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2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo
550i GT combines the best attributes of several vehicles into a twin-turbocharged package
The BMW 550i Gran Turismo (GT) might look curious or even strange in pictures -- but standing next to it, it's much easier to see the point.
BMW's designers intended to redefine the classic Italian two-door 'Gran Turismo' in a unique new four-door interpretation. In doing so, it hopes to attract a new customer that's looking for a modern design that resides somewhere between a sedan and the endlessly-common crossover SUV.
The Gran Turismo combines the best elements of a crossover alongside those of a coupe and sedan. The resulting vehicle delivers a refined design, higher seating position, increased luggage capacity, and a rear tailgate that can be opened like a sedan or a hatchback.
It's all executed in a handsome package and the underlying high-style character is closer to that of a coupe.
Of course, 'coupe' is the last thing that comes to mind as occupants get seated. Entry and exit require only a lateral slide -- no stepping up or down. The 550i GT's wide body enables generous space at each seat, with wood trim, leather and soft-to-the-touch materials throughout.
The only complaint after an initial test drive dealt with limited rearward visibility -- though the car is fitted with a backup camera for assistance.
There's plenty of room for five, though an optional rear-seating configuration replaces the three-person bench with two individual seats and a centre-mounted organizer. At the owner's request, this setup gives those in the back more personal space.
Drivers call the 550i GT's 4.4 litre, 400-hp V8 engine into action with the press of a button. The advanced powerplant features valve timing and direct injection, and it's also partnered with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. With two more gears than the current norm, performance and efficiency are enhanced.
Driven spiritedly, the 550i GT feels more locked into the road's surface and less like it's merely rolling over it. The overall driving character is tranquil -- but sporty and agile when required.
Plenty of German-engineered performance is on constant standby. In fact, upon summoning the 550i GT's 'Sport Plus' drive mode from a toggle switch, one can actually feel the car stiffening up. The throttle, steering, suspension and transmission all go into a heightened state of awareness that ready the car for high-speed manoeuvres.
Drivers can even send gear-shift commands to the transmission via a set of paddles mounted to the steering wheel, just like a race car.
The powerplant is fitted with twin turbochargers, so it's powerful when requested, but exceptionally efficient when drivers aren't in a rush. Average fuel consumption is 12.0 L/100 km.
Advanced features include brake energy regeneration that can save fuel and emissions while boosting performance. Ultimately, the mileage and performance experienced is up to the driver's right foot.
Those who don't require the punch of a 400-hp engine can opt for BMW's new N85 engine shortly after the 550i GT launches. The newly-revised 3-litre twin-turbo gas engine operates with the same eye for efficiency as the V8, though it produces a more modest 300 hp. The automaker's xDrive AWD system will be available with either engine, too.
The BMW 550i GT has a starting price of $79,600 in Canada, plus freight and fees. Executive, Technology, Sport and Multimedia packages are extra. (News Canada)
Posted Jan. 6, 2010 © CarTest.ca TM.