February 25, 2010
It's called a "refined, elegant SAV," which in BMW speak means a sports-activity vehicle with an attitude toward luxury and performance.
The 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo (GT) is a 7-Series wannabe with the muscle to slap your melon firmly into the headrest at launch, while offering such amenities as rear-window sunshades and heated and cooled seats front and rear, plus power fore to aft, with a recline option in back too.
Sit back while the 4.4-liter V-8 uses twin turbos to summon a 407-hp launch from the light and propel the 4,900-pound machine from zero to 60 mph in a mere 5.4 seconds. Top speed is 150 mph.
The BMW 5-Series offers the 550i V-8 GT and a tamer 535i with a 3-liter, 306-hp, inline 6 with just one turbo.
The 550i Gran Turismo we tested combines high performance with high luxury in a sedan with long hood/short deck and a sharply sloping aero roofline for a coupelike profile, along with the kidney-shaped grille that says Bimmer.
The V-8, with an 8-speed automatic, is fleet of foot, yet the fuel gauge dictates how soon after takeoff you'll need more liquid energy. The fuel-gauge needle, in fact, moves as rapidly as the GT, so much so that the halfway mark is the sign to put "visit gas station" at the top of your to-do list.
The V-8 is rated at 15 mpg city/21 highway, with about a 380-mile range from the 18-gallon tank. Though quick and quiet with turbo spirit, the mileage rating garners a $1,000 gas-guzzler tax.
The test vehicle came with optional Sport package ($4,200) that includes road-hugging, 19-inch performance radials and sport-tuned suspension, along with buckets contoured to hold you in place. Stability and traction control are standard, while electronic suspension adjusts to the road surface to reduce harshness and self-levels to ensure steering, braking and handling control.
Seats front and rear are wide, with ample side support and limolike in room in back. But, while holding assorted sizes and shapes in place during aggressive motoring, seats give up comfort for contour.
The optional luxury rear-seat package ($3,650) adds heated/cooled/reclining power rear seats, as well as power window shades to block glare. It also comes with a large center console that leaves room for a pair of buckets.
An optional camera system ($750) shows both what's behind and along the side when backing up, and buzzes a warning when something's there. Snow banks in public lots turned out to be something, and the buzzer is annoying.
Our favorite feature is the dual-access tailgate on this hatchback sedan. Press the opener on the left side of the tailgate and the metal back portion lifts for loading goodies into the cargo area. But press the opener on the right side and, magically, the entire glass window hatch opens to create gaping access for loading/unloading.
Reach in and press the power buttons and rear seatbacks fold flat, and the seat motors forward to create a massive crossover-size cargo hold. Push the power buttons again, and the rear seat motors back to its full upright position.
The 2010 BMW 550i GT tested starts at $63,900 with all the power goodies plus little extras, including rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof, navigation system and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
That's where the option packages start; get your federal stimulus package to afford them all. In addition to the packages ($8,600 total) noted above, the test car added $1,900 convenience (with power tailgate), $950 cold weather (with heated steering wheel), $1,400 premium sound ( iPod and USB ports and upgraded audio) and $1,750 active steering (rear wheels turn in same direction as front wheels for greater steering agility) packages.
Not on the car were night vision ($2,600) that shows shadow figures of anything in or along the road in the lower windshield at night or in foul weather, and head-up display ($1,300) that shows a digital speedometer reading in the lower windshield.
If Bimmer buyers have that much money, maybe they could finance health care reform.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.