view camera, night vision system, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control|
|Price as tested||$86,525|
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